"Turning Japanese" or "Big in Japan" or some other 80s pop reference


Today the mailman brought me 4 glistening copies of the Japanese edition of my first book. It’s been a long time coming, as the first two books were bought by Bungeishunju way back in early 2002.



Apparently the delay (and for comparison, France bought 5 books in 2003, and the second one has been out all this year) was due to an overbooked, but highly treasured, translator they wanted to take care of it. So that’s good news.



But it’s funny to hold something you’ve written, which has been transformed into something exotic and barely recognizable. The cover is a black-and-white version of the American edition, with Japanese characters, but the similarities end there. Of course, the cover is on the “back”, and as I flip through, the vertical lines of Japanese characters just puzzle the hell out of me.



But what’s most striking is the extra mini-cover that conceals the lower 1/4 of the book. It’s an advertisement for a green drink you get from a plastic bottle that gives one, if I’m reading the marketing correctly, enlightenment. Witness:



Now, maybe my cultural radar is all whacked, and perhaps I’m having a Koontz moment, but if you look at this gentleman’s collar, does he not look like a Buddhist monk? And that expression—is he not in the later stages of enlightenment, staring directly into nirvana?



All I know is I’ve got to get me some of that drink.

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UPDATE: Naomi Hirahara has very kindly translated the ad in question. Green tea. And we have an explanation for the expression on the man’s face: “Oishisa wa kaori”, which means the deliciousness is in its smell. Naomi also leans toward the monk interpretation—at least, a model wearing a monk’s outfit.



The yellow half is apparently all about me, naming the awards this book was nominated for, comparing it (as a lot of reviewers have decided to do) to Gorky Park. Naomi says:

In the large font it says something like, “Don’t miss this great new talent who has been the topic of conversation.”