Un-multi-tasking

Reading about Japan

I tend to prepare way in advance for teaching or lecturing. I have never felt uncomfortable speaking in public- often in front of hundreds of people, because by the time that I need to present, I have reviewed my lecture many many times. My family always teases me as I prepare for talks weeks in advance, but this time, even they are amazed that I am starting preparation for my teaching in Japan.
I was thrilled to get the Japan prize and am excited to travel to this mysterious country next June. I realized how little I know about the country, the people, the traditions, and the Japanese psyche.

So I have started to read- not just guide books but a few novels, memoirs, and non fiction. Janet Swigler, another artist I met at the Barn was kind enough to send me some wonderful recommendations, and I especially enjoy a travel memoir called The Roads to Sata.


I am also scouring books on Japanese quilting. 
There is a series called Japanese Quilt Art that showcases the best of contemporary quilt making annually. And a really interesting book called Quilt Artistry from a Japanese designer I have long admired, Yoshiko Jinzenji. I first heard about Yoshiko Jinzenji when I was looking at fabric. Her art work very much reminds me of the complexity and design in Robin Fan's work. In addition to her beautiful quilts she produces fabric and I treated myself last year to 4 yards of her beautiful fabric. It made the perfect shirt for me to wear to Japan in the coming year. I would love to actually meet her and certainly want to buy more of her fabric if I can.
One of the most helpful books has been a collection of essays called The Japanese Mind. Each chapter has a different topic and a different author. Several of the topics that I have found helpful are:
Aimai, Ambiguity and the Japanese
Bigaku, The Japanese Sense of Beauty
Zoto, The Japanese Custom of Gift Giving. This chapter was especially helpful since it explains the background of gift giving. From what I have read, one has to be careful to give gifts that are neither too big- which might embarrass the recipient and one can not give a gift that is too small- which might be insulting. This interests me as I was planning on bringing a small gift to some of the people taking my class. I have also found out that it is expected that one bring the head of Vogue Nipon a quilt- and that has me puzzling what is too big and what is too small. Your advice on the subject is welcome!