Thank You and OK!

An American Zen Failure in Japan

Dates| Bell | Names | Pronunciation



I particularly noticed how often the words lady and ladies were used. A little less than woman and women but a lot. Five years later Crooked Cucumber had over 100 of woman and women and only four of lady and ladies - and the same feminist editor for both books suggested those four be removed whereas she made no comment about it for Thank You and OK. This was unconscious on my part, reflecting the changing times.


The word "they" is used for 3rd person singular when the gender is unknown. I can remember using that practice way further back.

This book is about events that took place between April of 1988 and April of 1992. 

The value of the yen fluctuated in that period, but think of 1000 yen as worth roughly eight dollars.

Dating Weirdness - 83-Birthday Boy - August 13, 1990 is the wrong birthday for Clay. That's my mother's birthday. Clay was born 9 months later on April 19, 1991. It was dated that way so it would fit in the right place for the story. The other dates are approximate or made up, sometimes birthdays of family.


The bell between the chapters was recorded in 1959 by John and Elsie Mitchell at Eiheiji monastery in Japan where Shunryu Suzuki and Dainin Kataigir trained as young monks. Taken from The Way of Eiheiji: Zen Buddhist Ceremony is a two record box set put out by Folkways Records in 1960 with a 25 page booklet. The bells were taken from side one, which is all one track, in the lead up to the monks chanting the Hannya Shingo, the Heart Sutra. In the deep bell sounding you may hear the thump of the mokugyo, the enormous hollowed-out wooden fish drum carved from one piece of wood, possibly camphor, indicating that the chanting now begins. This album is still available through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, track 101, catalogue number FW08980, FR 8980. Provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1960. Used by permission.


The Real Names of some people and places

  • Ananda is Bodhi
  • Ann is Ann Overton in Titles of Respect and Ashes to Dust
  • Chisei Roshi at Shimobji is Harada Seiki at Hokyoji in Obama in Train Reflections
  • Gentsu Roshi is Tangan Harada in Moo if You Love Buddha
  • Isabel is Yvonne Rand
  • Jessica is Chisan Priscilla Storandt
  • Koji is Daiji Nishida
  • Nishiki Roshi is Tsugen Narasaki
  • Norman is Nonin Chowaney - for many years the teacher at the Omaha Zen Center
  • Shuko is Ekai Korematsu - who was ordained by a lovable recluse Japanese priest, Kobun Chino Otagawa - Shuko Tells All. Jikishoan is Ekai's Zen Buddhist community in New Zealand.
  • Taizen is Daigan
  • Watanabe Roshi is Harada Shodo, called Harada Roshi or Hojo-san
  • Daianji in Maruyama is Sogenji in Okayama (Maruyama is the temple's neighborhood where we lived)
  • Hogoji near Ryumon is Shogoji near Ryumon
  • Kikuoka near Bepu is Kikuchi near Kumamoto in Kumamoto Prefecture
  • Suienji is Zuioji in Shikoku

Further notes - I'd like to include more notes but not now. Some would be long. Here's a short trivial one

One Drop - A week before we left should be 12 days before we left. We left on April 13th, the same date I arrived four years earlier. Elin and I called it Leap Day because it was an important day for us in other way.


A Note on Approximate Japanese Pronunciation

A   is similar to the   "a" in father

I   is similar to the   "ea" in eat

U   is similar to the   "oo" in look

E   is similar to the   "e" in egg

O   is similar to the   "o" in go   said quickly 

Examples taken from An Introduction to Modern Japanese

by Osamu and Nobuko Mizutani, Japan Times.