Rosemary Wells’ Wisdom for Writers

Rosemary_and_RuthIt was on a very Good Friday, just a couple days before Easter, when I attended a Master Class taught by children’s book creator, Rosemary Wells and sponsored by our local Tokyo SCBWI chapter. The evening was well worth the trip downtown riding sardine-packed trains on a raw April evening.

From our opening introductions to the final story of the evening, Rosemary Wells gave the Tokyo SCBWI participants practical and pithy advice. Although I will not be able to distill the evening into three sentences (as we were required to do in our self-introductions), I will do my best to “omit needless words.” (Strunk and White) Rosemary’s advice was to be “preçis” or precise, because “no one wants to slog through endless wittering in a children’s book.”


Cut your picture book text down to four sentences per page at most. Leave some story exposition to the illustrator. Write what you know and find out what you don’t. “The art of writing for children is like being a contra-alto,” said Rosemary. “It requires unique talents.” We listened carefully, as this “off the cuff” talk struck a chord in all of us and should help us perfect our pitch in story creation.

“My stories are non-fiction,” began the author who creates beloved stories with bunnies and kittens as the protagonists. “They are based on life experiences.” As a writer, one has to have a sieve in the brain to collect memories and feelings. Max and Ruby are characters drawn from her own children. She described hearing her older child, the “Ruby” of the pair, attempting to instruct her younger nine-month old sibling, upon whom “Max” is modeled. “Table… T-A-B-L-E… TABLE. Say it!” To which the nine-month old would respond, “Bang.” Max’s dragon shirt and general countenance was drawn from a toddler with a withering glare wearing a shirt that glared as well, sitting in the heaping shopping basket ahead of her while she waited and waited one chilly raw night to bring one carton of milk home. The character, Yoko, began with a group of three girls from Osaka who attended Rosemary’s daughter’s school. They were teased about the sushi and seaweed in their traditional Japanese lunches which her daughter thought was totally unfair. Family memories and personal memories are the story starters for the author’s books. “Go back to your childhood,” advised Rosemary, “and remember.” Max and teenager2

“The art of illustration is a challenge,” explained Wells. “Try not to repeat in pictures what the text says.” The artist should look for elements that the text does not overtly mention. Find humor in the text. Marry the text without being the same as the text. Rosemary prefers the word “illumination” to the the word “illustration” harking back to the time of the beautifully, gold-leaf enhanced drawings with which scribes would enhance the scriptures. The pictures should make the story glow with deeper meaning and draw the reader further into the story’s embrace.

Rosemary Wells has been in the business since she was twenty. Now, at age seventy, she has seen publishing rise and fall. Publishing is “in the trenches now,” she explained. “Publishers grab for too much and authors cannot make a living. Publishers have wrecked things a bit,” she said. Rosemary has seen her own royalty percentages cut in half over the years. It is especially difficult for new authors. Still, she gave us hope by encouraging us to write what is true and deep. “Present it simply,” she advised, “with no affectation.” “Write for yourself,” she said, despite our protestations that editors ask writers to categorize themselves. On the other hand, she said, “You may not argue with your editor. Work without ego; listen to your editor and do it better. Only after you have produced 10 starred review books can you go at it with the editor.”


And while a trained and experienced editor will have valid criticism, Wells did warn against listening to all the advice that one might hear in a writer’s group. “Advice given from a reader’s perspective is valid,” she admitted, “but amateurs may not know what they are talking about when giving publishing advice.” This is not to say that Wells does not encounter any friction with her own editors. She sometimes disagrees with their choices, but they are the ones paying to have the book printed, after all. She sent around a recently published book along with its original “dummy” so that we could note the changes that were made. She also mentioned that she does not illustrate for other authors as she will inevitably end up changing the original text and make changes all the way up until the deadline, and sometimes, even afterwards. The advantage of being both author and illustrator is that the two always agree on the finished product.

max could not relax

The importance of authenticity in writing for children was emphasized again and again. Children are dealing with life issues and they know they have to handle it on their own. “School is like a big bus. You get on with a bunch of people you don’t know and then they lock the doors of the bus and you can’t escape. You are stuck with these people for years.” Parents and teachers do what they can to help, of course, but Rosemary explained that it is as if they are on the outside of a thick Lucite bubble. They can see the struggles the child is going through, but in the end, the child must find his or her own solution. It is an author’s job to write about the person and the true emotions. The story should be about an individual, not about a problem or a conflict; “the person, not the peanut allergy.” Adult agendas have no place in children’s books. Children love stories that show characters overcoming obstacles with humor and grit. Be authentic and write simply. Young readers will love you for it.

