I’m completely behind on writing and tending to this blog, but I’ll take five minutes today to talk about Hideo Asano, a Korean-Japanese English language writer living in Shin-Imamiya, Osaka, Japan. I was sitting in Nara beside a pond, when a homeless looking man drinking a beer approached me speaking flawless English, though in an accent atypical of Japanese speakers. People like this are not uncommon in Japan. I have been approached more than a few times by English speaking Japanese men who either travelled the world in their youth, or Okinawans who took advantage of migrant farm work when Okinawa was a protectorate of the United States. Asano is the former.
He immediately started asking me about literature, a subject on which I am woefully deficient, asking me what my favorite Hemingway book was. I told him that I had only read one, “The Old Man and the Sea” but it had been more than 30 years since I’d read it. Unfortunately, I was unable to provide him with the conversation he sought, though searching through my mental files, I realized that I have read four Hemingway books in my lifetime, but none in the past decade. From what I remember, I am not a fan of Hemingway, a fact irrelevant to this post.
I had to leave when Mr. Asano started a racist rant on international marriages, though I bought one of his small photocopied books of poems. Our meeting however, prompted me to do some searching. It turns out that Mr. Asano is Korean, possibly explaining his views on Japanese-Gaijin pairings. He writes exclusively in English, having studied at the College of the Desert in Southern California. He has written several novels and multitudes of short stories and poems, in English, French and Japanese. Most notable is a book on the Mujahideen of Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion that I have yet to read.
Asano is living the true writer’s life, travelling from place to place in Japan with no real home and apparently hitting foreigners up for conversation and book sales. I did some searching through Japanese sites, and could find no mention of the man. He is completely unknown in his own country.
To be honest, he pissed me off. I have little tolerance for racist speech in any country. Other foreigners inexplicably apologize for racist attitudes within Japan, but I cannot. I hesitate to call Mr. Asano a flat out racist, but I do regret not giving him a little more of my time. He has much more to offer than initially meets the eye and I regret falling victim to my own prejudices and not finding out more about this facinating individual and his work. To that end, I recommend that you visit his website, and check out his work in Afghanistan.