[Fiction] ‘Clarity’ — Mark Halpern

A veteran monk asked Jōshū, “I hear you learned Zen from Master Nansen. Is this true?” Jōshū said, “In Chin Province they get big radishes.”

Chiharu’s index finger pointed upward, her middle finger a little to the right. This could not be a peace sign, nor a V for victory. A sculpted eyebrow, thought Jeremy, is inherently sexy—especially when angled in disdain. No, he realized, she was giving him the silent treatment. The fingers were responding to “How much should I put into the envelope?” Two fingers, two man yen. Two times ten thousand. About one hundred and eighty dollars, way more than last year, but they could afford it.

She was angry—still—and not just about donuts. Jeremy, after all these years in Japan, actually claimed that Krispy Kreme was as satisfying as Cuillère d’Argent, their neighbourhood patisserie. But worse, he’d been patronizing. He’d cut her off. He’d disrespected her, and her opinions, and her culture. A refined culture that had a right way of doing things, and a right way of understanding things.

The previous night Chiharu had expressed her anger in an appropriate manner: in bed, passively. This morning’s silence was more precise. A demand for fairness. Why, just because she could speak English, was she forced to do so all the time? Jeremy should be studying Japanese. On that subject, all pre-marriage discussions had expired.

Jeremy picked up the envelope. It bore a forest green logo and had arrived late April. These facts, plus a few scattered intelligible words, had told him that the local residents association was soliciting contributions for Kanemura’s annual Green Festival. He knew that the banknotes should be smooth and facing the right way—the Japanese way. But twenty thousand yen was a lot of money. “All you care about is appearances,” he shouted, and slammed the front door behind him. Later, when he learned that the fight had heated up, his first thought was that those words had been the cause.

For now he’d head to the gym, which on Saturdays was crammed with customers. During his workout, Jeremy would focus on two or three of the women, fantasizing that by completing specified numbers of repetitions on each of the weight machines he’d become deserving of sexual favours from these women. That was Jeremy’s regime, and it worked. He was buff.

Before bicycling over, he’d drop off the envelope with Mrs Shikiguchi, the block representative. The deadline was noon. As he stooped towards her mail slot, the door opened.

“Good morning, Jeremy-san.”

Ohayō gozaimasu, Shikiguchi-san.”

“Please call me June. Everyone did in Connecticut.” Her husband, whom no one had ever seen, was still in Connecticut. June had returned to Japan with their son when he entered high school, and he was now off somewhere studying dentistry. Jeremy noted the shapely firmness of June’s brachioradialis muscles. She must, he thought, have given birth when extremely young.

“How is your beautiful wife? You know, some Japanese are resentful when strong, handsome foreign men take the most beautiful Japanese women, but I think it’s natural.”

Jeremy stood closer than necessary when handing June the envelope.

During house-hunting, Chiharu had pressed for Kanemura, and Jeremy mentioned this at the bank where he worked. He saw the reactions; his doubts vanished. Most Tokyoites will be awed by a Kanemura address of any sort. Even its own five separate residents’ associations strove to act as if their differences resulted only from dotted lines meandering arbitrarily across a two-dimensional map.

But that is tatemae—a hovering, for the purpose of engaging with society, at a postulated intersection of pretense and objective truth. Land prices and lot sizes tell a different story. Chiharu and Jeremy live on the better side of the train station, the side with the traffic circle; they live just eight minutes’ walk away, before you plunge down the steep hill. They are in the second-best association.

Jeremy once attended a quarterly meeting. Beside him sat a gentleman—rigid-postured, silk-cravatted—who whispered explanations in a British accent acquired seven decades earlier during his father’s first diplomatic posting. Many attendees were of similar vintage. These included the Chair, the Treasurer and the Secretary, who’d all previously held corresponding positions at sizeable Japanese corporations. The meeting was a flawless jewel of corporate governance. These were the right kind of people.

Among Jeremy’s colleagues, Japanese and foreigner alike, not one lived in Kanemura—though, clearly, they all sought out their little status markers. Some had joined the Tokyo American Club, the Roppongi Hills Club, etc. etc. But what was that? Just entrance fees and monthly dues. It was nothing. In Kanemura, you’d find members of The Teikoku Club. These were the cream of Japanese society, who’d gather in an unobtrusively elegant, almost unmarked building in Minato-ku to carry on their gentlemanly pursuits—in the shogi room, the billiards room, and who knows where else. Their number was strictly limited to two hundred and forty—aspirants whiled away time, awaiting someone’s death to open up a space. But sixty further spots were designated for foreigners. Someday, one of Jeremy’s neighbours would nominate him. By then women members would be permitted, so competition would be even tougher. But Jeremy would get himself nominated, seconded and accepted. He had to.

