Country roads in the American South are mystical and
inspiring. Robert Johnson met a Gentleman at the in-
tersection of two such roads, bartering his soul for dex-
terity on the guitar, and music has never been the same.
Fortunately, the Gentleman with whom I conversed on
a road in Puryear, Tennessee, doesn’t make deals.
In the summer of 1990 I was taking a dusk-time,
post-supper stroll along the road to my grandparent’s
house (we called it ‘‘walkin’ your dinner o√’’). In another
month I was to commence graduate studies in Japanese
history, and on that night I was plagued by the self-doubt
and uncertainty that all prospective graduate students in
the humanities feel if they’ve been paying attention to
the world at all. My problem was that I had music in my
head all the time, not sh¯ oguns and such. That evening I
pleaded for some way to integrate my passion with the
only obvious career choice for someone whose talents
are limited to academic pursuits. A month later I was
enrolled in Ronald Toby and David Plath’s Japanese pop
culture seminar—when this idea was delivered to me. I
never even considered anything else. Some of my men-
tors may have worried that I enjoyed it too much, but
that was the only reason it was worth doing.
To our beloved Ma, who taught us how to pray on
country roads: we miss you.
This book is the product of many people’s generosity,
insights, and e√orts. While I am quite happy to share
credit for its successes with the many people who as-
sisted me, I insist on monopolizing blame for its short-