In 1994, my husband Mason and I went to Japan. It was my first time there – and his third. At the time, he was an electronic guitarist who traveled from show to show. I was a farmgirl who’d never dreamed of going so far from home.
On our second night in Japan, Mason played a show in a basement club in Tokyo. I was sick with jet lag, afraid to wander far in a country where I didn’t speak more than a handful of words. Still, the only thing that made my stomach feel better was roaming the neighborhood around the club. That worked pretty well until it started to get dark. Alondra’s experience being accosted by drunken salarymen mirrors my own.
One of the things that amazed me about Tokyo was the way few of the streets met at right angles. Even people who lived in Tokyo navigated with the help of hand-drawn maps faxed from their destinations on request. No one used street names and directions to turn left or right. They navigated by landmarks.
The Japanese who hosted us on that first trip were amazingly generous. Mayuko, with whom we stayed in Yokohama, gave me a kimono, because, she said, “Every woman should have one.” I was fascinated by the rules of wearing it.
The rules for gift-giving charmed me, too. Mason and I really did roam the halls of the Seibu department store in Shibuya, marveling over the perfectly matched strawberries and lovely melons. Most of all, though, I was impressed by the jellyfish in the tall columnar tank in the pet department.
The character of Hiroshi Hiroshige combined the names of two of our friends in Japan: Hiroshi Hasegawa of the band C.C.C.C. and Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan. Both men were noise musicians who played with Mason during his Japanese tours. The character of the New York Times stringer was an invention of my own, although his fondness for cowboy boots is a nod to Jojo’s obsession with American baseball cards.
The kitsune shrine Alondra visits does stand in Tokyo, not far from Shinjuku Station. I don’t know the shrine’s name, but it calls back to ancient rural Japan in the shadow of high-rise apartment buildings. Mason and I walked past the vermillion tori, admiring the stone foxes with their red-painted ears and the red silk bows around their necks, but we didn’t meet the temple denizens.
I didn’t get a chance to explore Ueno Park until my third trip to Japan in 2014, years after this story was published for the first time. I was disappointed to discover that Ueno Park Zoo did not, in fact, have foxes.
This story was initially published in the long-running science fiction and fantasy zine Not One of Us in October 2007. I had originally titled it “The Fox’s Revenge,” but John Benson, the editor, felt that gave too much away too soon. I liked the fairy tale tone of the new title.
Thanks to John’s editing, the story made the long list for the British Science Fiction Association Award in January the following year.
It’s reprinted now in Alondra’s Adventures, available for the kindle: https://amzn.to/2LquxHc