Monday, May 11, 2015

Writing Updates

Hisashiburi desu! It's been over a year since I've posted anything here, and a lot has happened. I thought I'd eventually let this blog fizzle out and then I'd pull the plug, but to my surprise, it still gets almost 1500 visitors a month. So I'll keep it going for a while longer.

First, my novel, formerly called Elephant Girl, is now called Scent of a City. After two years with my agent during which I went through several revisions we parted ways (I'll post the whole story soon), and then I put the manuscript aside for nearly another two years. I started a new novel, but then something pulled me back to this one. I finally picked it up and re-read it and decided I need to put it out there myself (most likely on Kindle) because I don't want to undergo another agent search, so I can move on to something new. It's not a bad story, so why not? I put years of hard work into it. So my planned release date is Autumn 2015. I've started a site, not much on there yet but there's an "About" page:

Second, I've been having a lot of fun with flash fiction, mostly of the slipstream variety. I started a site just for these short pieces, with an ongoing challenge with a writer friend to post something once a week. I'm posting mostly short fiction with the occasional poetry or non-fiction piece. It's called Drifting Island (and who knows...this may evolve into an online magazine in the near future).

Aside from this, I've been submitting short fiction to online publications here and there. I'll post an update if anything gets accepted. And more on my novel soon. Yoroshiku!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tokyo Dreaming and Okinawa Blue on Tumblr

In an attempt to freshen up my look, I've started new Tumblr accounts for both my Tokyo and Okinawa blogs. I'm in the processing of transferring some of my favorite posts and after I do this, I'll keep the Blogger sites up but will no longer update them. From now on, please check out my Tumblrs for the latest. These will have a photographic/visual emphasis and have a more updated look and feel to them.

Yoroshiku and thanks!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Guest Post: Tairyōki (大漁旗) at the Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center

As anyone who lives on its shores knows, the sea can be a source of beauty, of pleasure, and of bounty—but it can also be dangerous, and at times its nourishing treasures come neither easily nor in abundance. Worldwide, cultures who are dependent upon the ocean's resources for survival have devised countless traditions and rituals meant to secure safety and luck in their endeavors. Japan is no different. That nation's maritime traditions are numerous, but one of the most interesting and lesser known, especially in the West, is the flying of flags called tairyōki.

Just this month the Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center in Newport, Oregon, unveiled a collection of nearly twenty flags, which they bill as the largest known collection of these objects in the United States, as well as the country's first public exhibition of tairyōki. On Saturday, August 10, Sachiko Otsuki, a collections specialist with the Lincoln County Historical Society, treated members of the public to a gallery talk on the topic of these flags, which were procured from Newport's sister city of Mombetsu, Japan. With her background in the history of Japanese art, she was able to enlighten the crowd about the specifics of the flags' symbolism, making the talk particularly informative and enjoyable.
Tairyōki (大漁旗; lit., 'big catch flags'; also commonly called tairyōbata) date back to at least the 1660s and began as simple pieces of cloth signaling that fishermen had made a good catch and that they were grateful. Over time, and especially during the period of growth after World War II, the flags evolved significantly, and by the 1960s, the more decorative designs seen today became common.

Today's flags typically display the kanji 大漁 (tairyō; 'big catch') and 祝 (shuku or iwai; 'congratulations') along with the name of the flag's donor and the name of the fishing vessel, all accompanied by any of various pictures traditionally symbolic of luck and abundance, including:

chidori—a plover, representative of flying high and overcoming the waves
Ebisu—one of the Shichifukujin, or seven deities of luck; specifically, he is the patron of fishermen and merchants
goshiki—the Buddhist-influenced color combination of blue/green, red, yellow, white, and black/purple
hinode—sunrise, symbolizing a bright start
ichifuji nitaka sannasubi—lit., 'first Mt. Fuji, second a hawk, and third eggplants'; this refers to a common belief that if you dream of these three things, especially on New Year's Eve, you will have good luck
noshi—a mark symbolizing a gift, which was originally made from pressed abalone and added to an offering; dried and stretched, the abalone implied longevity; under the influence of Buddhism, which prohibits the killing of animals, the abalone noshi was replaced with ones made from paper or other materials, or with graphical representations such as the one seen at the left edge of this flag (above)
shōchikubai—the pine tree, bamboo, and plum blossom; a traditional good-luck trinity
tai—the sea bream; represented with large eyes, it is called the medai and, in a play on words, is the harbinger of auspicious occasions, or medetai.
takara—assorted treasures, such as a ball, coral, a golden hammer, a peach, or a roll of fabric
takarabune—a boat containing the treasures mentioned above

Flying one or more flags containing some combination of these symbols, the fishing boats depart after a launch ceremony. Up until the 1960s, these ceremonies were elaborate affairs, involving the wearing of special kimonos and visits to shrines to pray for luck. These days, since the flags themselves are seen as the bearers of luck, the ceremonies are simpler and typically consist of dockside gatherings and the throwing of rice cakes.

After returning from a fishing journey, the tairyōki flown during the boat's time at sea are retired, with the expectation that new flags will be flown on the next voyage. The flags then end up serving in a variety of roles: tarps, rugs, restaurant decorations, souvenirs, etc. Recently, members of a student delegation to Newport from Mombetsu visited the nearby town of Siletz, and during a cultural exchange ceremony with members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, they performed traditional Japanese dance incorporating tairyōki into their costumes.

The history and symbolism of these flags is far richer than summarized here. Unfortunately, the custom seems to be little known in the West and information can be somewhat difficult to find, but this exhibit is a good place to start. The Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center currently plans to maintain this exhibit for a full year until June, 2014. If you ever find yourself in the Newport, Oregon area, do stop in and take a look at these beautiful big catch flags.

Further information about tairyōki, this exhibit, and the museum in general can be found by writing or visiting:

Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center
333 SE Bay Blvd.
Newport, OR 97365

The center is operated under the auspices of the Lincoln County Historical Society, which can be reached by telephone at (541) 265-7509. The Historical Society and the PMHC both maintain a Web presence at

Follow guest blogger T. W. King on Twitter @tokidokizenzen.