Topics

1

Spooky tales from beyond the grave

by Mark Schilling

Ghost stories are universal, but Japanese ghost stories, argues Zack Davisson in “Yurei: The Japanese Ghost,” are unique. So much so that Davisson, a translator and essayist who is something of a specialist in the supernatural, uses yūrei, the Japanese word for spook, throughout the text. He also makes big ...

Perfidia

by Mark Schreiber

This sprawling period piece from the prolific author of such works as “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dalia” takes place ...

In the footsteps of Isabella Bird

Oct 25, 2014

In the footsteps of Isabella Bird

by Catherina Depaz

With a curiosity for exploring new lands and cultures in the late 1800s, British author, traveler and naturalist Isabella Bird blazed quite a trail, one that is followed lovingly by Kiyonori Kanasaka with his collection of photographs that capture Bird’s heart and vision, replicating ...

If you'd nuked a city, you'd feel guilty too

Oct 18, 2014

If you'd nuked a city, you'd feel guilty too

by J.J. O'Donoghue

The author T.C. Boyle in the preface to his book “Stories II” published last year made a convincing argument that runs counter to the conventional wisdom to “write what you know.” Boyle said: “A story is an exercise of imagination — or, as Flannery ...

The Great Wave

| Oct 18, 2014

The Great Wave

by Stephen Mansfield

The phrase oyatoi gaikokujin refers to foreigners hired by the Meiji Era government and various educational institutions to impart their skills to Japanese eager to advance in the modern world. The Great Wave, by Christopher Benfey.Random House, Nonfiction. There was a veritable legion of ...

From Race to Ethnicity

Oct 18, 2014

From Race to Ethnicity

by Michael Hoffman

The first known Japanese in Hawaii were shipwrecked fishermen circa 1806, unwitting forerunners of a diaspora they can scarcely have imagined. From Race to Ethnicity, by Jonathan Y. Okamura.University of Hawaii Press, Nonfiction. In 1868 came the first Japanese contract laborers. The local sugar ...

What Do You Want to Create Today?

Oct 18, 2014

What Do You Want to Create Today?

by Madeline Barbush

Tokyo resident Dr. Bob Tobin chose the title for “What Do You Want to Create Today?” to make his message entirely clear: It’s all about you. What Do You Want to Create Today?, by Dr. Bob Tobin.BenBella Books, Nonfiction. He argues that the traditional ...

Black Rain

| Oct 11, 2014

Black Rain

by Kris Kosaka

Masuji Ibuse’s classic 1965 novel “Black Rain” takes readers into the everyday lives of a family poisoned by radiation sickness. The narrative structure carefully balances between the present time of the novel and journal entries from the bombings of Hiroshima to craft a carefully ...

Inner-city life, and the banal mystery that is other people

Oct 4, 2014

Inner-city life, and the banal mystery that is other people

by Matt Kamen

Beautifully banal. Perhaps not the most positive-sounding turn of phrase, but the one that best summarizes the appeal of Shuichi Yoshida’s interwoven narrative of five young adults and their struggles living in an overcrowded Tokyo apartment. Parade, by Shuichi Yoshida, Translated by Philip Gabriel.Vintage ...

A Drifting Life

| Oct 4, 2014

A Drifting Life

by Stephen Mansfield

Readers tired with the glut of violence, wonderment and sentimentality that defines manga fantasies centering on characters with extraordinary powers and cute, eroticized females will find the unsparing social realism of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s autobiographical “A Drifting Life” a breath of fresh air. A Drifting ...

Confessions

Oct 4, 2014

Confessions

by Mark Schreiber

The award-winning 1950 Akira Kurosawa film classic “Rashomon,” based on two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, used different and contradictory accounts of a samurai’s death to explore humanity’s self-serving behavior. Kanae Minato’s first novel, “Confessions,” adopts a somewhat similar approach, with its six chapters ...

The Crimson Thread of Abandon: Stories

Oct 4, 2014

The Crimson Thread of Abandon: Stories

by Madeline Barbush

It’s a wonder “The Crimson Thread of Abandon” was never translated into English before. Shuji Terayama (1935-83) was a provocative artist and outlaw author, and his 20 stories fall nothing short of this reputation. Each borrows and mocks the conventions of a classic fairy ...