Thank you, Rosemary, for sharing yourself with us.

– Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud

Princess Ramona, Beloved of Beasts

Princess Ramona, Beloved of Beasts; by Ruth Gilmore Ingulsrud, illustrated by Therese Larsson





A Monster Calls; Book Review

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book will rend your heart and then heal it.

If you have ever had to watch helplessly as someone you love is slowly taken away from you by a long-term sickness or health issue, then this book will resonate deeply with you. It is not a difficult read and can be finished in a day or two, but the message is deep. How do you forgive yourself when you simply want to let go… when you have hung onto the hope of recovery for so long that it has exhausted the last morsel of strength from your soul and you have to admit that you are ready to move on to the last chapter.

This book speaks to the exhaustion of caregivers, their resilience and pain, and the stages of grief that they begin to endure even before the one that they love has passed away.

Note: The illustrated version is excellent with evocative, expressive drawings throughout.

View all my reviews

Eyeball and Skull

“I have asked you to move that eyeball and skull for TWO WEEKS now,” I sigh with exasperation as I set the offending items on my daughter’s messy desk. Of course, I finally have to move the nasty things myself. Maybe I am exaggerating just a bit, since it has been only one week since Halloween. But I’ve had to look at that ghastly fox skull and its accompanying sticky glow-in-the-dark eyeball every morning since then, when it was left by the bathroom sink where I brush my teeth. Does anyone else have to put up with this type of stuff? An animal skull gaping at you from under your hair accessories while you snatch a barrette off of its hard cranium. As if it needed that barrette. But now it’s looking at you as if you just stole something from him. Or maybe it was a her. Can’t tell at this point.
There is a story behind the skull… (isn’t there always?) It was rescued from the bottom of Lake Nojiri up in the mountains of Japan where we go most summers on vacation. Merely the bones were rescued, unfortunately not the fox, and Elsa had spent many happy hours diving for every bit of bone that she could to piece together a complete fox skeleton. She was proud to be able to point out to the other bone divers that the skull (which was the first part brought up) was certainly not a bird because birds did not have teeth and especially not long canines as this skull definitely did. The skeleton was lovingly assembled on the dock and then bundled home in a bag to be soaked in bleach and scrubbed clean. (No I did not agree to do that.)
The fox skull ended up decorated with dramatic black lines and attached to my daughter’s hair as the crowning touch to a creepy roadkill-Goth ensemble that she pulled together for her last year of trick-or-treating. She will be in high school next year after all, so of course she won’t go dressing up next year… So this year’s costume was her last hurrah. It was quite the deal. She even had the added chill of red contact lenses. Lovely.
Very dramatic, but now do I have to look at a skull everyday? And what about those dead beetles and the occasion insect leg that I find laying around when she hasn’t been very conscientious about her insect collection. And there was that extremely long hair worm that lived in a jar for I don’t know how long. You will never imagine where that came from. Do a search on “Hair Worm” if you really want to know. The one she collected came from a praying mantis. Why can’t she just decorate her room with stuffed animals like other normal kids? I like stuffed animals and the live ones are nice too. I’m just not too fond of the unstuffed ones. I guess what we really need is a creepy lab out in the back yard to hold all of these wonderful treasures. As long as it was far away from my toothbrush. Then I think I would feel much better.

Panties in the Postbox

So the other day, my husband brings in the mail as he gets home from work in the evening. “Who put these panties in the mailbox?” he asks. Good question. I didn’t know about any skivvies being posted to our address. “Whose are they?” I ask, eager to solve the mystery. He describes them and I realize, with a sinking feeling, that they are mine. “What were they doing in the mailbox?” I ask accusingly, as I glance over at my daughter. At 13, she does some unusual things occasionally, like crouching quietly, an animated gargoyle, unseen on the foyer roof directly above her daddy as he exits the front door to depart on a weekend bike ride, while a bewildered neighbor looks on from across the street.
Elsa quickly defends herself. “I didn’t put them there!” So, if I didn’t, and Joel didn’t, and Elsa didn’t… Oh great. A helpful neighbor must have found them and placed our “wasuremono” or “forgotten item” in our mailbox for us. But how could a pair of underwear have found their way out onto the street?

