Japanese Nonfiction Review: A Rolling Hong Kong Gathers No Moss

(転がる香港に苔は生えない – 星野 博美)

Usually, I write about fiction books, but I’m making an exception for this nonfiction work by Hoshino Hiromi for three reasons. First, I’m beginning to learn Cantonese so I want to read books in Japanese that help me get a better understanding of the culture associated with the language. Second, I took a vacation to Hong Kong in the early 2000s and was fascinated by the lifestyle—Hoshino decided to actually live the lifestyle. Finally, I think it is an interesting and unique book and want to share it.

Hoshino’s goal was to live in Hong Kong surrounding the handover from England to China. She goes there on a student visa—though not particularly interested in the school part—and lives in a modest apartment. She meets all kinds of people, less of the elite bankers and cosmopolitan Hongkongers that Hong Kong may bring to mind, but the everyday middle-class or working-class people as well as new immigrants. Much of the book is her conversations and interactions with these people, shedding light on different aspects of the local culture.

Continue reading “Japanese Nonfiction Review: A Rolling Hong Kong Gathers No Moss”

Japanese Book Review: The Tropics by Morimi Tomihiko

(熱帯 森見 登美彦)

I don’t normally write in-depth summaries of the books I read, but this one had an intricate enough plot that I wanted to do it for myself, and hopefully, someone else will come across this and find it helpful. This book has the most complicated plot I have read. Early on, we learn that one of the characters carries around a notebook to keep track everything that happens, a lesson he learned after his copy of The Tropics, a mysterious book that no one has ever finished, disappeared.

I took this as a hint and began writing down what happened as I read. If you plan to read this book I would suggest doing the same, or to save time, you can use my summary as a map.

Obviously, this includes spoilers, so if you plan on reading the book come back when you’re finished. Here goes:

Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: The Tropics by Morimi Tomihiko”

Japanese Audiobook Review: Snow In the Desert

Snow In the Desert by Isaka Kotaro (砂漠 – 伊坂幸太郎) is a coming of age story spanning the four college years of five friends. Surprisingly, it never showed up on any of the lists of recommended books on Audiobook.jp—I was only able to find it by searching for Isaka Kotaro directly—so I would like to recommend it here for anyone searching for fiction on the site. I’m guessing it is not a great seller as an audiobook or they would be promoting it more heavily, but on Amazon.co.jp the reviews were decent. I wasn’t too excited about the book, as the synopsis didn’t draw me in, but from the very beginning, I found it enjoyable to listen to because of the narrator, the characters, the relaxing tone. Also, it reminded me of what it was like to have plenty of free time.

Continue reading “Japanese Audiobook Review: Snow In the Desert”

Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part II b]

“Edgelands”(さいはての地 ), a short story by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) is part of a fantasy/adventure series, which includes “Rainlands“, of which a translation is published at SelfTaughtJapanese.com. I have the author’s permission to publish the translation of this two-part story. This is the second half of the second part, the end of the story. The beginning of the story is posted here. I would like to thank Locksleyu from SelfTaughtJapanese.com for help with translation checking and proofreading.

Synopsis

They call this place Edgetown—a small mountain village overlooking a vast, blazing wasteland. They say that no one can survive beyond this point, but young Noi can see the faint outline of a mountain in the distance. 

Does anyone really know what is on the other side, or is it just that no one has ever dared the perilous journey? 

Noi, refusing to accept baseless rumors, waits for nightfall to begin his journey…

“Edgelands”, set in the same universe as “Rainlands”, is a testament to the yearning of a human soul.

Continue reading “Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part II b]”

Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part II a]

“Edgelands”(さいはての地 ), a short story by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) is part of a fantasy/adventure series, which includes “Rainlands“, of which a translation is published at SelfTaughtJapanese.com. I have the author’s permission to publish the translation of this two-part story. This is the first half of the second part. The beginning of the story is posted here. I would like to thank Locksleyu from SelfTaughtJapanese.com for help with translation checking and proofreading.

Synopsis

They call this place Edgetown—a small mountain village overlooking a vast, blazing wasteland. They say that no one can survive beyond this point, but young Noi can see the faint outline of a mountain in the distance. 

Does anyone really know what is on the other side, or is it just that no one has ever dared the perilous journey? 

Noi, refusing to accept baseless rumors, waits for nightfall to begin his journey…

“Edgelands”, set in the same universe as “Rainlands”, is a testament to the yearning of a human soul.

Continue reading “Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part II a]”

Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part I b]

“Edgelands”(さいはての地 ), a short story by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) is part of a fantasy/adventure series, which includes “Rainlands“, of which a translation is published at SelfTaughtJapanese.com. I have the author’s permission to publish the translation of this two-part story. This is the second half of the first part. The beginning of the story is posted here. I would like to thank Locksleyu from SelfTaughtJapanese.com for help with translation checking and proofreading.

Synopsis

They call this place Edgetown—a small mountain village overlooking a vast, blazing wasteland. They say that no one could survive beyond this point, but young Noi could see the faint outline of a mountain in the distance. 

Does anyone really know what is on the other side, or is it just that no one has ever dared the perilous journey? 