Looping the traffic circle, he cycled straight up through the heart of the real Kanemura. The houses were gems of modern architecture—simple, clean geometries—standing back from the road in restrained grandeur. Traditional Japanese gardens were visible, almost touchable, because high property walls were forbidden. Jeremy pumped the pedals, breathed the pure air, and calculated his and Chiharu’s savings and future salaries. He came up with the same figure as always. Someday they really would buy a place here. Not one of the bigger houses, obviously, but even so they’d join the very best residents’ association. Only, nobody could predict real estate prices so far in the future.

As Jeremy rounded the last, sharp corner, he lifted his butt from the saddle and tensed his muscles, just in case June should happen to look out the window. Yes, he and Chiharu were committed partners. But there’s nothing wrong with innocent flirting.

Baka janai-no?” Jeremy knew this meant “Are you stupid?” but was not normally an actual question.

“Okay. I’m sorry I said it.”

“What are you talking about, you idiot?”

“I shouldn’t have said that you only care about appearances.”

“Of course I care about appearances. I care plenty.”

“But twenty thousand yen seems like a lot of money.”


“Then what’s the problem?”

Baka janai-no?

“What are you talking about?”

Baka janai-no?

Chiharu asked this several more times without raising her voice. She withheld clarification until Jeremy had admitted, unconditionally, that he was, indeed, an idiot.

Two fingers was not two man yen. Anyone with a micro-portion of common sense would know that it meant two sen yen—two thousand yen. Even someone who couldn’t read the photocopied letter, that, this year for the first time, mentioned such a sum as “perhaps appropriate” for those wishing to support the Green Festival. That the figure hadn’t been in Arabic numerals, but kanji—the two in old-style kanji—was no excuse. Equally common-sensical, moreover, was the fact that donating twenty thousand yen proclaimed a strong desire for active participation. What could be less unambiguous? Hence, a note bearing the red seal-impression of the local residents’ association had arrived promptly following its meeting that afternoon. The Chair wrote of his honour at “presuming to ask” whether Chiharu “would deign to become its nominee to this year’s organizing committee.”

Mendokusai naaaa. Why do I have to take responsibility? If you spoke Japanese, you could be the nominee.”

“So just decline.”

“How do you think that would look?”

“Like you didn’t want to be on the committee, I guess.”

Baka janai-no? Can’t you imagine the embarrassment it would cause to so many people?”

“So blame it on me. Say it was my misunderstanding. Or I could talk to Shikiguchi-san. Her English is good. I don’t mind.”

“Our neighbours don’t need to know that you’re an idiot. It’s enough that I know.”

Time passed. Tranquility returned. Jeremy walked Chiharu over to the Festival committee’s first meeting. The donuts had been forgotten, though in any case they’d merely been a point in a spiraling continuum. Three months earlier, Jeremy had asked whether it was “necessary to spend all Saturday morning talking with your mother.” He hadn’t even realized the two women had been sifting the remnants of his sexual attractiveness—Chiharu hoped some specks might linger a few more years so she could achieve a pregnancy on schedule without inordinate distaste. Then, three weeks earlier, Chiharu had said that all his t-shirts were “stretched out of shape and gross.” Then, three days earlier, she’d tossed several into the kitchen trash. These Jeremy retrieved and put back in the dresser despite their filthiness— “I’ll wear whatever goddamn t-shirts I want”—ignoring the new ones Chiharu had bought. Finally, three hours before the donuts, she’d mentioned an old boyfriend; Jeremy retaliated by praising a female colleague who’d graduated from a university more prestigious than Chiharu’s.

But things were now calm at home, at least during daytime. There’d been no further blow-up since the two-fingers incident, and Chiharu had become resigned to her new responsibilities. “Once I get this out of the way, it’ll be fifteen years before the residents association can foist anything else on us.”

