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David Cozy
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Dec 17, 2016
'Absolutely on Music': Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa sit down to talk — and listen
A fan, knowledgeable about an art form in the way that only obsessive fans are, in conversation with a master practitioner of the art in question — that's what Haruki Murakami and conductor Seiji Ozawa have given us in "Absolutely on Music," a series of transcribed conversations between the two...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Sep 24, 2016
Is this the first great Tokyo novel by a non-Japanese writer?
Non-Japanese have written great books about Japan. Almost all of these masterpieces are nonfiction: essays, memoirs, monographs, histories, travel books. One might place, for example, Alan Booth's "The Roads to Sata," Donald Richie's "Ozu," Edward Seidensticker's "Genji Days," and Nicolas Bouvier's "The...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Mar 19, 2016
The human stories lining the Kiso Road
Many — some might say too many — travel writers build their books around a version of themselves. In spite of all the interesting places Paul Theroux visits, for example, the most memorable thing in most of his travel writing is "Paul Theroux." William Scott Wilson, in "Walking the Kiso Road: A Modern-day...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
May 16, 2015
Marathon Japan
Thomas R.H. Havens warns us early in "Marathon Japan" that "the emphasis is on sports history, not the anthropology of running communities or body culture." What this means is that, for the most part, in place of analysis and interpretation we get facts, and those who aren't absolutely besotted with...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Dec 27, 2014
The Strange Library
Haruki Murakami's "The Strange Library" is a short story, not a novel. So why, one might wonder, has it been published as a single volume? Reading the story, two answers suggest themselves. The first is that, though it is short — 58 loosely printed pages of text — Murakami manages to endow...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Nov 29, 2014
Quiet Accomplishment
Minor artists fear — and not without reason — that the ideas and visions of which their art is made are finite. They hesitate to share, therefore, and are jealous of other artists, especially young ones who threaten to supplant them.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Sep 20, 2014
Oh, Tama!
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 been translated into English, philosophical...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Jul 26, 2014
Last Words from Montmartre
Qiu Miaojin tells us that her novel features "a plot that has long since disappeared." That these reflections on narrative are part of "Last Words," the novel they serve to elucidate, and that they are apt, places Qiu's novel squarely at the avant-garde end of the literary spectrum. As such, it will...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
May 17, 2014
Decadence in the time of evil encounters
For most of us the notion of life in a tight-knit village is pure fantasy: We have lived our whole lives in and around cities. One would think, therefore, that we would have grown comfortable with the anonymity and the promiscuous mixing with strangers that define city life. Novels such as Hisaki Matsuura's...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Jan 18, 2014
A True Novel
Like all artists, novelists find the impetus to begin in various places. Some inspire themselves with a formal challenge. Georges Perec, for example, asked himself what would happen if he tried to write a novel entirely bereft of the letter "e." Others, in their doodling and false starts, stumble upon...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Aug 17, 2013
Burying the truth to survive in postwar, modern Japan
It is hardly necessary to note that comics and manga are capable of conveying just about anything. Philosophy? See Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente's Action Philosophers series. Travel? Try Guy Delisle's accounts of his sojourns in tourist hot spots such as Pyongyang and Shenzhen. Memoir? Yoshihiro Tatsumi's...
CULTURE / Books
Aug 10, 2013
Three versions of the 'good wife' in Japan
Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was unusual for a Japanese woman to aspire to be anything other than a "good wife and wise mother"— an aspiration so predominant that the Japanese for it, ryosai kenbo, is a set phrase in the language.
CULTURE / Books
Jul 6, 2013
Loss of innocence in war for a youth looking for some meaning
Koji Obata, the protagonist of Hiroyuki Agawa's novel, tends not to feel strongly about things. He is, however, convinced that this detachment is an aspect of his character that he'd like to change. Early in the novel he decides that "he [is] looking for something he could confront openly, something...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Jun 16, 2013
Humble true tales of a 'good man'
The journals of Kenjiro Setoue, a doctor at a clinic on a small Kyushu island, chronicle a life that is, as the doctor himself notes, for the most part, unexciting. It is difficult to believe that a version of this life has been retold — and, one has to believe, embellished — in an ongoing...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Jun 2, 2013
Wit and wisdom endures in poetry
In considering the collected poems of Nanao Sakaki, one has to deal with a problem: his life. That life, by all accounts a marvelous adventure, threatens even now, more than four years after the adventure's end, to overshadow his work.
CULTURE / Books
May 5, 2013
Exploring a world of all things cute and the people who buy them
'Hello, Cutie!' is a cute book about cute things and the (sometimes cute) people who create those things.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Apr 21, 2013
Views of Japan through Western films
Most readers encountering a book called 'Under Foreign Eyes: Western Cinematic Adaptations of Postwar Japan' will expect it to contain an interesting claim or claims about these Western representations of Japan, and that the claim or claims will be buttressed by sophisticated analysis of the films.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Feb 24, 2013
A compelling entry point for discovering Japanese poets from the postwar era
101 MODERN JAPANESE POEMS, compiled by Makoto Ooka, translated by Paul McCarthy, edited by Janine Beichman. Thames River Press, 2012, 144 pp., $45.00 (hardcover)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Dec 30, 2012
Japanese story anthology shows fiction truly a transnational affair
SPECULATIVE JAPAN 3: "Silver Bullet" and Other Tales of Japanese Science Fiction and Fantasy. Kurodahan Press, 2012, 292 pp., $16 (paperback) One pleasing quality of the third volume of Kurodahan Press's "Speculative Japan" series of anthologies is that it exists at all.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / THE YEAR IN BOOKS
Dec 23, 2012
Seeing the past, humanity afresh
"Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City" (Columbia University Press) by Dung Kai-cheung, translated by Anders Hansson and Bonnie S. McDougall. Lovers of maps, devotees of Borges and Calvino, those who understand that novels need not be first-this-happened-then-that-happened catalogs of events in...

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Father's Day is said to have come to Japan around 1950, shortly after the establishment of Mother's Day.
The evolving nature of fatherhood in Japan