Finely wrought though often self-conscious memoir of the author’s fulfilling sojourn in Japan, where she met three men who completed her sense of belonging.
Needing a change at 30, Abildskov left her native Utah in the early 1990s for an assignment to teach English at three junior high schools in Matsumoto. It proved to be much more than a career move. She found herself entranced by everything Japanese: the blue-and-white dishes she used, the holidays devoted to looking, even the pencil boxes—“I loved living in a place where people carried writing supplies in small, tidy bundles made of straw or plastic or metal or wood.” But, she writes, “I wanted to go deeper, I wanted to go inside the country’s mind, I wanted the country under my skin.” To complete her love affair with Japan, apparently, she needed to fall in love with the men who lived there. As Abildskov records her experiences teaching English to businessmen as well as teenagers, she also describes three men she met who enabled her finally to understand Japan more completely. First up was the professor, who spoke excellent English, and he and Abildskov felt a mutual attraction, but she backed off when she realized he was married, though they continued to meet in coffee shops. The second, a young Iranian named Amir, took care of her at a vulnerable time; the third, Nozaki, was the one she fell in love with. Nozaki stood out among the businessmen who attended her classes: he was more of a loner, read widely, and was interested in ideas (the others wanted to talk only about sex and golf). He was also single, and the two began an intense affair. Abildskov was tempted to stay on, but Nozaki, a complex man, was not easily pinned down.
One of those travel stories that reveals a heart as smitten with the place as the people.