The committee met in the most central location available. This was the tiny but stately public hall near the station, built when Kanemura itself, graced with Western-style zoning bylaws, first glittered as a modern community for the wealthy. That little Taisho Era hall belonged to the very best residents’ association.

The other associations emerged as development spread during the pre- and post-War booms. As each popped into being, it snatched up the most dignified moniker still available. For Japanese organization names, the shorter the classier.

The five associations mostly went their merry ways alone. But once a year they came together for the Green Festival, each appointing one rep to its organizing committee. Regrettably, they did not always choose individuals who’d internalized the tatemae of equality.

Stepping into the hall, Chiharu saw that it was Japanese all the way—no donuts here. Atop a heavy, stained-chestnut table sat five plastic bottles of green tea and five small packages of superior rice crackers. These had been purchased by Mrs Uwamoto out of her own pocket. She’d come early to set up and felt at home, as she represented the Kanemura Association.

“I wonder”—she took it upon herself to speak first— “whether Mrs Shimoda and Mr Takeshita might perhaps esteem our committee by becoming co-chairs. After all …” The latter represented, respectively, the Kanemura Residents Cooperative Association and the Kanemura Residents Peaceful Cooperative Association. Like Mrs Uwamoto, they were in their seventies.

“Such a thing …” said one; “Might there be a proper …” said the other. Chiharu, who represented the Kanemura Residents Association, had decided beforehand to reveal nothing; she kept silent. So did Mr Nakahara, a good-looking fiftyish man with thick hair, a prominent chin and an impressively-contoured nose. He represented the Kanemura Cooperative Association, which ranked only a smidgen lower than Chiharu’s association. The selection of co-chairs thus unanimous, the committee turned to matters of substance.

“Most important is getting lots of children to come.” Everyone nodded

“Maybe we should improve the name? Obviously it should stay in English. But how about Festival of Greenish Fun?”

“Interesting, but I wonder if Festival of Greenly Fun wouldn’t be livelier.”

Lengthy discussion ensued among the committee’s older members. Handsome Mr Nakahara accidentally smiled at the wrong moment, in consequence of which it appeared that each proposal had two supporters. Chiharu’s duty was clear.

“Both sound excellent,” she said. “But maybe we should check with a native English speaker.” Someone recalled that her husband was American. The renaming was never spoken of again, and the meeting moved forward with Japanese efficiency. The KA rep set herself against the KRCA and KRPCA reps, and felt that her voice should count double, especially as it was she who’d elevated them to co-chairs. The KRA and KCA reps stayed uncommitted. Everything proceeded by consensus. Everything would remain identical to previous years.

That same week Jeremy got his second look inside the Teikoku Club. The first had come when a private room there was booked for an Ivy Leaguers of Japan mixer. Jeremy always went to those. He’d mix with alumni of universities ranking higher than his, which was fixed at the League’s bottom. Still, the distance between him and a Harvard grad was trivial compared with what Jeremy—who’d not only grown up attending indifferent schools, but lived in their working-class catchment area’s only public housing—had, through tireless effort, already overcome.

He found himself chatting with an ex–Japanese government official. It was the latter who’d booked the room. He was a Teikoku Club member.

“I’m mostly retired, but sit on a few corporate boards.” He mentioned Jeremy’s bank.

“Of course!” said Jeremy, pulling out his business cards.

“Ah … Sorry. Exchanging meishi is prohibited at the Teikoku Club.”

“Really? Well, I’m in the Capital Markets Division. Just today we started an interesting project—”

“Ah … Sorry. Discussing business is prohibited. Also religion and politics.”

“I guess that leaves culture—not my strong point. But may I recite a haiku?”

“By all means.”

“Solemn prayers for / Finance Minister’s scandal / as market crashes.”

The ex-official guffawed, declared Jeremy a very good foreigner, and promised to invite him soon for a private dinner. “Please bring more haiku.”

Tonight Jeremy was back. With him were three other youngish Ivy Leaguers who’d been at the mixer, as well as the ex-official, whom the maître d’ welcomed by name. The dining room was spacious and uncrowded. Their table was by the fireplace. The menu displayed no prices. This really is the place to be.

The menu likewise displayed no English. But ignoring the printed Japanese—which Jeremy did automatically—he saw words similar to the Spanish he’d studied in high school, and managed to order in passable quasi-French.

