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Found 17 results

  1. review of Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori keiko Karakura is a 36 year old woman, working 5 days a week in a Convenience Store, where she has been for the last 18 years. She lives for the convenience store including doing her own shopping in the store she works, her breakfast coming from the store, her lunch from the store and dinner from the store. This brings societal pressure from both family and friends to form a relationship and to start a family (she admits to having "no awareness of her own sexuality", she seems to be very sex a
  2. Review of The Bear and the Paving Stone by Toshiyuku Horie, translated by Geraint Howells This short story collection has three stories in it. In the first, the title story, a man visits his friend from Petanque in Western France and has a weird dream involving the footpath becoming bears. Further to this, both recollecting of the past and looking at the present where the narrator gets to know the friend's neighbour and her blind son. The friend is Jewish and there is remembrance to events of World War 2 in the novel. The second story is about the narrator joining a woman on a beac
  3. Review of Record of a Night too brief by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Lucy North Record of a Night Too Brief is a collection of 3 stories by Kawakami, originally published in Japan in 1996, each is about 50 pages long. The first was the title story about a girl and her porcelain girlfriend take on a journey in a dream, followed by a mist and meeting various things like kiwis and moles. The second story Missing was told by a girl whose brother vanished, but she could still see him at times. The brother was engaged so the family decide the second brother to
  4. Seventeen bills itself as "an investigative thriller in the aftermath of an air disaster". Truly, it isn't.Instead, Seventeen is a competent and intriguing evocation of the inner workings of a local Japanese newspaper, the North Kanto Times, using the backdrop of an air disaster on the paper's doorstep to allow simmering resentments and rivalries to boil over. We are introduced to Kazumasa Yuuki, who is trying to make an ascent on Tsuitate rock face some seventeen years after making a promise to his colleague, Anzai, to climb the face with him. This leads Yuuki into a spiral of reminiscences o
  5. Review of The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell. The Nakano Thrift Shop is set in a thrift shop in Tokyo. The main character and narrator is Hitomi, a girl who gets a job in the shop owned by Mr Nakano. The other main characters with them is Mr Nakano's sister, Masayo and employee Takeo. Each of the chapters is named after an object that the thrift shop uses but this isn't about the shop itself but those that work there. This is the second novel of Kawakami's that I read after Strange Weather in Tokyo Hitomi has a little thing fo
  6. Murakami’s third novel continues the story of the Rat, a character that featured in the first and second novel. The Rat is once again not the main character, more a catalyst for the exploration of mystery the unnamed narrator is sent on. Apart from the Rat I don’t think anyone is named in the novel. Even the narrator’s girlfriend is just talked about as she etc. As always Murakami heads down avenues of thought that on the surface seem commonplace but with just enough twist to make the tale seem surreal. I always come away from a Murakami book with more questions than answers and perhaps th
  7. A Tale for the Time Being is a very strange novel. Broadly, a lonely and isolated writer of Japanese heritage called Ruth (who could that be?) finds a diary washed up on the beach, wrapped up with a watch and some other papers in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, on the beach in British Colombia. In equal measures, Ruth reads the diary (written in first person by a Japanese 15 year old called Nao) and has her own story told in third person narration. The story veers constantly between the very mundane of at school, poverty, loneliness through to questions of purpose, existence, suicide and time. At its
  8. Occupied City is a short novel, but it's not an easy one. Ostensibly, it is about the poisoning of the staff of a Tokyo bank. Twelve people die. In reality, the novel is about war and its aftermath; research into chemical weapons, war crimes and what happens when the rules change. Through a series of 12 first person narratives - many of them very fractured - we see different facets of the murder investigation, the weapons research and the world of gangsters. A common theme is the need to adapt or die. The structure of the novel matches a traditional Japanese ghost story game where narrato
  9. Tokyo is a really complex, intriguing novel. We meet Ben Monroe, an American academic who moved to Japan via London after his marriage collapsed. He has a thing about death cults. We meet his daughter Mazzy, nearly 16, who is coming out to stay with him as she spends a reluctant semester at an international school in Tokyo whilst her mother, Lydia, stays back in the States and worries about radiation from Fukushima. And we meet Koji, the man who sat next to Mazzy on the plane and seems to like her – perhaps a bit too much. The star of the show is the sense of place. Hogg evokes a perfect
