Love, Tokyo Style

By Umiyuri Katsuyama as Translated by Toshiya Kamei

sfgenreOn a Thursday afternoon, I ransacked the bargain bin at a second-hand bookstore near my college. I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was looking for. Then something shiny flashed in the corner of my eye. I thought a yellow ginkgo leaf had flurried down, but when I crouched, I found a golden, pinky-sized Eiffel Tower.

Somebody must’ve bought it back from Paris, I thought, picking it up.

“The tower must be somewhere near here. The GPS shows that we’re getting closer,” a woman’s voice passed behind me.

Tower? Does she mean Hōrin-ji’s three-story pagoda?

“Hey! My man, what’s up?” a familiar voice interrupted my reverie. When I turned, Yamada Senpai stood, wearing a faint smile, his long bangs covering his forehead. His five o’clock shadow made a striking contrast against his pale, dry skin. I had met him at the gaming club on campus. He was four years my senior. Despite being friendly and calm, he quit the club out of disagreement over its policies. I myself rarely participated out of sheer laziness. To my surprise, the Eiffel Tower had vanished, leaving a sparkling coating of glitter on my fingertips.

“How have you been, Senpai?” He didn’t look too well. Earlier this year, he said he would finally finish his master’s thesis. If I remembered correctly, his research involved the comparative study of various editions of the Nippo Jisho, also known as Vocabulário da Língua do Japão, published in Nagasaki in 1603-04.

“I’m making hanabira mochi for the New Year,” Senpai said. “I’ll treat you to some. Come to my place.”

What are hanabira mochi like? Do they have floral petals? The answer was slow in coming. Mochi wrapped in salted sakura leaves came to mind, but that was, of course, sakura mochi, to be eaten in early spring. I decided to go along with what appeared to be his diversion. We set off toward his apartment. Senpai wore a wool jacket with thinning shoulders and frayed cuffs, holding a heavy-looking cloth bag. I stared at his bag, wondering what was in it.

“I bought white miso to make white bean paste,” he volunteered his answer without my prompting.

Oh, you need white miso for hanabira mochi.

We reached Senpai’s apartment off the shopping district. He lived on the second floor. When he opened his door, the smell of sweetened beans wafted from the kitchen.

“Wash your hands and make yourself comfortable,” he said, pointing to the kotatsu. “Now we come to the most challenging part.”

I washed my hands in the bathroom, sat in the electronic kotatsu in the adjacent room, and stretched out my legs. Still in his jacket, Senpai stirred his pot in the kitchen. After a while, he took his jacket off and hurled it toward his bed. But it failed to reach it and landed on a Kutani jar, which we used to play pitch-pot—the ancient Chinese game played with arrows. I twisted my upper body, picked up the jacket, and placed it on the bed. I spotted a paperback edition of Kunio Yanagita’s Tōno Monogatari, grabbed it, and began to read it.

As I gazed toward the kitchen, Senpai heated his bowl in the microwave, took out a white gooey mass, and spread it over the powdered marble board.

“Thanks for waiting.” After a while, Senpai came in with a plate and set it down on the kotatsu. The plate held two crescent-shaped pieces of mochi as large as kids’ faces. Probably he had flattened the mochi, spread the bean paste over it, and halved it. Long sticks stuck out of them.

“Hey, they’re not handles,” he said as I was about to grab the sticks with both hands.

“Sweetened and boiled. Candied burdock root has existed since the Heian period,” he added. “Isn’t that cool?”

I held the mochi and took a bite of the burdock stem. A sweet taste spread in my mouth. It never occurred to me to eat burdock root sweetened before. Rich in minerals and high in fiber, burdock root surprisingly went well with the sweet taste. As the mochi filled my mouth, a salty, sweet taste invaded my pallet and taste buds. Still on his feet, Senpai seized his mochi and gobbled it. The mochi tasted great, but something was wrong with it. Perhaps too big.

We chewed in silence and finished eating about the same time.

“Let me get us some tea,” he said, and went back to the kitchen.

After a short while, he came back with a tray holding two bowls of powdered green tea. The bowls were patterned in red and green lightning bolts.

