Writing from Yaizu, Japan — Fiction Writer Thersa Matsuura

Thersa Matsuura

Born in Laredo, Texas, THERSA MATSUURA grew up in Alaska, Florida, South Carolina and Nebraska before settling down in Japan. A resident of Japan for over twenty-three years, she now lives with her Japanese husband and their seventeen-year-old son in Yaizu, a small fishing town near Shizuoka.

Thersa Matsuura started writing short stories in the late 1990s. Her debut collection of short stories, A Robe of Feathers, was published by Counterpoint in 2009. Currently, she is working on her first novel.

In 2011, you wrote an essay about Japan after the recent nuclear catastrophe. Can you tell us about your immediate experience and how the Japanese communities gravitate toward one another to listen, and to open up to one another in terms of social questions? In face of such substantive episodes, what role can fiction play?

One thing I admire about the Japanese character is that people aren’t overly dramatic. They don’t exaggerate failures or successes. If something bad happens you won’t find them moaning or complaining about their fate. They quietly get down to business to make things better. By the same token, they don’t get overly excited about their successes either. People are humble.

By thinking that way I naturally blend past and present, reality and myth, horror and humor. Because it is all that mixed together that creates a unique culture.

When the earthquake, tsunami, and the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant happened, everyone was understandably shocked and saddened and afraid. However, it felt like there was no wasted emotion on dramatics. There were rolling blackouts, shortages of all kinds, plenty of things to get upset about and complain about. But all effort was directed to helping those up in the Tohoku region. It was very impressive, very admirable.

I was also very impressed with the expatriate community. They came together to help in any way they could. I actually participated in three different anthologies. All three of them donated one hundred percent of their proceeds to help the victims of the disaster.

At the most basic level, these publications as well as others have helped to raise money and awareness for those affected by the devastation. But I think there is something else. I was asked by the editor of the Tomo Anthology to write a message for the children and teenagers stricken by the disaster. I encouraged them to do something creative, to express their emotions — their sadness and confusion — through art. I suggested something as simple as keeping a diary or writing poetry or short stories. Because I think in this way fiction can not only help us understand what people are going through, it can also help heal those who are suffering.

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