Category: Japan Page 1 of 7

Hiroko Oyamada: いたちなく (Weasels in the Attic)

The latest addition to my website is Hiroko Oyamada‘s いたちなく (Weasels in the Attic). This book consists of three linked stories. In the first the unnamed narrator and his friend Saiki visit Shuzo Urabe who had an exotic fish shop which has closed. He now lives above the shop with his wife and daughter, The narrator is envious of the baby – he and his wife have been trying for a baby without success – but the focus is on the mating habits of the fish, Urabe dies and the narrator and his wife visit Saiki, now married and living in the country and plagued by weasels in the attic. The narrator’s wife tells how her father dealt with the problem. They visit again when Saiki and his wife have a baby and they get caught in a snowstorm and have have to spend the night in a room where the fish are kept, including the jumping bonytongue. The book is about fertility – humans and animals – and marriage but Oyamada’s skill is to insert little episodes which make us uneasy.

Hiroko Oyamada: 工場 (The Factory)

The latest addition to my website is Hiroko Oyamada‘s 工場 (The Factory)>. We follow the stories of three employees as they go to work at the Factory and are still there, in the same jobs, fifteen years later. Their jobs seem mundane – one shreds documents one proofreads and one is meant to be developing moss for green-roofing the factory. But why is a sophisticated factory using humans to shred? What is being proofread and for whom? And why has the moss man made no progress in fifteen years? What does the factory produce? We have no idea. Why does Goto seem to manage everything? And what are the strange animals seemingly only found on the Factory site? Oyamada tells a strange tale of a seemingly normal working environment which is perhaps not entirely normal.

Mieko Kawakami: すべて真夜中の恋人たち (All the Lovers in the Night)

The latest addition to my website is Mieko Kawakami:‘s すべて真夜中の恋人たち (All the Lovers in the Night). Our heroine/narrator is Fuyuko Irie. She is a loner. We learn nothing about her parents and she seems to have no siblings. She has one (female) friend at school but they never meet outside school. After college, she becomes a proofreader for a publisher but has minimal contact with her colleagues. When offered a freelance proofreading job she takes it. Her only contact is with the lively Hijiri, who works for the publisher, and it is Hijiri who brings her out of herself somewhat. She even takes up drinking. She considers taking classes (that does not work out well) but she does meet a man, Mitsutsuka, a school physics teacher and they slowly start a platonic relationship But, ultimately, she says I’m all alone, I thought. I’d been on my own for ages, and I was convinced that there was no way I could be any more alone, but now I’d finally realized how alone I truly was.

Masatsugu Ono: 森のはずれで (At the Edge of the Woods)

The latest addition to my website is Masatsugu Ono‘s 森のはずれで (At the Edge of the Woods). An unnamed family – husband, pregnant wife and young son, possibly Japanese – move to a foreign country, to a house at the edge of the woods. The wife goes back to her parents to have her child, leaving father (who seems not to work) and son. The woods are strange. The trees move of their own accord, there are strange noises and, according to the local farmer and postman, there are imps who steal things and people. The son finds an old woman with her tale to tell. His behaviour becomes erratic. There seems to be a refugee crisis. Two dwarfs appear at the front door. And only the dogs have names. This is an excellent novel in the Japanese ghost story tradition, where things get stranger and stranger.

Kōbō Abe: 他人の顔 (The Face of Another)

The latest addition to my website is Kōbō Abe‘s 他人の顔 (The Face of Another). Our hero, a plastics engineer, is badly injured in an industrial accident, leaving his face badly scarred. People – even his wife – are repelled by him. He decides to develop a plastic mask and considers wearing the mask while accosting or even assaulting his wife. What makes the novel are his complex studies on the topic – people’s reaction to him without and with the mask, what masks mean in our society, does the mask have a personality of its own and how it has changed him. Another superb novel from Abe.

