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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Read up on books about books about Japan

Sep 27, 2014

Read up on books about books about Japan

by Kris Kosaka

Revving up the metabolism of culture with the pulse of new artistic voices, a good literary journal doesn’t usually have much to do with profit — it’s all about circulation. Japanese literary journals enjoy a healthy transmission here, thanks to the financial backing of ...

Studio Ghibli inspires endless adaptations

Sep 20, 2014

Studio Ghibli inspires endless adaptations

by Ian Martin

As one of the most important and acclaimed animation studios in not only Japan but the world, it’s unsurprising that Studio Ghibli has also inspired a wealth of printed material. Helen McCarthy’s “Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation” about the studio’s most celebrated director ...

Oh, Tama!

Sep 20, 2014

Oh, Tama!

by David Cozy

Mieko Kanai, a prize-winning poet, eminent critic and author of experimental fiction that evokes comparisons to the works of Borges and Kafka, has also, in her “Mejiro” series, produced a series of novels notably lighter in tone. In these books, two of which have ...

A world of fear for Japan's  shut-ins

Sep 13, 2014

A world of fear for Japan's shut-ins

by Tim Hornyak

Several years ago, a vogue of interest in shut-ins, or hikikomori, saw researchers from France touring Japan and meeting reclusive youths. Such was the prevalence of the disorder, said psychologist Nicolas Tajan, that “if you ask people in Japan about hikikomori, almost everyone will ...

Veteran Tokyo editor turns his mind to crime

Sep 6, 2014

Veteran Tokyo editor turns his mind to crime

by Mark Schreiber

“Japan has her secrets, as you well know,” a Kyoto art dealer named Takahashi tells American Jim Brodie. “Many are open secrets. We Japanese are aware of them, are ashamed of them, and don’t speak of them often, if ever. Our embarrassing moments remain, ...

The Journey

Sep 6, 2014

The Journey

by Michael Hoffman

On most lists of great 20th-century Japanese writers, Jiro Osaragi’s name does not figure. He was popular and respected in his own day (1898-1973), mostly as a writer of historical fiction, but literary immortality has eluded him. So? The Journey, Jiro Osaragi, Translated by ...