I do remember one time, when I was in a hurry to get dressed, that I pulled on the same pants I had worn the day before (they were still clean after all!) and started down the hall to the stairs, only to feel something slide down my leg and drop to the floor. Yes, indeed. The bloomers of yesterday were hiding in my pant leg, just waiting to embarrass me at some point in the day. Luckily it was only myself and one of my daughters who witnessed this faux pas, and when we had finished hyperventilating from laughter, I calmly consolidated my laundry, making a mental note to always check my pant legs in the future. And I always do check those pant legs now, so I know that I didn’t accidentally “drop my drawers” on the way to work.

This leaves only one remaining possibility: our always-eager-to-carry-things-in-his-mouth Golden Retriever, Bjorn. He has the irrepressible habit of padding around the house in the morning, looking for items which have been carelessly left on the floor. And the first person to get up in the morning is proudly presented with whatever he has eagerly retrieved. Often, the item is, appropriately enough, a slipper. He can sometimes be encouraged to drop the first bedroom slipper at your feet and on command, “go get the other one.” Occasionally, the next item of footwear delivered is actually the other slipper, whereupon Bjorn is declared a genius dog and we rush to contact the local news station. Usually not, though. Sometimes the item proudly delivered to our morning-eyed bleariness is a not-so-appropriate item.

After his morning delivery, Bjorn knows that he will soon be let out into the small field near the house where he can relieve himself. We have found the occasional slipper in that field before, but we had never before inadvertently let him out of the house with panties in his maw. Thinking back now, I remember him exiting the house in the morning with his mouth firmly closed and his tail wagging. I should have searched him for contraband before letting him past the front gate.

The truth begins to sink in. The kindly old couple next door must have found Bjorn’s early morning retrieval item near the field, and thoughtfully placed it in our mailbox. The conclusion that follows is obvious and inescapable. We have to move. This is just too embarrassing. And to top it off, he had to pick the ones decorated with cherries. That dog is definitely in the dog house… for a long time too.

Duck Walk

Okay, now I’ve seen everything. I keep saying this to myself here in Tokyo as I see incomprehensible happenings and think that I will never see anything stranger than that and then something else walks by and I have to change my mind again. I have had to change my mind a lot here in Japan. For example, it is apparently perfectly normal for someone to take a walk through the park… backwards. Yes, they walk backwards for quite some distance and I have never seen them turn around. I am assuming that this practice must exercise different muscle groups and is beneficial in some way. I assumed at first that they were just doing it to confuse me; same reason they don’t name their streets. I can’t give my friends directions to my house here in Japan, so no one ever comes over. Just as well. They would never figure out how to flush our toilet.
But I have seen backwards walkers enough now, that I realize, here in Japan, this is normal behavior. The backwards walkers even take their dogs with them. The dogs walk forward, of course, and their owners walk backwards. I don’t know what the dogs think of this, but dogs put up with a lot of strange behavior, I’ve noticed. I want to take a video of a backwards walker with their dog and then play the clip backwards. That would be interesting. I wonder if I could get Bjorn to walk backwards?
But that is not what made my jaw drop this morning. Since moving here, I have seen dogs in strollers, cats on leashes, dogs in baby carriers, all sorts of animals wearing humiliating outfits of one kind or another, but this morning was the first time that I have ever seen a couple taking their duck to the park for some exercise. I didn’t see the waddle-in-the-park part of this excursion; I saw the trip home. A young couple, crossing the street, coming home from the park, carrying their pet duck. And they did not have it tucked under one arm as you might suppose someone would carry a duck. No. The poor creature was up on the man’s shoulder, on its back, with its big orange feet pointing forward and waving helplessly in the air. Its head was up, looking down the length of its white, feathered belly towards its feet. It is the first time in my life that I have felt embarrassed for a duck. What’s worse, it appeared that the duck was used to this treatment and that this was the way, of course, that one always came home from the park. So, I will say it again. NOW I have seen everything.

