Japan was in my blood even before I was born. My grandmother fell in love with a handsome young Japanese purser on a cruise ship (before she married my grandfather of course!) So my love affair with Japan was inevitable.
I had always known my two passions – Japan and writing – would meet. At the early age of nine I was awarded an A+ for my project on Japan. A year in a steel brace at the age of seventeen did not deter me; it made me stronger and more determined. After a decade of teaching, followed by a marketing degree at the University of Otago, I found myself alternating between working as a marketing consultant and researcher and organising large groups of Japanese students visiting Dunedin for Educational Tourism. In 1991 I met 70-year-old Hisashi and his 60-year-old sister, Yayoi, who had just emigrated to New Zealand. This friendship evolved into a passionate desire on my part to trace their history and learn more about a Japan I had never seen on any of my ten previous work trips there.
From 1993 onwards the Furuyas’ involvement in the work that I did as director of a tertiary-owned English language school was extremely valuable. They timed their visits to Japan to coincide with my work trips so that they could help me. Hisashi was my ‘guide dog’ around Japanese educational institutions, while Yayoi took me to all the best shops. After Yayoi died in 1999, Hisashi talked over lunch one day of wanting to throw out all the ‘rubbish’ he had collected over the course of his life, including newspaper cuttings, diaries, ration books and mementoes of WWII. Instantly my curiosity and enthusiasm were aroused and our exploration trips to Japan began – which opened up a whole new world for me.
After four years’ research while working and four years’ full-time writing, encouraged by my wonderful friends, a book was born.