The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Matthew Chozick, American expat in Japan (9/12)

Current home: Tokyo, Japan
Cyberspace coordinates: Matthew Chozick, Tokyo-based American writer and translator (writer site) and @mashu_desu (Twitter handle)
Recent article: “Thanksgiving: food, family, but hold the ‘chong chew’ turkey,” in the Japan Times (29 November 2011)

Where are you spending the holidays this year?
I’ll fly out of Tokyo to be in New England with family and loved ones. On the way back to Japan I’ll stop off in Israel to cheer on a Japanese contemporary dancer friend, as she’s doing a six-hour performance art piece. We will then take a quick trip to Jordan to see the ancient Nabataean capital Petra.

What will you do when you first arrive in New England?
I’ll check my email! I must do the final round of design checks on Tokyo Verb Studio, a contemporary art and literary anthology I’m editing with Keisuke Tsubono and Midori Ohmuro. The anthology, published by Awai Books, will be released early in the new year.

What do you most like doing during the holidays?
For the past several years I’ve spent New Years in Japan, where I like to eat my share of rice cakes (mochi) and sweetened black beans (kuromame). I also usually watch the first sunrise of the year at a Shinto shrine and help a friend or two wash off their ancestral gravestones (known as hakamairi).

Are you sending any cards?
In Japan it is customary to send New Year’s cards (nengajō), timed to arrive on the first of January. For traditionalist non-tech savvy acquaintances I’ll hand-write nengajō in Japanese with a calligraphy marker, but for younger friends I will send cellphone messages with the cutest animation I can find, likely containing kittens and balloons.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
An ocean of hummus in Tel Aviv! I’ve never been to Israel, and though I’m not much of a foodie, I hear it’s a gastronomical paradise.

Can you recommend any good books other expats or “internationals” might enjoy?
I loved the novel I Am a Japanese Writer, by Dany Laferrière. While it’s about a Montreal-based Haitian writer who becomes big in Japan, the plot doesn’t matter as much as its digressions and keen observations. There are few authors with as much wit, humor, and enthusiasm for parsing the ball of contradictions we call the human condition.

This year I also really enjoyed Chuck Klosterman’s novel The Visible Man, as well as all the new issues of the magazine N+1, Simon Montefiore’s Jerusalem: The Biography, a book touching on the Fukushima nuclear disaster by Hideo Furukawa (only in Japanese), and M.A. Aldrich’s The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China’s Capital Through the Ages.

How do you feel when the holidays are over?
Bloated.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love said to me:
NINE CELLPHONES DANCING,
EIGHT WHOOPHIS WHOOPING,
SEVEN SKIERS A-PARTYING,
SIX SPOUSES TRAILING,
FIVE GOOOOOOOFY EXPATS.
FOUR ENGLISH CHEESES,
THREE DECENT WHISKIES,
TWO CANDY BOXES,
& AN IRISHMAN IN A PALM TREE!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s featured nomad (10/12) in our 12 Nomads of Christmas series.

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3 responses to “12 NOMADS OF CHRISTMAS: Matthew Chozick, American expat in Japan (9/12)

  1. Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane January 4, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Hope you had a great trip and ate all the humus you wanted! It’s wonderful stuff and Middle Eastern food is fabulous in general. Must have been great to be back with family in the US too. La multe ani fericit: Happy New Year from Moldova

  2. ML Awanohara January 4, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    @Matthew
    Even though I’m living in NYC, I still celebrate Japanese New Year’s in a somewhat traditional style, and I actually breathe a sigh of relief when it finally rolls round.

    Funnily enough (pun intended!), I ended up in a comedy club in the West Village this New Year’s Eve, and one of the comedians made the joke that even if we can’t all agree on what to celebrate in December — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (indeed, most of the comics in the line-up that night were black or Jewish) — we can all agree on the calendar, that January 1 comes after December 31 and marks the start of a new year. I’ve been thinking about that remark ever since!

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