Mammal vs. Reptile

I’m sitting at my computer, looking out the bleary window at the needle-rain outside. I am forced to stay here and continue to type since I do not want to leave the only warm room in the house. No central heating here in our Tokyo home, and it’s FREEZING downstairs. I trot downstairs to search for chocolate. “It’s not cold,” drawls Joel, stretched out on the couch, laptop on his lap. I put my frigid fingers on his chest just to prove my point and he sucks in air through his teeth. Doesn’t yell though, cuz that would validate my statement. Instead, he asks me to get his soda pop out of the freezer where it’s been chilling. Brrr! I need mittens just to pick the bottle up. How can he drink freezing soda on a day like this? I quickly put my down jacket on over my turtleneck and sweater, shuffle over to the couch in my poofy slippers and hand him his ice-cold refreshment.

I’m guessing that our fridge is running very efficiently right about now, since the temperature in there is about the same as the temperature in the kitchen. By the time I get back upstairs (with my down jacket on) my fingers are so cold and stiff, that I can’t type… so I sit on my hands for a while. At least my butt is still relatively warm. I’m realizing that I am a reptile who has married a mammal. Of course, his warmth is one of the reasons I did marry him in the first place, so now I must resign myself to these inevitable temperature negotiations. Living with a hottie has its drawbacks.

Slumber Sabotage

On November 3, 2009, I became a victim of a well-orchestrated, completely effective and precise manoeuver that I call… Slumber Sabotage! At 9:23 pm, after wobbling out of a very hot, very deep tub of water (“ofuro,” as they call it in Japan) loose and relaxed as a jellyfish in a bowl of wine, I melted into my futon bed on the floor, pulled up the layers of covers, gave a sigh of contentment, and closed my eyes. Ah. I did forget to fill up my water bottle. “Joel, could you fill up my water bottle when you come back up?” Finally, in bed before 10! Sigh.

I think it must have been the sigh that touched it all off. Mothers aren’t really supposed to relax; at least not until they’re installed in a couch at the old folks’ home. “Do you know where the credit card is? You used it last.” “It’s on the table.” “I looked on the table and didn’t see it.”

Okay, so I was the last one to use the card at the grocery store to buy food since we were almost out of yen. I knew that feeling of contentment was never really meant for me. I had stolen that sigh from somewhere; from someone who deserved it more… from someone who consistently put things back.

I toss back the quilt and within two seconds, I have lost the accumulated warmth. Two imperatives drone in my head: Find the card. Get back in bed. I start to count as I head downstairs… one, two, three, four… Within ten seconds I have located the “missing” card. Well, it was hidden under a lid… a TRANSPARENT lid. I turn to recapture the embrace of warm blankets.

“Do you know where my backpack ended up?” “No.” “And my iPhone AC adapter?” Oh, great. I was the last to use that too. “Isn’t that it on the table?” I point to some white cord thingy with flattish connectors at both ends, hoping that I can slip away before he sees that it is not the requested bit of technological flotsam. “It’s the one that plugs into the wall.” Yes, I know that, but I just want to go to sleep. I shove my hand into my own backpack, (I know where MY backpack is) and miraculously pull out the requested cable. I put it on the table next to the card and head back upstairs.

Sigh. It’s 9:34 and I’m ready to drift off. Wait. Wasn’t that my daughter still sitting at the table downstairs when she is supposed to be in bed? Out of bed once more… and it’s not just a matter of swinging my feet over the edge of the bed onto the floor. I am laying on the floor. I have to stand all the way up. Down the stairs, with empty water bottle in hand, to pack the progeny off to bed, refill the water, and collapse back into bed. Big sigh.

It’s 9:39. I am drifting off to La-La Land. Slumber is such a blessing. SMACK! I have slapped myself awake. The sound of a mosquito suddenly whining right next to my ear has prompted this reflex action. At least I killed the mosquito, although my ear is still ringing from the blow. Stupid mosquito. Stupid reflexes. Back to the business of sleep. It takes longer to drift towards slumber, though, after you’ve been slapped up the side of your head. I take one last, drowsy glance at the clock… 9:45… ahhh. I’ll be asleep before 10.

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP… Aaugh! Who is setting off a car alarm at this time of night? Sounds like our car alarm. How is that possible? Who cares… they can steal the car. It was a free gift anyways and we usually use our bicycles. The alarm stops. It was Elsa who set it off looking for her phone. “Have you seen Elsa’s phone?” I am NOT getting up to look for that phone. I AM ASLEEP!