Noi, refusing to accept baseless rumors, waits for nightfall to begin his journey…

“Edgelands”, set in the same universe as “Rainlands”, is a testament to the yearning of a human soul.

Continue reading “Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part I b]”

Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part I a]

“Edgelands”(さいはての地 ), a short story by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) is part of a fantasy/adventure series, which includes “Rainlands“, of which a translation is published at SelfTaughtJapanese.com. I have the author’s permission to publish the translation of this two-part story, and I will begin by posting the first half of Part I of the original. I would like to thank Locksleyu from SelfTaughtJapanese.com for help with translation checking and proofreading.

Synopsis

They call this place Edgetown—a small mountain village overlooking a vast, blazing wasteland. They say that no one could survive beyond this point, but young Noi could see the faint outline of a mountain in the distance. 

Does anyone really know what is on the other side, or is it just that no one has ever dared the perilous journey? 

Noi, refusing to accept baseless rumors, waits for nightfall to begin his journey…

“Edgelands”, set in the same universe as “Rainlands”, is a testament to the yearning of a human soul.

Continue reading “Short Story Translation: “Edgelands” by Haruka Asahi [Part I a]”

Japanese Audiobook Review: Mr. Tsubakiyama’s Seven Days

I recently listened to another audiobook from Audiobook.jp called Mr. Tsubakiyama’s Seven Days by Asada Jiro (椿山課長の七日間 – 浅田 次郎). I didn’t know much about Asada or this book beforehand, but I noticed excellent reviews on Amazon, so I thought it was worth a try.

I wasn’t into the style at first. After thinking about it a while, I realized it had to do with the setting, which I didn’t find engaging. Primarily, the setting is what draws me into a book—The windowless programmers’ compound on an isolated island, housing an imprisoned evil genius, in  All Become F. The dizzying maze of midnight Pontocho and Kiyamachi in The Night is Short, Walk on Girl.—This book’s opening, with flower-lined, calm and nearly empty streets leading to an administrative building, didn’t have enough of an edge to draw me in.

Continue reading “Japanese Audiobook Review: Mr. Tsubakiyama’s Seven Days”

Japanese Book Review: Endless Night – Morimi Tomihiko

(夜行 – 森見 登美彦)

The title of this book could be read Yakou or Yagyou depending on whether it functions as part of the word for night train or part of the word for “The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons” . For my translation of the title into English, I didn’t have a punchy way to make the night train reference and the reference to Japanese folklore simultaneously, so I chose to use a recurring motif in the  book: endless night.

This book doesn’t really fall into the horror genre, but the eerie tone can occasionally  send you into a cold sweat. It is more like a ghost story, or more accurately, a collection of ghost stories.

Five friends gather at a traditional inn near Kyoto on the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of their friend Hasegawa, which occurred on the night of the annual  Kurama Fire Festival. Imagine a night of half-naked men carrying giant torches and portable shrines through a small town that only sees that kind of crowd once a year.

Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: Endless Night – Morimi Tomihiko”

Japanese Audio Book Review: Scientific Task Force, Case File Blue – Konno Bin

Finding a Japanese audiobook source

Sometimes it’s challenging to find time to read, but it may not be quite as hard to find time to listen to an audiobook. I have wanted to listen to current Japanese novels in audiobook form for years, but in the past I have not been impressed with the selection available.

I would like to listen to current fiction, but most of the fiction available when I first started searching consisted older works from the public domain or offerings that tended towards self-help. Since I couldn’t find anything I was interested in, I have been listening to podcasts to maintain my audio connection with the Japanese language.

Lately I took a another look at Amazon’s Audible and was surprised to see more current fiction like Convenience Store Woman and several mystery novels by Konno Bin. Filled with excitement about all the books I could now listen to, I applied for the free trial right away!

Only, I was quickly deflated by the geographical restriction for the credit card billing address. Amazon didn’t want my foreign money, and I still don’t have access to their small, but growing collection of current fiction read aloud by professional narrators.

Fortunately I found another source, called Audiobook.jp, formerly known as FeBe. The selection is much smaller, but the system is far less restrictive. I was immediately able to purchase Scientific Task Force, Case File Blue with no obstacle related to my geographical location. For a review of Audiobook.jp, check out SelfTaughtJapanese.com.

When I downloaded the iOS app and signed in, it synced right away making the book available for download. On the website, I was able to download mp3 files that seemed to be DRM-free, meaning I can listen to the book however I like, and I get to keep it regardless of the future of Audiobook.jp. I like this better than a monthly subscription, such as Audible’s, where you lose everything if you stop paying or they may decide to remove your favorites from the library. That said, for the increased selection, I would sign up for Audible in a  heartbeat if Amazon would allow it.

My first audiobook purchase

(ST警視庁科学特捜班 青の調査ファイル  – 今野 敏)

The novel I chose to purchase from Audiobook.jp is a police procedural mystery that is part of a series involving the Metropolitan Police Force’s Scientific Taskforce, or “ST”, consisting of several members with special skills. Here is a brief introduction of the characters, which appear in the many novels of the series.

Continue reading “Japanese Audio Book Review: Scientific Task Force, Case File Blue – Konno Bin”