Kansai: An Afternoon with Amy Chavez

Speaker: Amy Chavez
Date: Sunday 3rd November 2013
Time: 3–5 p.m.
Fee: 500 yen SWET and JAT members; 1,000 yen non-members
Place: Room 205, Hyogoken Shigaku Kaikan, Motomachi, Kobe Map
神戸市中央区北長狭通4丁目3-13 (2-minutes north of JR/Hanshin Motomachi Stns, 7 mins from Hankyu Sannomiya Stn)
Reservations: SWET Kansai (kansai[at]swet.jp)

Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage


Amy Chavez (pronounced Cha-vez, with a hard “ch” as opposed to a “sh,” and emphasis on the first syllable as opposed to the second)

Amy Chavez came to Japan in 1993 on an exchange program to fulfill her requirements for an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. For the next ten years she worked as a university lecturer in Okayama City, four years of it while living in a six-tatami mat room in an old house and using the local public bath. She thrived in this small, dark, moist environment but was forced to move when the landlord decided to tear down the house. Around this time, she happened to visit a small island of just 900 people in the Seto Inland Sea called Shiraishijima.  She moved there, bought a sailboat and sailed back and forth between her house and the mainland to continue teaching at university.

She started writing her Japan Lite column for The Japan Times in 1997, documenting the traditional island life on Shiraishi. In 1998, Amy’s sense of adventure led her to run the 88-Temple Shikoku Pilgrimage in a quest to seek enlightenment. Spiritually coached by the Shingon Buddhist Priest on Shiraishi Island, she was able to complete the 900-mile pilgrimage running almost a marathon a day for 31 days. Her book, Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage, is an in-depth look at the quest for enlightenment as preached by the Buddhist Saint Kobo Daishi. Her book has received the highest praise from old Japan-hands such as Alex Kerr, Boye LaFayette DeMente and Robert Whiting.

Amy Chavez will talk to SWET Kansai about the writing life, how she went from English teacher to professional writer, the challenges of being a writer and columnist, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, writing books and why she turned down two commercial book contracts before accepting her current one with a small publisher in the U.S.

In addition to an MA in Teaching ESL, Amy holds a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Technical Writing. She has also columned for the Bali Times (two years) and currently blogs for the Huffington Post. Amy still resides on Shiraishi Island whose population has dwindled to 580 people, and where she now documents Japan’s disappearing traditional island culture.