Joel comes to bed. Sigh. Finally. My personal heater… comes with computer attached?!? He settles in to watch a download of “The Daily Show.” I just want to sleep. “Do you have headphones?” I ask pointedly. He takes his show elsewhere. Finally, peace and quiet. I creep slowly to the edge of that welcoming, fuzzy land of sleepy-pie. Almost asleep… come to Momma… shh.

“I got you some water!” Aaaargh. I am wide awake again. “I already have some water,” I snap “No, I brought it. It’s right by your bed.” “Yeah, next to the bottle that I just filled.” Too tired to argue, I look at the clock… 10:48 pm. Sigh. Completely different kind of sigh. Sleep Sabotage Mission Complete.

Climbing the Walls

I have a feeling that my neighbors here in Tokyo get a lot of mileage out of me. It’s probably a local pastime by now, gaijin-watching. “What is she up to today?” they chuckle to themselves. I give them food for gossip and behavior puzzles to ponder over their miso soup in the morning.

I know that I’m supposed to try to fit in, and do things the proper way, but in my life, things just happen and I have to adapt. It makes perfect sense to me that because I will not have time in the morning to hang out my laundry, (which had finished in the wash cycle at 8pm because I started the laundry when I got home from work, but had to do the dishes, check email, look for Elsa’s calculator and a myriad of other tasks before finally getting to the hanging up of the laundry part), now I still need to hang out the laundry on the back porch before going to sleep.

“So what is she doing now?”
“Well, you’re not going to believe this, but she’s out on the balcony hanging out her clothes.”
“You’re kidding! It’s 10 o’clock at night! Doesn’t she know that you only hang out your clothes in the morning after viewing the weather report that clearly tells us whether it is a good laundry day or not?”
“I don’t think they have a TV?”
“No TV? Well that’s just not possible.”
“No, I take that back. They do have one TV, but it’s in their car.”
“Yeah, well… lots of cars have TVs in their dashboards along with their navigation system.”
“No, I mean it’s their only TV.”
“You must be mistaken.”
“It’s true. When the Olympics were on, they all sat in their car and watched the opening ceremony.”
“They were probably just sitting there ‘cuz they’d been driving around and wanted to watch the rest in their driveway.”
“Nope. I saw them all come out of the house, get into the car, watch the show, and then go back inside.”
“Wow. That is goofy. Don’t they know how silly that looks.”
“Oh, they’re oblivious, you know. They’re gaijin… foreigners.”

At least I don’t shuffle off to the local store at night in my jammies to pick up a carton of milk. I get dressed… in shorts and a T-shirt. (I guess I’m not really supposed to wear shorts.) And take my own little plastic bag. And I bring my dog along who has learned to run alongside the bike. He puts his nose close to my leg when he has to stop and take a roadside potty break. I am ready with a bag to pick up after him. Someone is always nearby to make sure treasures are not left on the sidewalk. And this is a good thing, I think. Most of my behavior fits the norm. It’s just that things seem to happen to me…

“I think you should come over here and see this.”
“What is it this time?”
“She’s climbing the walls up to the second floor and going into her house through a window.”
“Don’t be silly. Even I know that gaijin don’t climb up the side of their houses to get in. They use the front door just like everyone else.”
“Look! She hauling herself over the side of the balcony.”
“Yikes! Look at her balancing on the railing. What if she falls? Do they have insurance?”
“She made it in. Now what’s she doing?”
“She’s letting the dog in.”
“That big dog? Into the house?”
“Yep. She crawled over the railing and into the house, just so she could let the dog in.”
“Weird. Why doesn’t she just use the front door.”
“Maybe she’s entertaining the dog.”
“Or us. Ha-ha-ha.”
“It’s fun living next to a gaijin.”

Sigh. First thing I need to do is put a key in my backpack so this doesn’t happen again.

Losing My Soul at Nojiri

Lake Nojiri in Nagano-ken, Japan, is the best place as any, I suppose, to lose one’s soul. “All who wander are not lost,” says Tolkien, and it is true. The dirt paths that criss-cross the steep hills along the north side of this clear lake will always lead homeward. The cabins here are often the only fixed mark that mobile missionary families in Japan can call home. Neighborhoods and deputations change, but the family cabin at Nojiri stays the same, right down to the warped wooden floors and pit toilets that bring us back each summer to an honest and humble outlook on life. A lost soul at Nojiri need not despair. Step up onto any porch and you will soon be found and welcomed. Any place on the cabin-dotted hill is a perfect spot to sit, soak up the silence, and let your soul wander a bit.

