Today is the Day! Discovering Yamaguchi Sake

Today, 21 February 2023, is the official release date of my first authored book, Discovering Yamaguchi Sake.

The cover of the book Discovering Yamaguchi Sake by Jim Rion, foreword by Melinda Joe. It features small images of labels from 23 sake breweries in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

It’s hard to believe the day has finally come. I first conceived of the idea way back in the spring of 2020, when the pandemic was first making its presence known and I found myself with extra time to fill. I must be honest—it was kind of a whim at first. I was looking for something to do with my time and my interest in sake, and I wanted to help bring attention to the local brewing scene. But when I got started, it all just seemed to take on its own momentum and somehow I managed to make it all the way through.

It has been such a fun, interesting ride, too. I met so many wonderful people, and learned tons that I doubt I ever would have without this. And above all, I have been so, so moved at how supportive everyone has been. From the very beginning, I was surrounded by friends and family who helped me believe it could actually be done. And here we are.

I must admit to feeling a little grumpy about the fact that I, personally, still don’t have any copies of my own book—it takes a long time to ship from America these days—but the idea that it is out there and getting read is truly astonishing to me.

So, to everyone who has helped make this happen—including all of you who have ordered or are going to order it—thank you and kanpai.

Now, go on, Buy My Book!

Getting Used to Time in the Spotlight

I started out as a small-pond/big-fish kind of guy. I grew up in a the country and was an academic achiever at an early age, so I would end up in the local paper for some kind of academic award every once in a while. But growing up in a small town, even in the larger network of small towns that make up rural communities, means everyone knows you anyway. So the little bit of notoriety I had was nothing to brag about.

Even that much was short lived. When I went on to university, of course, the pond got much bigger and so did the other fish. I faded into the background, and that was all right with me. I did my thing, writing and teaching and so on, and ended up eventually becoming a translator: the ultimate invisible man. The rare work that I could put my name on was still so niche as to be almost unknown. I just kept on working in the shadows of my office/cave.

That lasted pretty much until this year. This year, I am not only publishing my own book, Discovering Yamaguchi Sake, but I’m putting out a translation of a Seishi Yokomizo Mystery, The Devil’s Flute Murders, from Pushkin Press. The first is a big deal for me personally, the second is just a plain old BIG DEAL. And so people are starting to notice me.

I’m being interviewed on podcasts. Asked to do online events. Planning book signing parties and presentations about my career. Emotionally, I’m in this totally new spot where my ego is tickled pink but my anxiety is headed through the roof, and I’m just bouncing between them like a ping pong ball. It’s not something I’m used to, and I am very tempted to just shout to the heavens “What have I done?!”

But I asked for this. I pursued these projects and enjoyed doing them. I never really stopped to think about what it would mean to do so, but I did it and now I suppose I need to learn to enjoy this tiny taste of attention.

Does anyone have any tips on how to do that without having an anxiety attack?

Coming Soon: The Devil’s Flute Murders

A book cover for The Devil's Flute Murders featuring an open hand next to a fallen bottle of poison.

My translation of classic Kindaichi Kosuke mystery Akuma ga Kitarite Fue wo Fuku (Translated as The Devil’s Flute Murders) is done and off to the editors! It’s scheduled to come out from Pushkin Vertigo Press June 29, 2023.

This was an absolute joy to translate, though I worry about fitting into the legacy left by great translators like Louise Heal Kawai and Bryan Karetnyk. I also wish my name was on the cover, but alas…

This was by far the biggest fiction translation I’ve done. The the two books I did for Kurodahan Press (oh how we miss ye…) were smaller both in scope and, as very niche ones, overall social weight. They were fun, but somehow this one feels, just… more, somehow. More important, more meaningful, and more prestige, I suppose. I guess I have an ego, too…

I can’t wait for everyone to get to read it!