15 February, 2012
As I am featured prominently in the chapter in this book that is set in Japan, I thought I would include updated excerpts of a critique I sent to the writer in which I point out 17 mistakes (7 of which appear in the space of only 4 consecutive pages) about myself and Japan.
* "After ten minutes by foot, we reach Pat's apartment block - opposite a coppery-domed, Chinese sea-food restaurant that he cheerfully describes as looking like "an atomic bomb". (p.76)
Are you stupid? Do you know that more than 225,000 people died when the atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Do you have any idea how much the people of this country remain scarred by those 2 events? Are you aware that 99 per cent the people I deal with every day -- friends, neighbors, colleagues -- are Japanese? I told you that the domed building in front of my apartment resembles the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima just like I tell other visitors. You've twisted my words to fit them into your warped storyline and then later, in an email, tried to justify this dreck by calling it "literary travel writing". I've been in the journalism business long enough to know a hack writer when I see one and you, sir, are a hack.
* "Probably the last time the two of us spoke was in the Laurentians, north of Montreál, where a good-looking girlfriend of this handsome journalist would sunbathe topless on David's dock at Lac des Becscie." (p.75)
First of all, before you arrived at my home in Japan, I had never had a conversation with you either in the Laurentians or anywhere else. As for the partially-naked woman you claim would lay on the dock, I don't know who it was you were spying on but it certainly wasn't any of my friends because they never exposed themselves in public. It wasn't their style.
* "He explains that this district of Setagaya-ku was once a rural area west of Tokyo, known for its almonds." (p.76)
A quick search of Google shows that Japan is one of the world's largest importers of almonds because almond trees do not grow here. What I told you, again, like I tell other guests, was that there had been many horse farms in the area during the Edo period which is reflected in the names of the surrounding districts - Shimouma, Kamiuma, Komazawa. How you got from horse farms to almonds is completely baffling and raises further questions about your observation skills.
* While traveling on what you call the 'bullet train' from Narita Airport to Tokyo you say: "I'm too spellbound to know if we're moving at anywhere near the top speed of three hundred kilometres an hour." (p.73) You weren't traveling at 300 kph because the train you were on wasn't the Shinkansen bullet train. It was the Narita Express and was clearly marked as such. The former can reach speeds of 300 kph; the latter's top speed at the time was only 130 kph.
* "We cross back over the river, to the standing remnant of a once-domed building, the Gembaku Domu. Very close to Mile Zero, it's a semi-survivor of the atomic bomb." (p.147) I have searched for a Mile Zero in Hiroshima, which you mention several times, but can find no reference to it. I have also asked several journalist colleagues and we finally agreed that you most probably meant Ground Zero: "the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs" (Merriam-Webster). For someone who supposedly made a pilgrimage to Hiroshima to pay respect to the victims of the atomic bombing, I found it odd that you messed up on such a well-known fact. But things become clearer later in the book when in Prague, on a visit to John Lennon's Wall [sic], you shamelessly boast of scribbling the graffito "We made love in Hiroshima". (p.196) It was then I realized that -- damn the facts -- Hiroshima was an opportunity to have your names forever linked with those 60's icons, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Call me a cynic (which, in fact, you do in the book) but I think you should have spent less time in bed in Hiroshima playing John and Yoko, and more time doing your research, like any serious-minded writer.
* Last but not least, the description of the goings-on inside my home and the will-they-won't-they updates on the relationship between Fabiola and I.
"After relaxing a bit, Jo and I decide we should leave the (possibly newly reunited?) family trio some privacy." (p. 77) "Later, when Jo and I stretch out for the night in Pat's small office on a thin foam, I'm aware that Pat and Fabiola who've been living apart on different continents for several years will tonight be sharing the one bedroom with their daughter." (p. 80) "Fabiola is going off on a week-long side-trip with Carlotta and two Japanese friends, so no grand romantic union with Pat is in the cards." (p. 103)
My relationship with Fabiola and Carlotta is none of your nor your reader's business. I opened my home in Tokyo to you and your wife in a spirit of friendship. Now I find out that all the while, you were quietly taking notes (incorrectly it turns out) of what we were saying and doing for possible later inclusion in your book. You never asked for permission to document us and you never confirmed any of the facts with me. If I had known we were going to end up as fodder in your book, I would never have agreed to my cousin's request (identified in the book as one of your best friends) to allow you to stay with us. You've insulted my family, you've insulted the people of Japan and you've insulted the intelligence of anyone who has had the misfortune of reading this book. You should be ashamed of yourself.
The late British Japanophile and travel writer, Alan Booth, (who, ironically, you mention in your book) summed it up perfectly when he wrote of the observations of certain visitors to Japan who arrive with preconceived ideas: "More thorough nonsense must be spoken and written about Japan than about any other comparably developed nation".
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