I am from that part of Japan settled by the Irish.

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My Japan

By Cary Tennis

I am from Japan. This causes confusion. People say, you look Irish.

I say, Thank you, I love to sing. Shall we repair to a karaoke bar down one of these mysterious Tokyo alleyways?

I am from that part of Japan settled by the Irish, who learned the tea ceremony and ceramics, who drank sake and wrote elaborate love poems to mistresses whose affections were exquisitely withheld until the last possible moment.

I am from that part of Japan that is not on the map. I find it hard, therefore, to direct visitors to my quarters. The delivery of Netflix is frequently mixed up so that I have viewed more Samurai movies than expected. Someone has seen too much Antonioni, I imagine, and I long to see him on the street one day, thinking of Jack Nicholson in The Passenger.

When I say, “I am from Japan,” clarification is the word people search for, without being impolite: In what sense?

I was born here. My father was born in Virginia and only spent a few short months in Japan, looking for a good site to drop a bomb. He was very good with directions, my father, and to this day will often aid, uninvited, any traveler whose eyes are glazed and who stands at a street corner holding a map and nodding as if trying to recall an old Glenn Miller dance number. He is fearless and there is no doubt where he comes from and no one ever tells him, funny, you look Irish.

I come from Imperial Japan, the strange, mannered century. I come from there. People say, you look so Irish. I say, I love to sing. Would you care to indulge in some karaoke?


Cary Tennis is the advice columnist for

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