May 8, 2011

Unfractured folk tales, and fantastic fables

SPECULATIVE JAPAN 2: “The Man Who Watched the Sea” and Other Tales of Japanese Science Fiction and Fantasy. Kurodahan Press, 2010, 269 pp., $16 (paper) A good anthology, particularly one that aims to provide an overview of an unfamiliar subset of a nation’s literature, ...

Apr 24, 2011

Of monsters and men: Godzilla's stable master

MASTER OF MINIATURES, by Jim Shepard. New York: Solid Objects, 2010, 51 pp., $12 (paper). Jim Shepard’s “Master of Miniatures” is a masterful miniature, a small container filled with substantial events and substantial pleasures. Based on the life of Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects ...

Mar 20, 2011

The protocols of freedom

THE ETIQUETTE OF FREEDOM: Gary Snyder, Jim Harrison, and The Practice of the Wild. Edited by Paul Ebenkamp. This is a companion to the film “The Practice of the Wild,” directed by John J. Healey, produced by Will Hearst and Jim Harrison with San ...

Feb 20, 2011

Recollections of an intrepid Meiji traveler

NEW CHRONICLES OF YANAGIBASHI AND DIARY OF A JOURNEY TO THE WEST, by Ryuhoku Narushima. Translated and with a critical introduction and afterword by Matthew Fraleigh. Cornell University East Asia Program, 2010, 392 pp., $49 (paper) The most interesting thing about Ryuhoku Narushima (1837-1884), ...

Dec 26, 2010

Shikoku shrines: journey through a lost world

Itsue Takamure, born in 1894, grew up to become a remarkable woman: a pioneering feminist scholar — one whose work remains controversial — and an anarchist, though her progressive thinking did not prevent her from collaborating with Japan’s militarist government during World War II. ...

Dec 19, 2010

Final word on the year's best reading

In making available this account of Japanese who are forgotten, by an author who, in English, is unknown, translator Jeffrey Irish has done us a tremendous service. Anyone interested in how things used to be in rural Japan will want to read ethnologist Tsuneichi ...

Oct 17, 2010

The illustrated life and times of author Kenji Miyazawa

The surprising thing about Ko Yano’s biography of Kenji Miyazawa is not that he’s done it in the form of a comic book, but rather that this manga biography appears to be the only book-length life of Miyazawa available in English. THE MANGA BIOGRAPHY ...

Sep 19, 2010

Dastardly doctor with a mean scalpel and a heart of gold

It is probably not excessive to say that every Japanese male between the ages of 15 and 40 knows Black Jack, the outlaw surgeon who features in the series of comics that Osamu Tezuka created in the 1970s and early 1980s — comics that ...

Aug 15, 2010

Plumbing the depths of a suicide obsession

When Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature, chose to become a writer rather than a teacher or literary scholar, his mentor at Tokyo University told him that it would be necessary for him to continue his studies on his own. ...