“Kuhaku & Other Accounts From Japan” was one of the first books released by Chin Music Press, an independent publisher that has produced some of the best collections of contemporary literature from Japan over the past decade or so.

Kuhaku & Other Accounts From Japan
Various, Edited by Bruce Rutledge.

In addition to the motley selection of essays, late-night rants about online expat complaints and enlightening reviews of canned coffee included in the 224-page book written by multiple contributors, designer Craig Mod has lent his own personal touch to the finished product, binding the cover in Icelandic cloth and adding an illustrated glossary at the end that explains such things as irasshaimase (an honorific expression of welcome — “sometimes the whole staff seems to be yelling it”) and nihongo jōzu desu ne (you speak Japanese well — as in, “when you stop hearing this sentence, your Japanese is good”). It’s this extra attention to detail that gives the anthology its own personality, inviting readers to feel as if they are also part of the project. You’re invited in as an observer, and left to take away what you want.

And if you happen to need a bit of extra encouragement to get involved, there’s even a list of places that tells you where the contents of Kuhaku were created — locations that include the Tokyo Regional Immigration Office in Shinagawa and “a totally wacky (but very delicious) Russian restaurant” in Jinbocho. While it’s perhaps a little cliched to say the anthology has something for everyone, in this particular case it’s a cliche that works.

Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at jtimes.jp/essential.

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