  10. Hotel Iris is not the best hotel. Located in a seaside resort that appeals mainly to the domestic market, good hotels are close to the beach or have great views. Sadly, Hotel Iris doesn't. Mari lives at the hotel. Her mother owns it; her father, grandfather and grandmother are all dead. Mari's mother treats her as a skivvy, working longer hours and for fewer thanks than the actual staff maid. Mari is young, naïve and lonely. So when she runs into a translator who offers her companionship, she jumps at the chance even though she knows he has a dark side... This short novel is carefully writte
  11. Strange Weather In Tokyo is a short book, but somehow feels longer. Tsukiko is a middle aged woman who seems to have done little with her life. She finds herself drinking in a bar next to her former Japanese teacher, Sensei. Sensei remembers Tsukiko, despite her modest scholastic abilities, and they embark on a gentle friendship. This is essentially a novel of manners; we see the tentative steps taken as a friendship develops with neither Tsukiko nor Sensei wanting to overstep the mark and scare the other away. This unfolds, oh so slowly, across a variety of Japanese settings such as the p
  12. Confessions is a lurid, gothic, stylised shocker. Yuko Moriguchi is a school teacher, announcing her retirement to her class on the last day of term. She sermonises on the differences between good teachers in films who are able to drop their lesson plans to focus on the problems of the one recalcitrant student, whereas she feels that teachers should concentrate on the able and willing students. She theorises about HIV and AIDS, the topic of the book the class was supposed to read. She is wry, sarcastic and bitter. Oh, and she mentions that part of her reason for wanting to leave the teachi
  13. Parade is a novel that is less than the sum of its parts. The novel centres around a 2 bedroom Tokyo apartment with a changing cast of residents. Naoki has been there the longest, and working for a film company, he is the most successful of the residents. The other longish term residents are Ryusoke, a student; Kotomi, an unemployed woman who watches daytime TV all day; and Mirai, an alcoholic artist who seems to be a bit of a fag hag. Oh, and there’s Satoru; nobody knows much about him, but he just turned up one day and never really left. Each resident contributes a longish narrative,
  14. Guest


    I read books set in Asia, books about Asia, books by Asians (regardless of where in the world they may reside), books about the immigrant experience, and basically anything that can by any definition broad or narrow be called 'Asian'. I have deliberately made this broad, broad, broad because I don't want to get bogged down in discussion ending arguments about who or who isn't Asian and if a book is or is not 'Asian'. If it is about Asia, Asians, an Asian experience or written by some one who is Asian - its in!
  15. I'm a fan of Ryu Murakami and have read most of his other works translated into English. Popular Hits, though, has not proven to be terribly... um... popular. The novel is short and absurd; we find some of the common ingredients of Murakami's work in a group of six misfit men who spend their days playing fantasy computer games, singing karaoke and drinking. They have no social skills and don't actually like one another, they just stick together because it's (slightly) better than being alone. Like other Murakami novels, the individuals have little character; the character pertains to the g
  16. Translated with an introduction by Edwin McClellan. Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is a novelist of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and remains one of the most widely read authors in Japan. Kokoro can be translated as "the heart of things" or as "feeling." It was written in 1914, two years after the death of the Emperor Meiji, and two years before the author's death. The translator tells us that the style of writing is intentionally simple and the translation manages to retain that simplicity. The novel is concerned with man's loneliness in a modern world. Perhaps. It is about a love that
  17. Villain is a literary novel, originally written in Japanese, concerning a young woman Yoshino Ishibashi who is murdered one night in a remote and spooky mountain pass. Unlike many thrillers, Villain does not concern itself with whodunnit. The culprit is quickly revealed and the novel centres far more on who he is, what makes him tick, and how he relates to those around him. In this sense, Yoshino is almost incidental - her murder is a salient episode in the Villain's life in terms of the personal consequence for him, but the act itself was no more meaningful than his prior relationship with a
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