Eto Mori:カラフル (Colourful)

The latest addition to my website is Eto Mori‘s カラフル (Colourful). Our unnamed hero has died but has been informed by his angel guide, Prapura, that he has won the lottery, and will be given another chance by entering the body of someone else. The someone else is Makoto Kobayashi, a fourteen year old boy who has just killed himself. Prapura dishes the dirt on the Kobayashi family – mother, father and older brother – and why Makoto killed himself. We learn Makoto was a loner but a talented artist. Gradually, our hero learns what is going on and struggles with his relationships with his family but also with Hiroka, his first love, and Shoko who seems to be attracted to him. However, if he does not recall the cardinal sin he committed in his previous life – and he struggles to do so – it is all going to end badly. While similar in subject to Mieko Kawakami‘s ヘヴン (Heaven), it is far more whimsical but also very much makes its point about the problems Japanese teenagers face.

Kōbō Abe: 砂の女 (The Woman in the Dunes)

The latest addition to my website is Kōbō Abe‘s 砂の女 (The Woman in the Dunes). A Japanese teacher is a keen collector of insects and is always hoping to find an unknown species. One day, without telling anyone where he is going, he sets off to a remote sea shore. He misses the last bus but the locals tell him he can stay there. Their houses are in deep holes in the sand so he descends a rope ladder to the house of a woman, who lost her husband and daughter to the sand. He learns that she has to spend most of the night shovelling the sand to protect not only her house but the entire village. He soon learns that they have trapped him there and he has to help her. The book is about his attempts to escape, his relationship with the woman, his thoughts about his life before the sand and how he has to adapt to a completely new life. We know from the very beginning that he will disappear for at leat seven years, as he is declared legally dead. This is a superb and justly famous psychological novel.

Mieko Kawakami: ヘヴン (Heaven)

The latest addition to my website is Mieko Kawakami‘s ヘヴン (Heaven). This story is about bullying but it is no Tom Brown’s School Days. Our unnamed narrator is a fourteen year old boy at the start of the novel. He has a lazy eye, is not particularly bright and not good at sports. He is frequently and viciously bullied by a group of boys, led by a boy who is taller, athletic, very bright and very popular. One day he starts receiving anonymous notes and, eventually, an invitation to meet. Fearing the worst, he goes but finds Kojima, a fellow pupil, who is bullied because she is often scruffy. The two become close, but not too close, allies in their victimhood. However, both Kojima and one of the bullies, whom our narrator challenges, give an unconventional view of he bullying. Kojima sees it primarily as a way to bring the two together and feels they are morally stronger than the bullies. However it is does not end well… Kawakami gives a first-class story with an unconventional look at bullying.

Minae Mizumura: 私小説 from left to right (An I-Novel)

The latest addition to my website is Minae Mizumura‘s 私小説 from left to right (An I-Novel). This book was written and published before her other two novels published in English and, unusually, contains lots of English words and is written horizontally (as the Japanese title tells us) and not vertically as is normal in Japanese. It is semi-autobiographical and tells of her family moving to the United States, when she was twelve. At the start of the novel, she and her sister note that they have been there twenty years. Minae, our narrator, is finishing her Ph.D. (in French) and plans to return to Japan after having done so, perhaps to write a novel. Much of the book is about exile. How you can you adapt to a foreign culture? Can you go home after so long away, as much will have changed? How can you maintain contact with your home culture when in a foreign culture? And how do you deal with the attitudes of the foreign culture to you and your culture? Like all exiles, the two sisters struggle with these issues and do not really resolve them.

Tahi Saihate: 星か獣になる季節 (Astral Season Beastly Season)

The latest addition to my website is Tahi Saihate‘s 星か獣になる季節 (Astral Season Beastly Season). Two seventeen- year old boys are obsessed with a J-Pop star, attending all her concerts. When she is accused of murder, the two, who are in the same class but are polar opposites and have rarely spoken to one another before, get together to save her and they try to do this by one of them, Morishita, doing further killings so that the police will suspect him and not her while the other, Yamashiro, is reluctantly dragged in. The killing spree continues… The second part, set two years later, has three survivors reviewing the situation. It is a chilling and somewhat sinister book but superbly well told.

Page 1 of 7

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén