An Interview with Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
What do you enjoy doing the most with your free time?
Eating! Specifically, I enjoy reading and contributing to food blogs and sites, and trying out new restaurants. I’m lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where there are so many fantastic places to eat. You can find me indulging in nikujaga (beef and potato stew) at an izakaya (Japanese small-plate eatery), gorging on mussels and frites at a French bistro, scarfing down soup dumplings at the newest Shanghai cuisine hole-in-the-wall, or going all out for some Pinot Noir and a Niman Ranch pork chop at a Wine Country restaurant overlooking the vineyards.
How did you become interested in Japan and Japanese culture?
I became interested in Japanese culture when I took Japan-related classes in college in San Francisco and began to study the language. By now I have traveled to Japan probably about thirty times, and lived in Tokyo for about a year in the 1980s. My first trip to Japan was as a finalist in a songwriting contest put on by the JVC Victor record company. I got to perform my song, “Tokyo Night” for the competition’s concert at Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo.
Besides writing, what other forms of art and creativity do you indulge in?
My husband and I have a duo called Star Jazzmin, with me on vocals and him on electronic keyboards. We play out once in a while, but mostly we enjoy informally practicing at home. We play jazz standards, bossa-nova, and cool pop. Recently my husband has gotten into composing his own material and we are planning to write and record a Japanese song that will tie in with my next novel, Love in Translation, and will be available as a download.
What was the worst job you’ve ever had?
It’s difficult to choose since I’ve had so many bad ones, but probably the worst was being a technical support rep for a software company. I was on the phone all day listening to customer rants and frustrations about how to use the various programs the company sold. It didn’t help that I could hardly understand the software myself. I’ll never forget the time a customer complained, “Why do I get the distinct feeling that you’re learning this as you’re trying to teach me?” He was right!
Who is or was your favorite pet? What made him/her so great?
Our Burmese cat Meow is my favorite pet. She was a stray who adopted my husband and me about two years ago when she kept coming to our front deck every morning. She would stand on her hind legs and beat on the sliding glass door with her front paws, demanding to be let in. Her sweet, affectionate demeanor and flexible nature melted our hearts and now she sleeps every night on our bed, snuggled between the two of us, purring (or snoring) away.