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The Japanese House

The Japanese House is the third poetry book from Tamiko Dooley.


In her third poetry book, “The Japanese House”, Tamiko Dooley invites us in to her grandparents’ home in Tokyo, a private space where memories from childhood mingle with the experiences of growing up. Each door reveals something different, from the opening bars of a sonata, to the arc of a rainbow or to the sounds of a child playing, against the backdrop of a Japan that changes with her.

As we turn down the corridors into her deepest and most personal memories, we experience the longing and regret that come from remembering the past. This collection allows us to step into a richly evocative world, bursting with sensory moments and beautiful use of the Japanese language.

Q & A with Tamiko Dooley

What is the concept behind this poetry collection?


“The Japanese House” invites the reader on a journey through the rooms of a traditional uchi with its specific cultural elements such as the kotatsu and the obutsudan; it is a home in Tokyo, built in harmony with its surroundings. Privacy and respect are important concepts in Japan, and here I open the door to my grandparents’ house in order to share my private thoughts.

These poems are snapshots from my life so far, taken where a feeling such as love or loss leads to my seeing the world in a different way. With time, I realise that these ordinary moments from my past created momentous changes in me and left a lasting impression. Often the small, everyday moments have big meaning.


How did you approach the writing of these poems? 


A memory can trigger the idea for a poem, and I start hearing the opening lines. I note these down and then spend some time editing until it sounds complete. I like to draw from personal experiences, so I often find inspiration from conversations, walks outside, and spending time with art or music.


My first piano teacher, Lisa Childs, encouraged me to go to the source of beauty in order to play a piece of music authentically, for example by walking in a garden and touching and smelling the flowers, rather than by listening to a recording performed by another artist. I find this great advice for writing poetry as well – to be inspired by beauty in real life.


What was your inspiration?

I used to enjoy writing poetry when I was younger – as an only child I spent a lot of time alone, and through writing I could imagine and create things. During the pandemic, I had similarly quieter times at home, and I was drawn to writing again.

This collection was inspired by spending school holidays at my grandparents’ house in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo. I felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world for a few weeks before returning to England.


Japan in the nineties had very little English influence, so I always experienced a strange wonderland. I never talked about these times before, but as time passed I felt the need to share the moments, as part of exploring my own sense of identity in a mixed cultural upbringing, and understanding where I belong.

What would you like readers to take from it? 

I hope the reader can connect with the emotions I convey in my poetry, and that in turn it helps them process or reconcile their own feelings. I love how poetry can, like music, transcend language barriers and bypass rational thought in order to reach the reader/listener directly. I hope that my work resonates with the reader.

What does poetry mean to you? 

I loved reading and studying poetry at school and at university, and it is still one of my favourite pastimes. The best poetry is both intimate so that I sense a connection with the writer, as well as broad enough to allow me to see things in a new light. I find it comforting and enlightening.


Writing poetry is cathartic, a form of self-discovery as I explore and process my emotions. It allows me to communicate ideas with the reader in a condensed form that is both natural and safe. When writing poetry, I feel free to share my thoughts sincerely without worrying about what others will say. In that sense, I am perhaps my most authentic self when writing a poem.

Click here to order your copies of The Japanese House now

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