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Born the daughter of a prominent Shinto priest, Matsubara grew up in the serene setting of the Kenkun Shrine in the northern part of Kyoto. She worked for a while as an editor in the US before moving to Germany in In Matsubara started to write a regular column at the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
This work turned into a collection of short stories and essays, Blick aus Mandelaugen, , through which she entered the German literary scene. In , Matsubara published a German translation of the ancient Japanese tale Taketori-monogatari.
Her novels are set in recent Japanese history addressing changes in Japanese culture during the modernization and western influences as a background theme. Matsubara also wrote non-fiction books Weg zu Japan , and Raumschiff Japan highlighting contrasts between Japanese history and European history over the past five centuries. In recent years, she has published mostly in Japanese, both fiction and non-fiction. Currently she lives with her family in Los Altos.
Matsubara is married to the German solid state physicist Friedemann Freund. Their son, the physicist Minoru Freund , died of brain tumor glioblastoma in early
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