I recently gave a talk and signed books for students and faculty at Seikei University in western Tokyo, introducing both the ideas examined in the book and the latest happenings in the trans-cultural exchange between Japan and the U.S. These events are in some way refreshing exceptions in my life to the rule of writing, reading, interviewing, revising, editing and, these days, recording (for NPR). It's nice to get out in front of friendly faces.
Now, one might anticipate that a large audience of Japanese listening to a half-Japanese American carry on about their own cultural output would be a tad blase. But not so, at least not in my experience.
Both the students and their professors at Japanese universities I've visited have been unwaveringly attentive, curious and even startled by what I say, filling the allotted Q&A sessions with probing questions and pursuing me afterward to continue the discussion during book-signings.
For me, of course, it's invigorating, and flattering. But can you imagine the inverse? A half-American Japanese raised primarily in Japan, suddenly greeting American university students and regaling them with, among other narratives, stories behind the overseas popularity of contemporary American culture?
Such differences are stark--and telling.
(And, no, I'm not invoking Fred Astaire up there; just taking advantage of the broad stage, trying to keep the visuals moving beneath the big bad mobius strip.)
These particular students (above), all of whom obtained signatures and asked several smart questions, were preparing presentations on Japanamerica for a class the following week.
Wonder how they went.