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If the Shoe Fits: A Newsei’s Guide to Japanese Wisdom

In If the Shoe Fits: A Newsei's Guide to Japanese Wisdom, Rev. Clarence Higa offers a loving, light-hearted look at the rich backstory of Japanese-American culture. As a Buddhist minister in Honolulu, Hawaii, Rev. Higa often finds himself asked the meaning behind customs passed down through the generations: Why is it bad form to poke your chopsticks into a bowl of rice? Why do we eat mochi at New Year's? Why shouldn't you cut your fingernails at night? With an incisive sense of humor, Rev. Higa unravels the hows and whys of Japanese traditions for the benefit of what he calls "Newsei"—the generations of Japanese Americans born after their Issei and Nisei forbears.

Throughout Rev. Higa's youth, his father often received omiyage (gifts) of anpan, although years later he confessed that he hated the sweet bean pastries. "Why didn't my father tell people that?" Rev. Higa wondered. "His answer lived with me forever: 'It isn't the gift that is cherished, but the thought behind it.' And it was that bit of legacy that encouraged me to write this book. I had a compulsion to compile my own wayward wisdom for the benefit of others—so that one day you can explain to your own children why you do things in that idiosyncratic way."

Rev. Higa acknowledges that others may have grown up with different explanations or interpretations than those he offers. In a nod to his love of a good pun, the "Shoe" in his book's title is a play on shu—the various sects of Buddhism, and the many different ways in which a larger outlook can express itself. "In the words of my late, great University of Hawaii mentor, Dr. Alfred Bloom," Rev. Higa explains, "If the shu fits, wear it!"

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