What do you do when your husband arrives home to tell you he’s been offered a new position in his company and that the family will be moving to Japan? If you are author and former L.L.Bean copywriter, Karen Pond, you willingly accept the challenge of an exciting family adventure and start gathering hilarious fodder for a true “fish out of water” book.
Getting Genki in Japan is a collection of illustrated musings of a Maine mom’s absurd and exhilarating adventures in the Far East.
After reading (and giggling) through Karen Pond’s new book about her and her family’s move from Maine to Japan, we were delighted to organize a book signing at L.L.Bean in Freeport, Maine, for Saturday, August 11, during our popular KidsFest event.
We also recently had the opportunity to talk to Karen about her experiences and her new book:
Packing up the entire family (three sons, a husband and a dog) and moving to another country had to be overwhelming. How did you get your sons on board for this new chapter in their lives?
Fortunately our sons (ages 6, 10 and 14 at the time) also love adventures and recognized it was an opportunity of a lifetime, so they were on board immediately. Our oldest son couldn’t wait to go to a Japanese baseball game; our middle son was always up for any kind of adventure; and our youngest son was looking forward to trying exotic ice cream flavors! Also, just before moving, our middle son met a new friend at a Brunswick baseball camp who coincidentally was also attending the same school in Tokyo as our boys; this incredible “small world” experience added even more excitement to the move.
How did you come up with the book title – Getting Genki in Japan?
Literally, “genki” means “healthy or fine.” For instance, if you are asked in Japanese “Genki desu ka?” (How are you?), the standard answer is “Genki desu.” (I am well. I am fine.)
For me, “getting genki in Japan” means making the most of your time, embracing and enjoying Japan, being excited for unexpected adventures and new discoveries. This was our goal. Although we could not speak, read or write Japanese, and we did not know anyone who lived in Japan, we arrived with a sense of adventure, a sense of humor and a sense of discovery. This outlook was very helpful to our successful transition from Topsham to Tokyo.
The illustrations in the book are perfect accompaniments to your adventures. How did you choose the artist Akiko Saito?
I met Saito san through a mutual friend, a magazine editor. We were two ladies from two different lands who spoke two different languages, but we worked very well together and had lots of fun. Saito san is very talented; I really love how she visually brings the stories to life. I hope we can work together again.
You’ve hilariously conquered the automated toilets of Tokyo. What else can you tell us about those futuristic toilets?
I admit it, despite being befuddled by all the buttons, I love the Japanese toilet. I don’t want to ruin the surprise; if you have a chance to use one, give it a try. It is quite the experience. I am hoping to bring one back as my Japan souvenir!
You’re from Maine and a former L.L.Bean employee, so we know you love the outdoors. Tell us a little about your family’s outdoor adventures.
We love to hike, bike and get out on the water whenever we can. It’s such a great thing to do as a family. There are endless discoveries in Japan. My favorite hikes are Mt. Takao and Mt. Kamakura, just 40 minutes from Tokyo. I also kayaked with friends in beautiful Izu Peninsula. Recently, I joined friends on a six-hour bike ride around Tokyo. We rode past beautiful shrines and parks, sumo wrestlers in training and much more. I also like to brag that my husband climbed Mt. Fuji three times! We also downhill ski every winter. We were so happy to continue our Maine family tradition in Japan.
You’re heading back to Japan right after your book signing in Freeport. What will you miss the most about Maine, and what are you looking forward to when you get back to Tokyo?
I always miss the Maine seasons, particularly autumn. I miss the cooler weather, colorful landscape and pumpkin pie. I also miss my husband’s garden and fruit trees; our not-so-shy neighbors tell us that our peaches, grapes and raspberries are delicious!
We are packing up and “getting genki” for our next Japan adventure (or misadventure). When you live in Japan, you learn to expect the unexpected, so stay tuned for more stories!
Meet Karen Pond at her book signing, Saturday, August 11, at the L.L.Bean Freeport, Maine store. Books will be available to purchase at the event or at Amazon.com.
Now that you’ve read about Karen’s adventures in Japan, tell us, if you could live in any country for a couple of years, where would it be and why?