First Month in Japan

I refuse to believe it’s already been a month, even though Spain seems like a lifetime ago now. I’ll never get over how travel messes with our perception of time.

I’m writing from my little apartment in the south of Osaka, a low down neighborhood with plenty of personality. I’ve learned so much already, my preconceptions of Japan simultaneously obliterated, reinforced, and nuanced. There are places and circumstances in which every stereotype you’ve ever heard about this country feels like the truth of the universe, but more often something reaches out to subvert and upend you.
During the past few weeks I’ve taken reams of notes. I’m finally starting to feel my way toward fleshing out the scenes I’ve been anxiously waiting to write for more than a year. Inspiration got off her leash and she’s running circles around me. So many characters and stories have been building up, waiting for the key of the land to guide them onto the page. I’m walking the streets, drinking at the bars, meeting the people, learning the things, and finding the secrets…a few of them anyway.

Last month I took a road trip to Ise shrine, where important elements from the 19th century segment of The Changing Things finally fell into place. The shrine grounds, the pilgrimage entertainment districts, and the ever-flowing river… but I also needed a mountain. Luckily, my Montana powers helped me sniff one out. There may have been thousands of people at the shrine, but not a soul could be found on the long lonely path which led me to the top of Tsuzumigatake Yama, a place so desolate I wondered whether I was on haunted ground, particularly when I discovered an old makeshift shrine (tori gates above) guarded by a pair of screaming ravens and the nearby shuffling sounds of wild boar. From the mountain peak I could see across the entire prefecture to the bay and the ocean beyond.

Earlier I’d stood in line to pray at the altar of the Kami Amaterasu. I always ask for the same thing at these shrines: the wisdom and inspiration to write my books with integrity, to honor the history and people of the places I visit. As I finished my prayer the white curtain separating the altar from the inner grounds slowly billowed and levitated up to my eye line, granting me a glimpse of what lie beyond and a sense of spiritual connection.

Later, as I told this story to a friend, the second I said the words: “I really felt as if my prayer had been heard,” a bird shit on my face.

And as the Buddhists say, I instantly achieved enlightenment. It’s a hilarious world out there, my friends, a profound fusion of intricate meaning and vacant absurdity.

This month my Patrons will get to read an early draft of what may or may not end up as the main book’s chapter one. It’s still too soon to tell. In any case it’ll be the chapter which kicks things off for Nicodemus, our wayward hero, and his journey into the world of The Changing Things. To learn how to join this illustrious group of black horse gamblers, you can always click the thing.

In tooth and claw,