Our Life in Japan


I made a deal with our sons to stop using them as cameo figures in articles once they got to an age when they might come across a magazine around the house and see something about themselves. Which is to say, after their crucial cameo role in this 1982 article about our first computer.

They're safely above the age of consent now, and have given their consent to some pictures of their year as students in Japanese public school, just over 20 years ago. This slide show, put together by Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, accompanies a brief dispatch in the magazine (subscribe!) about how our old Japanese neighborhood, "Pleasantville," looks on a recent return these many years later -- and how surprising it seems, compared with the Japan we knew then and the China we have recently experienced.


Here the kids sit on our back deck with some schoolmates, playing jan ken pon -- rock- paper- scissors -- to see who gets the first move in a game. More pictures with the story, including a glimpse of the tiny plot of grass that we used to make the kids "mow," with household scissors. Plus this picture, below, of our younger son watching the "packers" help customers aboard at our local commuter train station. I'm sure he was thinking that he and his brother would have to get on the next, equally crowded train, and that his parents would be telling him that it was a great adventure and would be good for him.


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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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