She is very wise. She tells me many things as she skilfully navigates me around the streets of Osaka and Tokyo. As we went around the Imperial Garden she told me that there is an Imperial Household Agency that protects the Japanese royal family. But they are not the most reclusive people - the Burmese government move their capital regularly.
I also have much wisdom to share with her. We went to Sunshine 60 to see all of Tokyo laid out before us, and the Queen was much surprised to see life-size statues in our way to the view.
QUEEN OF SLOVENIA: Are these famous Japanese people?
SARAH: Yes. They are the evil magical ninja from Naruto.
QUEEN OF SLOVENIA: ...
SARAH: You can tell they're evil, because they're wearing purple nail polish.
I lived with my friend Penelope, volcano goddess of sarcasm and fan of Japanese media in many forms, in England for a year. This means I am in possession of much useful knowledge about Japan. The yakuza is the Japanese mafia, for instance. Go is a Japanese board game that obsessed ghosts force people to play. (That last bit might not be an essential part of the game.)
Japan is a land of Worlds Within Worlds. We had already been to Gyoza World (miles of dumplings! Best place ever!) and Ice-Cream City (Except for there), where we considered eating squid ink ice-cream, but chickened out and went for pear sherbet.
The Queen of Slovenia seemed tired by something. Possibly by our ride on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, the biggest Ferris Wheel in the world. She suggested Spa World. All her other ideas had been excellent: I agreed.
I have many glamorous friends. Compared to them, I'm a little bit like a cheerful monkey in a dress.
Well, in Spa World, I was like a cheerful monkey in a pink smock. I nodded happily to the idea of massages. Then I was leaped upon and pummelled by strangers. My first reaction was to plot a spinning kick! Then to use the orange hand towel to swing from the light fixture, go through the window, and employ the pink smock to rappel to safety!
I remembered I had a comrade I could not abandon, though. So I stayed to be pummelled.
QUEEN OF SLOVENIA: Mmm, I feel so relaxed.
SARAH: ... I don't care what you do to me... I'll never confess I'm a witch!
After that I insisted on being fortified with a chestnut flavoured ice-cream. At the ice-cream stand we adopted a tiny Japanese girl child, who clearly thought to herself 'Look, a lunatic monkey in a pink smock. I will follow it and see what it does.'
QUEEN OF SLOVENIA: Oh Sarah, look! We should go get our feet eaten by fish!
SARAH: Ignore her Majesty, small child. The toil of ruling goes to her head sometimes. I - OH MY GOD SHE HAS HER FEET IN A POOL AND THERE ARE FISH EATING THEM. Call the firemen! No, call the fishmen! Wait, there are no fishmen! Oh God we're all doomed.
QUEEN OF SLOVENIA: *tugs Sarah towards the pool with regal indifference to the babbled protests*
Once I was in the pool the fish ate my feet. It tickled. I made up a song for the small girl child, who appeared to be having the time of her life. It went 'Oh God, fish are eating my feet, what will I do? Oh God, fish are eating my feet, soon they will eat your feet too.'
I feel I do not have a career ahead of me as a minstrel. Or indeed in childcare.
My current career pleases me, though. Unfortunately (since I was terribly happy to hear via email and here on the blog that there might be people who'd like to see me) we have not been able to arrange an appearance for me in Japan - major holiday, the complication of me not speaking any Japanese - but I am having Exciting Lunches. I keep going to bookshops to talk to people, and then I wind up buying all the copies of Demon's Lexicon in Japanese that they have.
This is not as crazy as it sounds. When I asked my family and friends what they wanted from Japan, many of them said 'You really seem to love that Japanese edition. Bring me back a copy so I can see why it's so great.'
I must admit, before I came to Japan even I did not know how great my Japanese edition was. I knew that the cover was amazing. I knew that there was a picture of a talisman inside, covered by a flyleaf.
I did not know that the cover looks a little rough and textured in person, like a real painting. (I also did not know it was a hardcover edition - I shall slip off the cover and put it on an English edition, and truthfully say I am reading the book. I shall look so learned.) Nor did I know that there is a map of the United Kingdom inside, with all the places Nick and company go to - Durham, Exeter, Tiverton, the Isle of Wight - marked out in English and Japanese, like the map of a fantasy land.
I think part of the reason I love urban fantasy - magic happening in the real world - so much is that I think anywhere can be a fantasy land.
From the vermilion curves of the Miyajima shrine to the glittering spread of Tokyo, like a huge psychedelic New York from the ground and from above like an ocean of stars and sequins, Japan makes a fairly awe-inspiring fantasy land.
In more practical news, I have some dates for people who might want to see me!
In Ireland on October 3rd, there's a Literary Lunch for teens with me and other authors - just email if you want to come. All details found here
After that and some library events for the Children's Book Festival in Ireland, I fly off to the US and here are some (but not all!) of my dates and places for events on the Tour With Scott Westerfeld.
Tuesday October 6th, 4:30PM
Santa Monica Public Library Event hosted by Children’s Bookworld.
601 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Wednesday October 7th, 4:00PM
Mrs. Nelson’s Books and Toys
1030 Bonita Avenue
La Verne, CA 91750
3700 Torrance Boulevard
Torrance, CA 90503
Thursday October 8th, 7:00PM
Menlo Park Library event
800 Alma Street
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Saturday October 10th, 3:00PM (Scott presents at noon)
Presentation and Q&A at Wordstock, Portland's Book & Literary Festival
Location: Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King Boulevard
Portland, OR 97232
Barnes & Noble presentation and signing
Location: 12000 SE 82nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97266
Other things (an event in Seattle!) to follow.
I am terribly excited! I hope I will see some of you there! I am also excited for more Japan. Apparently I am going to be put in a chocolate bath: expect me to sing another song about it.