With the food came wine and more wine, and Jeremy rollicked all the way to dessert. The party then moved to a narrow lounge empty of other patrons, looking out onto a shallow pond surrounded by flat grey stones. Serenity. And it was for them alone.

Until it crashed. “Look,” said the ex-official, pointing. “It’s a full moon.” He was soused. “I hereby deem this an o-tsukimi party. That means we stare at the moon and make up haiku.” He nudged Jeremy. “We take turns proposing subjects.”

Everyone then toiled at fabricating concatenations of Japanese or English words that approximated the formal conventions of haiku. But Jeremy’s danced from his lips.

On the Teikoku Club: “The clubhouse nameless / The would-be members hapless / The menu priceless.”

On French cuisine: “Jaunty little frog / swimming gracefully to me / through butter and herbs.”

Jeremy rode the train home all puffed up with success, calculating his next steps. Tomorrow he’d let slip that he’d dined with a board member—no bragging, but enough facts to pique curiosity. More pressing was to tell Chiharu, who’d be as happy as Jeremy, given how they shared the same goals in life. Besides, any slight advance in Japanese society always heightened her interest in sex. This would be a big night. Perhaps, by rationing out the details slowly, he’d engineer an entire big week. Such thoughts twisted Jeremy into an even-more excited state. At Kanemura Station he bounded up the escalator and strode towards home.

As he turned the last corner, June was exiting a taxi, struggling with packages. Jeremy offered to help and, again, brought his body closer to hers than necessary. Then, while thanking him, she touched his hand.

Jeremy went onward to Chiharu, but June’s fragrance lingered like incense. And he remembered the sensation of her fingertips.

At the Green Festival committee, innovation was stalemated and preparations moved mechanically forward. Everyone concentrated on their individual tasks. Chiharu managed the posters and flyers.

“May I offer some help?” said the handsome Mr Nakahara.

“Such a gentleman. Thank you. May I ask how you ended up on this committee?”

“Truthfully speaking, it was my wife who volunteered me. But I figure it will be fifteen years before the Kanemura Cooperative Association can ask us for anything else. Anyway, it’s only fair, since my kids enjoyed the Green Festival when they were small.”

Nakahara-san spoke with affection about his twin daughters. “It’s sad they’re so busy cramming for entrance exams, but university is just two years away.” He made no further mention of his wife. Nor did Chiharu mention Jeremy.

She and Nakahara-san sat alone at the big table, folding perfect creases into flyer after flyer. The story of Nakahara-san’s marriage was one he shared with nobody—but there was something in Chiharu’s steadiness and concentration that made him feel trusting. Probably I’m just seeing what I want to see, he thought. I should have learned to guard against that. And yet as they talked from one miscellany to another, her eyes would sometimes widen, as if she understood what he’d refrained from saying.

His marital history might, in crude terms, be described thus: Nakahara-san and his wife began with mutual affection, but that was not the key reason for marrying. There was no key reason. Rather, on both sides, there was a vague desire to do what was expected to stay on the path of respectability, and they each wanted children. Although the original affection echoed faintly even now, the couple, never having felt truly close, drifted apart. Though sexual relations had once been conducted with moderate regularity, his wife terminated such activity completely and forever when she became pregnant with the twins. Ever since, Nakahara-san had been weighted down by frustration. All the time. Yet during the days, weeks, months and years that flowed by, he’d never once committed an act of adultery within the meaning ascribed to such word by Japanese law.

During junior high the twins took a class trip to Kyoto. That evening Nakahara-san came home, entered the dining room, and found on the table a rikon-todoke. That document would, if submitted to the nearest municipal office, result in an instant divorce. All details had been filled in, and it bore not only his wife’s seal impression, but even those of two witnesses whose names were unfamiliar. All that was missing was an impression of Nakahara-san’s own seal—which sat on the table alongside an inkpad. Stuck to the document itself was a yellow post-it. Written on the post-it was “?”.

For twenty-four hours nothing happened. The couple went about their ordinary routine except that they both skipped breakfast, presumably to avoid disturbing the dining room table. But the next evening Nakahara-san dabbed his seal on the pad, pressed it firmly onto the rikon-todoke, and then wiped it with a tissue to remove the residue of red ink. He left the post-it in place. Another full day passed, and the finalized document just sat there. But the following evening, by the time the twins returned, the only thing sitting on the dining room table was a mocha-cream cake decorated with flavourless, dark-coloured icing that spelled out “Welcome Home.”

