Please, tell us a little about yourself. What part of Japan are you from? My name is Hiroshi Kurokawa, and I am from Tokyo. I have ramen restaurant in Funabashi city.
How long have you been a chef? I started my career at ramen restaurant 20 years ago. I created original menu and recipe at the restaurant and opened my own restaurant named “Ramen & Bar 963”. After that I opened ramen restaurant in Tokyo.
How did you become interested in making clam chowder? Funabashi is famous for Honbinos Shelfish, and I use it for my ramen. I decided to make clam chowder since the clam chowder competition is held in Funabashi first time.
Is it difficult to make? Yes, I made lots of try and error while cooking clam chowder.
Is clam chowder a popular food in Japan? Yes, especially for female.
Are there other foods that you enjoy cooking? Softshell Crab, Chili Konkan and steak.
You will be coming to America in February to compete in the 2020 Edmonds Clam Chowder Cook-off. How did you hear about this event? I did not know about the event until I entered the competition in Japan.
Edmonds is a beautiful town. Will this be your first time here? Yes.
We here at Konnichiwa Seattle wish you good luck in the cook-off! We look forward to meeting you. Thank you very much. I look forward to meeting everybody at the event.
Exclusive interview with author and photographer, John Lander
Mr John Lander, thank you for taking the time to speak to Konnichiwa Seattle about your new book being released on November 15th, World Heritage Japan. First, please tell us a bit about your background and your connection to Japan. I first came to Japan in 1981 as an ESL teacher then lecturer at Keio University in Tokyo. Later I taught at Tsukuba University north of Tokyo but always kept my connection to Keio where I continued to teach. The last few years of my teaching career, I started writing ESL textbooks with Japanese publishers. Educational publishers taste in graphics is usually pretty poor or they opt for the cheapest thing they can get, so I started providing them with my own photos for my books. Later, I started writing travel features mostly for inflight magazines, so over time my writing skills improved as did my photography skills. I found that I enjoyed the photography much more than the writing part so I have focused on that ever since. At this point I have been in Japan for so long that even the US feels like a foreign country to me, although I will never be completely “Japanese” my spouse is Japanese and pretty much my tiny social world is made of up Japanese people with a few gaijin buddies in Tokyo. It has come to the point, especially the past couple years, that I only really feel safe and comfortable in Japan. I do crave tacos and certain things from Mexico and the US though. When I was younger I jonesed continually over leaving Japan and returning to San Francisco, but I’m over that now. Finally. Maybe because I’ve been so completely priced out of the market or unemployable in CA, I’m not sure which.
I'm really looking forward to getting my copy of World Heritage Japan. Describe what we will find inside when we purchase the book. The book is a photo essay with extended captions, with not only UNESCO sites such as Kinkakuji or Ginkakuji, but the editor and I decided to emphasize Intangible Cultural Heritage with concepts and items such as Washi paper, Washoku Japanese cuisine, Kabuki theatre, Yuki Tsumugi Silk, etc to add human elements and avoid “temple fatigue”. We also included Meiji Industrial sites, to add another flavor.
What was your inspiration in creating it? And when did you first get the idea for making this book? I travel around Japan a lot for the sake of my yearly calendar project for Amber-Lotus Publishing. Amber-Lotus wants “fresh” images of Japanese gardens that have not previously been seen by the multitudes, although I could have done an entire year’s worth of Japanese gardens in a long weekend in Kyoto, I am required to go all over Japan to find the arcane and unheard-of. As I do lots of stock photography for Getty Images and Alamy Images, I have always noticed that UNESCO sites sell well so if I happened to be in an area that had a photogenic UNESCO site, or an intangible cultural heritage place such as Mugi Silk, then I’d make side trips while photographing Japanese gardens in the area. Of course I had to make a few trips for specific world heritage sites such as Ogasawara Islands 1000 km south of Tokyo by boat (where there are no gardens to my knowledge) but it turned out to be the highlight of all my trips. Visitor arrivals to Japan have tripled in just the last few years, and will probably peak in 2020 with the Tokyo Olympics and so there has never really been so much interest in Japan as there is right now. The editors and I thought that now is the itime to get it out into bookshelves.
