Chadwick, David. Thank You and OK!: An American Zen Failure in Japan. New York: Penguin/Arkana, 1994.
Reason read: Japan celebrates Respect for the Aged Day on September 18th.
I love how Chadwick opens his preface. It all starts with not getting a calendar for Christmas one year and feeling lost come New Year’s day. In that case, why not go to Japan? In truth, Chadwick had been studying the Zen life since the 60s. He went back to Japan in the mid 80s to reestablish his training.
Thank You and OK! covers a four year period in Texan Chadwick’s life and there are two threads to his story: his stay at Hogoji monastery and his life with his second wife Elin in modern Japan. As an aside, one needs to pay attention to dates to orientate oneself to each story but it isn’t hard to do.
My biggest take-away from reading Thank You and OK! is just how different are the details when the bigger picture is the same. What I mean by that is Japan and the United States both have vending machines, but you can buy hot sake out of one in Japan. Japan and the United States both have weird insects, but in Japan their centipedes are over a foot long and are poisonous. Counting the months of pregnancy even differ. In the States we start with zero. In Japan they start with one. That’s oversimplifying the case, but you get the idea.
Lines to make me nod, “I’ve always been hesitant to get physical with insects” (p 12), “we didn’t talk while we ate but everybody slurped the bejeezus out of the noodles” (p 49), and “I can never control what I say anyway, things just come out” (p 52).
Unrelated fact I did not know before reading Thank You and OK!: the author of the song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” committed suicide.
As an aside, I wonder how many people picked up the tip about asking for directions to an imaginary place as a way of checking out the scene without paying for it and tried it for themselves?
Author fact: Chadwick is a self professed Texas-raised wanderer, college dropout, bumbling social activist and hobbyhorse musician.
Book trivia: no fun photographs of Japan. Bummer.
Nancy said: Pearl indicated Thank You and OK! was one of the best gaijin accounts.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Japanese Journeys” (p 118).