And my soul has wandered a bit here, but this was the first time that I had actually stepped out of my sole. I had known it was loose for some time. It was catching on the mossy steps and folding under me occasionally as I walked. Finally it was barely hanging on. I asked my friend, who was walking beside me, watching my gradual detachment, “Helen; could you just step on it for me? I’d just as soon have it all the way off.” She stepped on my sole and I pulled free of it.

“No, no! You can’t carry that!” My husband was quick to intercept my friend who was reaching down to pick my muddy sole up off of the soggy path. “I’m the one to carry my wife’s sole.” And so he did. My soul mate carried my sullied sole all the way home to our rustic cabin on the hillside.

My sole is still laying there, flopped down on the porch. I don’t think it can be reattached. I suppose I should just leave it there, even after we head back home to Tokyo after our summer at the lake. That way, I can always tell someone, “You know, it’s good to be back home, but I left my sole at Lake Nojiri. ” And they might know exactly what I mean, or they might not understand at all.

Bathrooming in Japan

So many things struck me as being very funny when I first came to Japan. Now that I have lived here for three years, I’m getting used to it all and I don’t even need to stifle a guffaw or a gasp… at least, not usually.

So I want to keep a record of the things I encounter that I still find bizarre. I fear that, eventually, I won’t even notice them.

In the Japanese-style house that we rent here in Tokyo, everything is designed for a much shorter inhabitant. When I wash my hands in the tiny sink next to the bidet-style toilet with optional warming seat, I do not see my head. I don’t even see my neck in the mirror above the sink. My shoulders and torso along with the upper part of my legs are reflected in the mirror, reminding me every day that here in Japan, I am too tall. At least I am short enough that I do not whack my head on the door frame. My oldest daughter, (who says she is 5′-11″) and my first-born, Alec, (who is 6′- 2″) do tend to clonk their foreheads when they’re not careful. Our home washroom is, however, much closer to the American style lavatory than many other places here. The range of potties found in Japan is intriguing.

Today, I took my younger daughter to the doctor, and when I went to the washroom, the very clean and modern bathroom had clear directions for using the commode. To be sure, directions were essential, what with all of the buttons, screens and options. My needs were simple, but even so, as I sat down, the sound of rushing water automatically began to play from the speaker next to me. The recording gurgled on in an apparent attempt to mask any awkward noises, and then finally stopped. Even if I hadn’t had much of an urge to go before sitting down, that insistent sound of flowing water would have gotten me going, that’s for sure. I stood up, and following the instructions, passed my hand close to an infrared sensor and the toilet flushed. Ta-da. Mission accomplished. Good thing I had so much technology helping me.

Nowadays, Western-style, sit-down toilets are everywhere. Most places give you an option. Older Japanese folk often prefer the traditional hole-in-the-floor; you just hunker down and go, assuming that you are still able to hunker. In case this fleeting description does not paint the picture for you, here it is in plain English. An oval hole in the floor which slants away from you is equipped with a flusher on the floor or near the end. You must straddle the hole, one foot on either side, drop your drawers, taking care not to drag any material or dangle it in the way of the jet stream and then in that dignified position, you relax and proceed with your business.

One could argue that these old style toilets are actually more hygienic since you don’t have to touch any public surface to use them. You can even use your foot to flush. There are obvious disadvantages, however…. like when you’re nine months pregnant. I remember having to use old-style toilets when I was pregnant with my first. We were living in Sendai in the 1980’s and Western toilets were few and far between. When you are heavy with child, especially one who is leaning perniciously on your bladder, you do not take your time searching for your favorite style of potty. The problem is, once hunkered down, there is no getting up. Having no idea what Japanese phrase I might use to help me out of this predicament, I just pretended I was one of those spandexed, bulging Olympic weight-lifters and deadlifted my bulk off the floor and escaped with most of my dignity still intact. So much for the “Squatty-Potty.” Although I do appreciate many things about Japan, I gravitate towards the sit-down variety of rest stops.