The book will have a preface by Pico Iyer, as well as an introduction by Yoko Kawaguchi. Please tell us a bit about them. Although I myself am fairly well known for my Japanese garden photography, I am not what you would call “famous” and so I asked Pico, who lives in Nara intermittently (usually he’s in Santa Barbara, CA or on tour with TED talks and promoting his own books). I find Pico’s insights into Japan to be very moving and usually spot on. He also has a very deep and sincere love for Japan that always shines through. Very few writers really capture Japan well, the only real exception would be Donald Ritchie and also Pico Iyer. I know Yoko as she has written a couple books on Japanese gardens and I’ve been in touch with her for a few years in that regard. Besides gardens, she is very knowledgable on topics in Japanese culture. As a non-Japanese myself, I felt more comfortable having a Japanese person who I trust write the introduction. Yoko also very kindly got out her red pen and corrected many of my mistakes for each chapter and captions. Yoko lives in Wales and was educated in the US and Canada and so her English is flawless. Yoko, Pico, the editors, photo editors put in a lot of effort to help me make the book as good as it could be, and I’ve very thankful to all of them.
I understand that you will be going on a book tour for World Heritage Japan. Where will your tour stops be? How did you pick those cities? River Books is a small indie publisher based in London & Bangkok. Although they are very with-it and switched on, they don’t have a real publicist so it was all up to me to set up these events. At first I thought of only doing California, as that is my home: San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose and Los Angeles. But then I decided to try to make it more fun by going places I have always wanted to go like Vancouver and Portland. Vancouver was the first bookstore to invite me to do this and they are very engaged in doing author events (in fact I believe that Pico did one there a few years ago). I have always thought of Portland as a “book town full of readers” and it is but none of the bookstores there seemed interested. At that point I opened the scope wider, as I have a few very good friends in Seattle who I know from my San Francisco college days and Kinokuniya Seattle was enthusiastic on this event, so I gave up on Portland. Plus I wanted to see my friends! Since I am doing this tour on my own dime, I am grateful to have friends in Seattle and San Francisco to put me up (or is that “put up with me”) during my stay especially in SF where I will be for 10 days. Afterwards, events have been set up for me at Kinokuniya San Francisco Nov 9, Books Inc Palo Alto Nov 11, and Capital Books Sacramento Nov 13. San Jose and Los Angeles completely ignored me, ditto Berkeley. But that's OK. My last stop in 2019 will be Tokyo American Club on Nov 20. In early January I’ll be giving shorter events at Kinokuniya Kuala Lumpur Jan 4 and Kinokuniya Singapore Jan 11.
We're very excited to welcome you to Seattle on Wednesday, November 6th at the Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Uwajimaya Village from 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm. What do you have planned for this event? I will put on a video with musical background of the book on the monitor and sound system while people find a seat, and get settled in. I will start with a Keynote slideshow that should take no more than 30 or 40 minutes, followed by a Q&A session - another 20 minutes or so. The last bit will be a book signing, when I can meet and greet participants and answer further questions if I can.
Are you working on any other projects that we can look forward to seeing in the future? I am working on a project regarding the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage with the working title of “HENRO” which means “pilgrim”. I myself have done a handful of these temples, especially those with Japanese gardens or those that are particularly photogenic. Ideally the pilgrimage is done on foot and takes about 6 weeks, but many people do it in spurts, whenever they have time, and that is me. Nowadays, as I approach 70 years of age, my ankles and knees are not very stronge especially when carrying heavy photographic equipment, so I go by bus, motorbike or car whenever I can. My Gardens of the Spirit project is ongoing, thankfully. I have done the photography for this series for 6 years, and counting.
Once again, John Lander's new book, World Heritage Japan, will be coming out in November 2019. Don't miss your chance to meet the author and photographer on Wednesday, November 6th between 5:00 - 6:30 pm at Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Uwajimaya Village. Thank you for your time, Mr Lander. We look forward to meeting you when you get to Seattle.