So far as Nakahara-san knew, the rikon-todoke had never been submitted—the marriage continued as before. But perhaps his wife was still holding the document as some sort of insurance policy. And perhaps he might someday share this story with Chiharu out of an uncontrollable need to express himself, though he did not particularly wish his life’s greatest embarrassment to become a source of amusement for others.

“Everything went so quickly,” said Chiharu. “Thank you.”

“We work well together,” said Nakahara-san. “Maybe you and I should form a subcommittee.

“You were right all along,” said Jeremy to Chiharu. “I should be studying Japanese and practising it in daily life. It will definitely expand my career options.”

“If you understand the language, you’ll appreciate the culture.”

“And this”—he pointed at a flyer, seeming not to have heard Chiharu’s words— “I’m really, really sorry I created such a burden.” He spoke with tenderness. “I know you need your weekends to unwind.”

Back when Jeremy and Chiharu were dating, he’d often talked about his childhood. She’d said little about hers, but Jeremy figured that this was probably the Japanese way. Still, he’d understood that you sometimes can’t distinguish between what comes from culture and what derives from some other essence that makes up the individual.

Chiharu had never told him how her father would come home late, drunk, and bang on the front door, as if expecting her mother to welcome him in like an obedient wife. Then, night after night, once past the doorway, he’d just stand there in the genkan, immobile, his shoes still on, crying real tears, as her mother scolded him for being a failure. Chiharu’s father, when sober, had a capacity for both great kindness and pure selfishness, but her mother was always cold. Chiharu had needed no instruction that nothing was ever to be mentioned to outsiders.

She now smiled. “I guess you’re off to the gym.” There’d been no point in confessing those humiliations. Jeremy worked at a big bank, pulling himself upward, and made clear that he aimed at a proper life. He was not like her father, and his roughness was an American roughness that had made him seem masculine.

“Sure, it’s right to support your own community,” said Jeremy. “It’s fine. But someday we’ll have to do something for society generally, not just for a bunch of privileged people living in Kanemura. That’s a moral obligation, and I feel guilty for putting it off. But it’ll be so much easier once we’ve moved up the ladder.”

“I’m okay with that. There’s no point being greedy. We’ll still be able to live well and give our child all the advantages.”

“I vowed that my kids would not grow up poor—you’ve heard me say it before—and that’s already guaranteed. They’ll never have to know what it’s like when everyone around has clothes and toys and vacations that you can’t afford. Our kids will not be looked down on. They won’t always worry about what other people think.”

“Of course, you can’t function in Japanese society unless you’re sensitive to what everyone else is thinking.”

“I completely agree with you,” said Jeremy. “Whatever country our kids choose to live in, they’ll need to know how to get along in society, so they can achieve their own goals. It’s the same for us. We’re working hard now, but once we’ve made it all the way, it won’t matter what anybody else thinks. Success always gets respect.”

Chiharu stayed quiet for a moment. “Maybe I don’t have enough experience with success.” She tilted her head, pursed her lips, and looked hard at Jeremy. “Anyway, I don’t see why you should feel guilty.”

When Jeremy happened to see June in front of her home, he’d no longer stand too close. They’d speak as friendly neighbours do, and that was that. Sometimes it was in English, but these days Jeremy often practiced his Japanese. Either way, everything was polite and proper.

It was different, of course, when they met at the love hotel, which was of the type where a taxi could drop you off discreetly at an underground entrance. Inside their room, Jeremy would say everything on his mind in the most casual and intimate terms, and June responded with sympathy. Jeremy told himself that Chiharu didn’t care whether he slept with other women, so long as she wasn’t forced to confront that fact directly. She didn’t seem to care about sex at all and, apparently, his needs were irrelevant. He thought she’d probably be more upset by the freeness of his and June’s conversations. Still, he knew that their having sex was wrong.

As for June’s marriage, she was straightforward. She hadn’t seen her husband in years. Aside from matters concerning their son, they were content to live in ignorance of each others’ lives. Even so, she might have stayed in Connecticut— “I felt half American; I still do”—but returning to Japan was more practical. Jeremy was unclear as to whether America had changed her. Maybe she’d always been this way.

