(uchoten kazoku – Morimi Tomihiko)
Most of the characters in this book are tanukis, of which the standard English translation seems to be “Japanese racoon dogs.” Tanukis can shape shift into quite a range of things, people, or even places in this book. The story is about the interaction between humans, tanukis, and tengus, who can fly and create massive winds. The story is told by Yasaburo, the 3rd son in a family of tanukis made up of a mother and 4 sons who are struggling to fill the shoes of their late father, who was the leader of the Tanuki world.
The rules for this fantastic world are a bit crazy and hard to understand, but it is grounded in the actual geography of Kyoto. It contains lots of detailed and excellent descriptions of real places, and almost acts like a travel book. You’ll find yourself wanting to walk around Kyoto and see the book’s setting in person.
Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: 有頂天家族 – 森見登美彦”
( afutadaku – Murakami Haruki)
Murakami Haruki may be the most popular Japanese author in English translation, so there is a lot of information in English on the internet about English translations of his works. This post is about the Japanese edition, but if you are interested in reading it in English, this review may still be partially relevant.
It really is a challenge finding English reviews of Japanese books in Japanese, because there aren’t any clear keywords to differentiate from reviews of translations when you’re searching in Google. Also, I guess it is a pretty small niche.
This is a short novel, so it may be a good one to read if you don’t want to commit to one of Murakami’s longer novels. It has a creepy atmosphere and takes place in some of the seedier areas of a large city. It’s told linearly from just before midnight to right after the sun comes up, with clock images showing the time at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the narrative is literal and some parts are surreal or dreamlike.
Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: アフターダーク- 村上 春樹”
(bokko-chan – Hoshi Shinichi)
This is a collection of 50 very short stories. Many of them are Sci-Fi. Most of them are humorous with a handful that are just creepy. The stories are short and usually have a punch line, so it is kind of like reading jokes. Some are satire, cautionary tales, or something like fables.
Also, the humor doesn’t depend much on the details of Japanese language and culture. Some of the jokes may be a bit simple or crude, but you don’t have to worry that they will be lost on you if you don’t share the same lifetime of experiences as a typical person living in Japan.
Continue reading “Short Story Collection Review: ボッコちゃん – 星 新一”
(kanojo ha hitori de aruku no ka? – Mori Hiroshi)
This is the first light novel I have read. I’m not quite sure what makes it a light novel. Maybe the target audience is young adults, however I found it pretty engaging as an adult. It seems like light novels are a popular choice for beginners, but it didn’t seem any easier to read than other popular fiction I have read so far. It did have a bit more action.
Other books I have read by Mori have been mysteries, but this one is science fiction. I don’t read any science fiction in English, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. It’s definitely not because I wouldn’t like to read more science fiction. That’s one of the many many things I would like to do that won’t become high enough priority to put in the time.
Continue reading “Light Novel Review: 彼女は一人で歩くのか？ Does She Walk Alone? – 森博嗣”
I read an article by Roger Pulvers on Nippon.com about Miyazawa Kenji, and became interested in reading ame ni mo makezu, which is available in public domain on Aozora Bunko. I included the original text here:
雨ニモマケズ – 宮沢賢治
According to the Wikipedia article about the poem, it was never published in Miyazawa’s lifetime, but was found after his death, as many of his works were, so I’m not sure if it was intended for an audience or not. I especially think it may not have been his intention to publish this because the poem is about his desire to be a humble servant. The desire to serve people without recognition seems to be more of a self reflection than something a poet would intend to publish.
Continue reading “Thoughts on 雨ニモマケズ by 宮沢賢治”
(shiokari touge – Miura Ayako)
I don’t think I’m giving away too much by revealing the end of this story, because you find that information in the first two sentences of the Amazon description. Although this is a fictional story, it is written to promote awareness of a real life hero. Although not much is known or written about Nagano Masao, who gave his life to save a train full of people from a horrible wreck in 1909 in Hokkaido, Miura fleshes out his story in the life of Nagano Nobuo.
Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: 塩狩峠 – 三浦 綾子”
(ningen shikkaku – Dazai Osamu)
Ningen Shikkaku is one of the most famous novels in Japan. I have begun reading a novel by Miura Ayako, and Dazai is one of her influences, so I decided to go ahead and read one of his most famous works from Aozora Bunko in parallel.
It’s not a long book, but the language is challenging, and of course it is very grim. Dazai uses very long sentences, and sometimes entire paragraphs are comprised of only one sentence. The long sentences flow surprisingly well once you get used to the style, however if you need to look up too many words, then I think it would be hard not to get lost. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to someone who isn’t used to reading in Japanese, but since it is in the public domain, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: 人間失格 – 太宰 治”
(miyamoto musashi – Yoshikawa Eiji)
I picked up this book more than a decade ago, and I have tried reading it two or three times since then. Each time I couldn’t make it through the first chapter before giving up. It’s actually an epic novel and this is just the first of 8 books in this reprint. I finally read through the one book I own. The first book is a fictional account of the historical famous swordsman’s life starting at age 17 after the battle of Sekigahara to the point when he is a young man trying to find a worthy opponent to practice his mostly self taught martial art.
Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: 宮本武蔵 – 吉川英治”
(soshite, hoshi no kagayaku yoru ga kuru – Mayama Jin)
This book is about a teacher, Mr. Onodera, who experienced loss in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami he comes to the fictional Tohoku village, Toma, to fill in as a short term teacher and bring encouragement to the children. I chose to read this book because it was highly recommended on Self Taught Japanese where you can even read a translation of the beginning of the book. Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: そして、星の輝く夜がくる – 真山 仁”
(tsumetai misshitsu to hakasetachi – Mori Hiroshi)
This is the second book in the Saikawa and Moe series, which starts with Subete ga F ni naru.
According to an Amazon Review this was actually the first book that Mori wrote in the series, but they were released in a different order by the editors. I thought that the first one was very focused on the mechanics of the mystery, but this one was even more focused, and there wasn’t a whole lot in the story to flesh out the characters. There is even an email that describes each suspect in bullet points. It hard to write any more directly than that. I think the style difference between the first and second books makes more sense when you realize this one was actually written first.
Continue reading “Japanese Book Review: 冷たい密室と博士たち – 森 博嗣”