There’s still time to order presents for Christmas — if you live in Japan, that is, where there is no noticeable pre-Dec. 25 rush. And what better way to spend the coronavirus-tainted festive period than curled up under the kotatsu heater with a good book or three? If Japan-related reads are your thing, or if you think they might interest a loved one, here are some ideas:
- In his book “Finding the Heart Sutra,” Alex Kerr breaks down the ancient Buddhist text character by character to reveal why the sutra has remained influential for over 1,000 years. “You can see it as a poem, as a great philosophy, as a Zen meditation, as a mystical path, as a spiritualist power, but you could also see it as a joke,” Kerr tells J.J. O’Donoghue.
- For more than six decades, Kazuo Odachi had a secret: At the age of 17, he became a kamikaze pilot, one of thousands of young Japanese men tasked to give their lives in last-ditch suicide missions near the end of World War II. Recently he finally broke his silence, penning “Memoirs of a Kamikaze,” which is also now out in English. Ben Dooley spoke to Odachi for The New York Times.
- “The Cat and the City” author Nick Bradley couldn’t have predicted that his fiction debut would be a vibrant love letter to Tokyo, writes Florentyna Leow. Bradley’s 15 short stories brim with details of everyday life that he absorbed during his years in Japan. “There’s no such thing as wasted living,” he says. “Every experience in life, good or bad, is something to learn from and put towards your fiction writing.”
- Readers of Karen Hill Anton’s JT column Crossing Cultures, which ran from 1990 to 1999, are undoubtedly familiar with her life in Japan, where she has lived since 1975. In her memoir “The View From Breast Pocket Mountain,” Anton delves into her unplanned travels across the globe and reveals a trove of insights about living life in far-flung places, writes Nache Buie.
- None of the above float your boat? In that case, here are the top reads released in English last year, according to six JT book reviewers, spanning everything from fiction to works on Japanese design and even sex work. And all they just so happen to all be written by women (the books, not the reviews).