Cult-ural Adoration

The Six-Foot Bonsai (TSFB), a cultural memoir, is set in Japan and Michigan during the eighties and nineties;  a time when Detroit’s automotive industry was ravaged by Japanese imports and new transplant factories brought hundreds of engineers and their families to the U.S. to teach Americans how to work. It was a culture clash for many, but for me it was all normal . . . and my reckless acceptance of the culture caused me to abandon everything I knew to be true about how young girls and women should be treated.

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Front Cover of "The Six-Foot Bonsai" available this fall (image rights obtained from Dreamstime)

Front Cover of “The Six-Foot Bonsai” available this fall (image rights obtained from Dreamstime)

Endorsement for “Bonsai” 

“Only someone like Stacy Gleiss, once immersed in a mysterious, all-encompassing, and nearly-cultic culture, could write a book with the authenticity and heart of The Six-Foot Bonsai.  Her vulnerability to the aching losses of everything she loved, described dispassionately and with great detail, paves the way for a surprising redemption in the end.”

Dr. Latayne C. Scott, author of books on cults, including The Mormon Mirage


In 1986 while living on a remote island in the Japan Sea I discovered my husband was some sort of Japanese version of Peter Pan.  Carefully tucked under his futon mattress were three paperbacks containing fanciful photos of very young girls– innocent erotica.  When confronted my husband advised that they were “Fantasy, art, and nothing more,” adding that the materials were legally obtained . . . purchased at the local newsstand.  Sweet.

“What have I gotten myself into?” I thought.  “After nearly six years in the culture how could I have missed this?”

What I hadn’t overlooked was that all around me little girl “cuteness” was idolized and mimicked as the preferred style for young women and I followed suit.  By my own choice and my husband’s training I became soft-spoken and demure.  Essentially I regressed– quite literally becoming smaller in mind and body.  

It has been years since those days when I, an American woman, a Michigander born and raised, began to acquiesce to the pressure placed upon me to be “child like” in order to please my husband and fit the Japanese standard.  

And how did it all begin?  How was it that I became so mixed up with Japan in the first place?  

The Bonsai story really begins in 1967.  Scarred and half-blind from a near-death auto accident that occurred when I was five, my view of the world was just a little bit off kilter.  At an impressionable age I had seen myself from another perspective– from a vantage point of about 20 feet away and at least six feet up as my father held my fragile life in his arms.  From that day I found myself feeling out of place and searching for a deeper meaning to life.  

A near death experience was the catalyst for my melancholy outlook

A near death experience was the catalyst for my melancholy outlook

“THE ACCIDENT” made me a lonely child and later an insolent teen.  It was in this state that I met Yuki Higashi, a Japanese exchange student, whom I quickly latched onto and boldly claimed as my new BFF.   She was cute, clever, and quiet– everything I was not. When she left to return to Tokyo I felt abandoned . . .but not for long.

As luck would have it Yuki invited me to spend the next summer with her family. Knowing little of the world beyond what I’d learned in social studies and on the evening news, I was utterly amazed at what I found across the Pacific. From my first step onto the narrow streets of 1980 Tokyo I was mesmerized by the ancient yet thoroughly modern culture all around me.  I was hooked!  

Following my short summer stay I strategically secured a direct pipeline to the country I adored by marrying a Japanese college student from the remote island of Sado.  I was just 18.  

This is how I became “The Six-Foot Bonsai.”   How I regain my identity and find the seed planted within me . . .  IS, as they say, the rest of the story.  

“The Six-Foot Bonsai” (400 seconds)