Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Interview with TOMO Contributor Andrew Fukuda

Andrew Fukuda
Andrew Fukuda (author of the Tomo story “Lost”) was born in Manhattan, raised in Hong Kong, and is half Chinese, half Japanese. After graduating from Cornell University, he worked in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Author of the novel Crossing and the forthcoming The Hunt, he lived and worked in Kansai for several years and currently resides in New York. Visit his website: 

Can you tell us a bit about your background and connection to Japan.
My father is from Osaka, Japan. When I was young, my family would visit Japan every two years. I remember great food, intense summer heat, baseball in the local park, firecrackers at night, and cool video arcade centers. The visits were too short for me to really learn the culture or language, but they left me wanting more. After college, I went to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program, and what was supposed to be a one-year stint turned into four amazing, life-transforming years.
Andrew Fukuda as a child in Osaka with his grandfather
You lived in the Kansai area during the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995. Can you describe some of your experiences then?
A couple of days after the earthquake, some church friends and I drove into Kobe in a pickup truck loaded with food and supplies. The extent of destruction and tragedy was almost too much to fathom. But what I took away from the experience was the courage and resiliency of the Japanese people. Orderly queues for the sento (public bath) that stretched hours-long around the block, in ripped clothes; the gentle bows of gratitude as they took a bottle of water or a packet of food, faces streaked with dried tears. It all made such an indelible impression on me.

You chose to write “Lost” from the point of view of a teenage girl. Was there a reason you chose a female point of view—was it for the voice? the plot line?
I have no idea what goes on in my subconscious, but the protagonist—Noriko—arrived fully formed in my mind. And she was quite adamantly female. This was a departure from my usual protagonist, and to this day I have no articulable reason for it. But I've learned not to attempt to recast my characters when they come so fully-formed in my mind. It was challenging, but ultimately rewarding, to write from such a different perspective. 

Do you hope to get back to Japan soon? What do you miss about Japan?
I miss Japan tremendously. I can't believe it's been over a decade since my feet touched Japanese soil. When I do finally return, I'm going to be a weeping, sopping mess at the airport arrivals hall.

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