I grabbed one and sipped the diluted matcha. Then somebody knocked on the door. We looked up and glanced at each other. The doorbell rang.

“Where’s the tower?” a woman’s voice said. “The tower should lead us to our bride groom.”

“Don’t sweat it,” another woman’s voice said. “The GPS shows he’s here.”

Then the door opened noisily. Apparently, Senpai had failed to lock it. Two women in long turquoise blue coats stood in the afternoon sun. Both women wore their hair up in buns at the backs of their heads.

“Excuse me. We’re looking for . . .” the women said, gasped in unison, and bowed lightly.

“How can I help you?” Senpai craned his neck.

“We have important news to tell you.”

“What?” Senpai said. He and I looked at each other again.

“Out of 2,897 candidates in the whole universe, we have chosen you as the bride groom for our princess.”

“2,897? Wonderful,” I mumbled.

“If you accept our proposal, you’ll be prince consort. When the princess succeeds her father on the throne, you’ll be the second most powerful person in the universe.”

“Me?” Senpai asked, his voice cracking.

“No.” Both women shook their heads. “Your friend.”

“Me?”

The women nodded. “You swing both ways, correct?” one of the women asked.

I gasped. How do they know I’m carrying a torch for Senpai?

“Are you not happy with being second in command?”

“It’s not that,” I said. “I don’t think I’m ready to marry somebody I don’t know.”

“Don’t worry. Our princess will appear before you as an earthling you find attractive. Could be male or female,” one woman said.

“They already walk among you on Earth,” the other woman added. “We need your answer.”

“Excuse me.” I tried to speak, but my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I swallowed. “I have to turn down your proposition. I don’t think I’m the right person. But just out of curiosity, could you tell me why I was chosen?”

“You’re good at pitch-pot. You’ve got an elegant throwing form,” the women said in unison.

“Pitch-pot?” Senpai and I said at the same time.

“We respect your decision,” one woman said, and both bowed politely. “Please bear in mind that you may fall in love with someone who is actually our princess,” the other woman added.

Senpai packed some candied burdock root in a Tupperware container and handed it to them.

After the women were gone, I glanced outside the window. A large rainbow spread across the sky above the shopping district at dusk.

“If I were you, I’d go for it,” Senpai said. “I wouldn’t have to write my thesis anymore.” Since that day, he has devoted his every waking moment to practicing pitch-pot.

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About the Author

Umiyuri Katsuyama

Umiyuri Katsuyama 200Umiyuri Katsuyama is a multiple-award-winning writer of fantasy and horror, often based on Asian folklore motifs.

A native of Iwate in the far north of Japan, she later moved to Tokyo and studied at Seisen University.

In 2011, she won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award with her novel Sazanami no kuni.

Her most recent novel, Chuushi, ayashii nabe to tabi wo suru, was published in 2018.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous horror anthologies in Japan.

 

About the Translator

Toshiya Kamei

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

AntiSF & The ASFF

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Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 277

00001001 Lives (Part One)
By Alistair Lloyd

Adaptation: A Dialogue in 10 Parts
By Greg Beatty

Claim Jumper
By D. M. Woolston

Essence
By Tim Borella

In the City of Swordfighting Robots
By Tara Campbell

Moral Module 6: Urashima Taro
By Jeana Jorgensen

Once Again on the Beach
By Umiyuri Katsuyama Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Soggy, Soggy Nights
By Wes Parish

Terrarium
By Chris Karageorge

The Life of a Computer
By Matthew McAyeal

The Return of Rahab
By R. E. Diaz

AntipodeanSF September 2021

ISSUE 276

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <alistairlloyd.com>.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

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SF Quote

The advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation's Edge

The Contributors

brian mahon 200Brian Mahon is a former cook, wanderer, lab technician, submariner, and present day now-and-then writer.

He splits his remaining energies seeking knowledge, fighting age, doing laundry, attempting to join the 1,000 pound club, and using flash fiction as a creativity relief valve.

Further information is available on his website, <www.mahanimalism.net>.

greg foyster 200Greg Foyster is a writer, illustrator and author of the memoir Changing Gears.

