I was born and raised in nowhere special– a rural Michigander, a bumpkin of sorts whose feet were always black and leathery in the summer as I rarely wore shoes. Culture to me was playing in the woods and streams until one day a mysterious flyer appeared in our rural route postbox. This seemingly innocent piece of mail, an advertisement for an exchange program, brought a girl named Yuki all the way from Tokyo to our house on the county line. The year was 1979 and she became my best friend whether she wanted to be or not.
This is how it all started for me. I was still in high school when I first traveled to Japan and it was mesmerizing. I had only known Japan from old encyclopedias and post war history films. Shoot, I thought Japan was all geisha and rickshaws! But when I got there I could not believe all of the technology, cute character goods like Hello Kitty…and culture up the ying yang! Everything seemed to have significance and meaning. Instantly I was hooked and set out to immerse myself and somehow become Japanese. And as misfortune would have it, before even leaving Japan, I met a Japanese man who was more than willing to teach a naive American teen how to do things the proper way and two years from that day I married him. Unbeknownst to me he was in fact, a vile pedophile. This I would not realize until five years in.
I married while I was still a child really, a free-spirited Michigan white pine-of-a-girl, but in short order I would be retrained to do just about everything the proper Japanese way. And being restrained by particulars, I became much smaller in mind and body. I was constantly worried about getting too old for his preference so I dieted; eventually getting down to a Japanese junior size M. I also tailored my speaking to sound younger because he rewarded it.
By the time I managed to break free from the wires that controlled my branches and the tiny pot that bound my roots, it was clear to many that I was not well. From that point my poor choices cost me nearly everything; but worst of all, it cost someone very important much more.
The book, The Six-Foot Bonsai is my attempt at piecing together what occurred– what I saw, my warped thinking…and what, in the end, I had to admit.
“The Six-Foot Bonsai: A Soul Lost in the Land of the Rising Sun” is available through Amazon (Click title for link.)