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The Ink Dark Moon

| Jan 24, 2015

The Ink Dark Moon

by Kris Kosaka

No other period in Japan’s literary history was as dominated by women as the Heian Period (794-1185). Most Japanophiles know names such as Sei Shonagon (“The Pillow Book”) or Murasaki Shikibu (“The Tale of Genji”) for their contributions to the world of literature, but ...

Hiroshi Sugimoto: On the Beach

Jan 24, 2015

Hiroshi Sugimoto: On the Beach

by John L. Tran

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photography is mesmerizing partly because of its other-worldly perfection — his black-and-white prints are flawless. On its own, however, this isn’t enough to justify the significance of his work in the contemporary art scene. His deadpan images of animal dioramas, waxwork figures ...

Zen Koans

Jan 24, 2015

Zen Koans

by Finbar O'Mallon

The famous question, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a Zen koan; a deliberately obtuse poem used by Buddhists to probe reality and test one’s ignorance. Zen Koans, by Steven Heine.University of Hawai’i press, Poetry. Unfortunately, Steven Heine hasn’t written “Zen ...

Lingering outside the way station for the dead

Jan 17, 2015

Lingering outside the way station for the dead

by Kris Kosaka

It’s a hardy soul who braves Osorezan (Mount Osore), a volcano in Aomori Prefecture known as the Japanese way station for the dead. For most, the name conjures up images of the supernatural and the unknown, but for Marie Mutsuki Mockett, it is a ...

Cat Town

Jan 17, 2015

Cat Town

by Kris Kosaka

Modernist 20th-century writer Sakutaro Hagiwara redefined Japanese poetry with his free-style verse and daringly common subject matter; he reached sublime heights by examining the mundane. Cat Town, by Sakutaro Hagiwara, Translated by Hiroaki Sato.NYRB Poets, Poetry. Published by the New York Review of Books’ ...

The City that Silk Built

Jan 17, 2015

The City that Silk Built

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Kyoto has long been generous to its writers, stretching from Murasaki Shikibu, with “The Tale of Genji,” right through to Yukio Mishima, with “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.” The poet Matsuo Basho also penned several memorable haiku while decamped here. The City that ...

The Art of Japanese Dyeing Patterns

Jan 17, 2015

The Art of Japanese Dyeing Patterns

by Finbar O'Mallon

“The Art of Japanese Dyeing Patterns” is a small catalog of sorts on tenugui (dyed Japanese cotton towel) maker Kamawanu, and where the book excels is in its photography. Beautiful photos of Kawamanu’s workshops, stores and towels fill the pages, with close-up images capturing ...

Cataloging the creatures of the unknown

Jan 10, 2015

Cataloging the creatures of the unknown

by Kris Kosaka

“Yokai dwell in the contact zone between fact and fiction, between belief and doubt … Yokai begin where language ends,” says Michael Dylan Foster in the introduction to “The Book of Yokai,” summing up what words often fail to conjure. His book takes readers ...

Life of a Counterfeiter

| Jan 10, 2015

Life of a Counterfeiter

by Iain Maloney

Yasushi Inoue’s “Life of a Counterfeiter,” translated by Michael Emmerich, contains three stories: the eponymous novella and two shorter pieces, “Reeds” and “Mr Goodall’s Gloves.” Life of a Counterfeiter, by Yasushi Inoue, Translated by Michael Emmerich.Pushkin Press, Fiction. “Life of a Counterfeiter” concerns a ...

The Iris Fan

Jan 10, 2015

The Iris Fan

by Mark Schreiber

With “The Iris Fan,” Laura Joh Rowland draws to a close her long-running saga of righteous Edo Period lawman Sano Ichiro. From “Shinju” (1994), the saga has partially overlapped with the reign of fifth shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi — a superstitious eccentric who ruled Japan ...

Yoshitaka Amano: The World Beyond Your Imagination

Jan 10, 2015

Yoshitaka Amano: The World Beyond Your Imagination

by Mike Sunda

Yoshitaka Amano, Illustrations by Yoshitaka AmanoPie Books, Nonfiction. Yoshitaka Amano has cultivated a reputation as one of Japan’s premier character designers for his work on renowned series such as “Vampire Hunter D” and “Final Fantasy.” This book presents a comprehensive retrospective of Amano’s more ...