His stories and cartoons have appeared in The Age, The Saturday Paper, ABC, Meanjin, Eureka Street and others.

His fiction has appeared in The Big Issue, Page Seventeen and Verandah.

He currently works in communications for an environment charity and is finishing a book of short stories. Website: <www.gregfoyster.com>.

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StanleiBellan 200Stanlei Bellan, like any respectable time traveler, has many stories to tell. Some of the most fun and witty are in his book T is for Time Travel.

In other timelines, Stanlei has been a physics professor, an engineering graduate, a start-up entrepreneur, and a winner of six Cannes Lions awards for his creative work in advertising and entertainment.

An immigrant from Brazil who was adopted by California, Stanlei is still learning how to bend time to fit his wife, two sons and a daughter, a cat, his business partners, and his many hobbies (like playing Dungeons & Dragons and uncovering fascinating historical facts).

Stanlei’s writing is inspired by an unquenchable desire to transcend reality into fantasy. You can chat with Stanlei on twitter at @stanlei or visit <https://stanlei.com> to get a FREE STORY!

julian roberts 200I grew up in Elizabeth, SA but have fallen in love with Adelaide's southern coastal suburbs (there's just so much more nature down here).

I live with my wife, The Boss, and my toddler who's a sentient squeal obsessed with dinosaurs and going to the zoo.

We have four cats. They're not awful, but they could be more helpful around the house.

I have a long-distance relationship with depression and have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Cycling is my favourite way to get around and I'm pretty into basketball too (go 36ers).

Cartoons are my favourite thing to binge.

"Be excellent to each other"

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Chad has a B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

His fiction has appeared in Farther Stars Than These, Larks Fiction Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, Verdad Magazine, and AntipodeanSF.

nick petrou 200Nick Petrou works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is with or forthcoming with The Arcanist, Ghost Orchid Press, Quill & Crow, and others.

You can find out lots more about him at <nspetrou.com>.

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Umiyuri Katsuyama 200Umiyuri Katsuyama is a multiple-award-winning writer of fantasy and horror, often based on Asian folklore motifs.

A native of Iwate in the far north of Japan, she later moved to Tokyo and studied at Seisen University.

In 2011, she won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award with her novel Sazanami no kuni.

Her most recent novel, Chuushi, ayashii nabe to tabi wo suru, was published in 2018.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous horror anthologies in Japan.

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

col hellmuthCol Hellmuth lives a quiet, uncomplicated life, off-grid in the Daintree rainforest of Far North Queensland.

He has scratched out a living in a variety of different jobs (and locations) over the years; these days he scratches out words in various sequences, and dreams of a day when he might be able to convert some of these ramblings into food.

When he is not writing or enslaved at work he is usually found bumming around his local beach dodging crocs in his kayak or jamming on the blues-harp.

He doesn't have any fancy letters after his name, or a pet cat, but does read a lot.

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ps cottier 200PS Cottier is a poet who lives in Canberra, with a particular interest in speculative poetry.

She has been published widely at home and in Canada, England, New Zealand and the USA.

Two of her horror poems were finalists in the Australian Shadows Awards for 2020. Her latest books are Monstrous, which is a volume of speculative poems, and Utterly, which is non-genre.

PS Cottier is the Poetry Editor at The Canberra Times and blogs at <https://pscottier.com>

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Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances; his favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert. He lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist..  "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"

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rick kennett 200I'm a life-long resident of Melbourne, Australia, where I work in the transport industry. I like to explore graveyards, an odd hobby I call necrotourism, although I believe the correct word is taphophile.

I've been writing since 1979 and have had SF and ghost stories in many magazines, anthologies and podcasts. In 2008 my story "The Dark and What It Said" won a Ditmar, and in 2013 my podcast stories "Now Cydonia" and "The Road to Utopia Plain" won two Parsec Awards. I'm presently the podcast reporter for the M.R. James journal Ghosts & Scholars.

"The Gods in their Galleries" is a sequel to my novel "Presumed Dead", available on Amazon.

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