Writing a book is hard work!

Promoting it may be even harder! I thought when I finished my novel, all I had to do was ship it off to my publisher and then get started on my second.

Wishful thinking.

Once the book was in the pipeline, I needed to work on the marketing. First, there was the cover reveal, then the book release, and after that there’s everything else.

I peddle my wares on Twitter, joining “Writers Lifts” and “Shameless Self-Promotions.”

I created a Facebook page just for my author self and post announcements there as well as on my personal page.

I have this website that I feed regularly with little essays—like this one—and I’ve joined a group on Medium devoted to Japan. I hawk my novel there as well.

None of this feels natural. To be honest, it makes me queasy. I don’t know if it’s the modesty I learned growing up in the South, the self-effacement of my missionary parents, the Japanese inclination to humility, a combination of all these, or just my personal disposition, but I HATE the constant din, din, din of drum beating associated with my own book.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be adverse to others singing my praises—occasionally—though in all honesty that makes me feel itchy, too, when it goes on too long. I’m proud of my work, and I delight in the recognition it receives. But I’d rather not be the horn blower. And I’d rather not be in the room when others are blowing the horns, either.

When my publisher recommended posting a live video on Instagram, I was skeptical, but, I am an obedient little self-promoter, so I thought I’d give it a try.

May 5th was fast approaching, and I thought I could take the opportunity to “go live” with a brief discussion of the seasonal observation, now known as “Children’s Day” (Kodomo no hi) but earlier known as Tango no sekku (Celebration of the Fifth Day of the Fifth Month—of the Lunar Calendar).

Postcard of Boy's Day Display
Postcard of Boy’s Day Display

Why is May 5th important in Japan? It’s one of five prominent seasonal celebrations in Japan or go-sekku. The long history of the celebration begins in China, as does much of Japanese traditional culture. Eventually it became part of the Japanese court and was initially known as the Iris Festival of Shōbu-no-sekku. Courtly events revolved around the beauty of the blossoms, the length and shape of the roots, and the medicinal properties of the leaves.

When samurai families dominated the court, the festival shifted to a focus on boys. Unlike the aristocrats, who valued daughters for the perpetuation of political clout, samurai families privileged boys.

A family with boys would fly streamers above their house, shaped like a carp, one streamer for each boy.

Carps are vigorous, powerful fish. We admire them today in ornamental ponds as they come in vibrant colors like oversized goldfish.

There’s a legend of a group of fish challenged to scale a waterfall to reach the opening to a cave at the summit. All the fish gave up, unable to even imagine swimming up a waterfall. The carp persisted, ascended the pillar of water, and in so doing transformed into a dragon.

The carp shaped kites, known as koinobori, that fly over rice fields, rooftops, and riversides, commemorate this legend and the courage of the carp. Koi means carp; and nobori is from the verb “noboru” to climb.

The eye of a koinobori
The eye of a koinobori

For my first live event, I collected images of koinobori and other May 5th displays. And then, with a plentitude of “ums” and “uhs” I stammered my way through my presentation—unable to really tell if anyone was listening or not.

I have to say, I enjoyed the live sharing of stories on Instagram more than the self-selling on Twitter.

Let me know what you think.

For more on the Children’s Day Celebration, read this article by Diane Neill Tincher