Jeremy’s self-confidence grew—being wanted sexually does that. But he worried about getting caught. This is nuts. The world is filled with women who don’t live around the corner. And though he could tell June anything, he found himself telling her the same things again and again. Maybe that’s why she wasn’t surprised when he terminated the affair.

For Jeremy, though, the true reason may have simply been that the thrill had worn off. But he tried not to think about that, since it made him feel even more guilty.

The Green Festival, meanwhile, was consummated successfully, as was the relationship between Chiharu and Nakahara-san. Their love hotel was very remote, nowhere near Jeremy and June’s.

On a typical evening, Chiharu and Nakahara-san would meet early, eat dinner in bed quickly, and have sex passionately. At least that’s how he saw it. Little time was spent in conversation, though they’d sometimes chat about the Green Festival or the other committee members.

“It was a foregone conclusion that the proposals for change would go nowhere. It’s sad those people have nothing more productive to do with their lives.”

“At least they could have spoken more directly. It would have created less discord.”

“That’s just the way people are.”

After sex, both Chiharu and Nakahara-san would rush back to their offices. So, in the course of any given assignation, they really didn’t use many words. And among the many words they didn’t use was judōteki-kōgeki—literally, passive-aggressive—which had recently infiltrated the Japanese language via Western theories of psychotherapy. But did Japan need such a word? Maybe that’s just the way people are. Especially as relationships wear on.

“I’m not angry you cancelled. Only I wish I’d had more notice.”

“I thought you knew that my work schedule this month was unpredictable.”

“Yes, you’re right. I shouldn’t have bought expensive o-bento for us to eat together.”

“I sincerely apologize that my behaviour caused so much inconvenience.”

While Nakahara-san remained handsome, he was boring. With that realization, Chiharu came to feel more strongly that their relationship was improper. After all, I am married. Maybe giving up sex is a sacrifice I’ll have to make. Eventually, neither called the other again. And since they lived in different parts of Kanemura, there was no reason they’d ever have to meet.

Despite Jeremy’s weekly Japanese lessons and all his practising, despite his former diligence in Spanish, and despite his robust capacity to improvise haiku in English, he did not have an ear for foreign-language pronunciation. For example, when Chiharu called to him from another room, she couldn’t always tell whether he’d responded with un, which means yes, or uun, which means no.

“Absolutely not.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You are absolutely not going out like that. I forbid it. Take off that ratty old t-shirt.”

“I already said I’d change clothes. You asked, and I said I would.”

His words didn’t register. Chiharu’s eyes were burning. “What would the neighbours think? Behave properly!”

And Jeremy suffered a moment of clarity. His first ever about their marriage.

The Ivy Leaguers of Japan held another mixer at the Teikoku Club. Everyone—the finance types, the academic types, whatever—they really did mix. Though spouses were allowed this time, Jeremy didn’t mention that to Chiharu.

“A few guys I work with first moved here out of an interest in Zen philosophy.” He was speaking with Carl Vineberg, who taught comparative culture to undergrads. “But what’s that got to do with modern Japan? Meditation is probably more common in the West.”

“And, of course,” said Carl, “the Zen school is not autochthonous to Japan.” He liked using big words. “It didn’t reach here until the Kamakura Period.” He liked showing off his knowledge. “Take Zen masters like Jōshū and Nansen. They lived hundreds of years earlier, and their real names were Zhaozhou Congshen and Nanquan Puyuan.”

Jeremy feigned terror. “Help,” he cried. “Stop me, please. For the love of God!” He was on his fourth or fifth beer. “I feel another bullshit haiku coming on.” He set down his glass— “damn, too late”—and straightened his face. “One hand still clapping / The penny still not dropping / Baka ja nai-no?”

As the years passed, Jeremy’s passion for bad poetry did not flag. And those years were not unkind to him and Chiharu. They had become members of the Kanemura Association, and he was now a block rep. In time, she had given birth, on schedule, to a strong, healthy boy who was away all this weekend at a high school track meet.

Jeremy arrived home one evening after playing billiards at the Teikoku Club. On the dining room table he found a rikon-todoke, but there was no mystery. By this point, he could read Japanese well.


Mark Halpern has lived since 1993 in Tokyo, where he runs his own law firm and writes stories about foreigners in Japan. He was born in America, grew up mostly in Canada, and has also spent much time in the UK and France. As for Japan, Mark has, like some of his stories’ characters, found a way to be both an outsider and an insider.

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