Schoolchildren used to stare at Sarah Coomber and gasp. They had no idea what to make of her height and pale skin, her blue eyes and brown hair.
Before long, Coomber didn’t know what to make of herself either. She’d catch a glimpse in a mirror and gasp at that strange-looking person too, she said.
“I was the only foreigner and the only English speaker” in a farming village in Japan, an island nation that’s one of the most homogenous societies on Earth.
It might have been a little different if Coomber had been assigned to teach in a city, but on her second trip to Japan she was placed in Shuho-cho, “an isolated bastion of pragmatic farmers” with few distractions — other than a 6 a.m. wake-up chime that pumped an electronic version of “Edelweiss” loudly through the air.
“`Edelweiss’ would strike every morning at six o’clock for as long as I lived in Shuho-cho, along with the air-raid siren wailing at noon and a piece of classical music tinkling into the drawing dusk at 5 o’clock,” Coomber writes in her charming new memoir, “The Same Moon,” which is both a journey through Japanese culture and a journey toward self-understanding, security and faith. Coomber will read from “The Same Moon,” and sign copies, 2 p.m. Saturday at Vintage Books in Vancouver.