Shigeru Mizuki’s Tono Monogatari has a complicated lineage. During Japan’s rapid modernization in the early 20th century, a man named Kunio Yanagita set out to preserve Japan’s cultural heritage of magic and the supernatural. Along the way, he met a young writer, Kizen Sasaki. Together they traveled Japan’s Tono region, today about five hours northeast of Tokyo […]
In Translation from Japanese: The Emissary by Yoko Tawada (also published as The Last Children of Tokyo) Granta 127 “Breakfast” by Toshiki Okada Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure by Hideo Furukawa March Was Made of Yarn ed. Elmer Luke and David Karashima “Box Story” by Tetsuya Akikawa “The Charm” by Kiyoshi […]
On March 11, 2011, the 9.0-magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a powerful tsunami that swept the Tohoku region in Northeastern Japan. Residents had less than ten minutes to flee from a 133-foot wave that rushed to shore at speeds up to 435 miles an hour. The earthquake also triggered three meltdowns at the nearby […]
The narrative that most Japanese embrace (or imagine they share) broke down; none of these “common values” proved the least effective in warding off the evil violence that erupted under us. —Haruki Murakami, Underground New Religions and the Aum Affair “New Religion” (“new religious movements” or NRM) is a nebulous term for religions founded in […]
The unnamed narrator in Tsumura Kikuko’s There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job quits a job she loves after developing “burnout syndrome”. Her first career (the reader won’t find out what it was until the novel’s final pages) has sucked up “every scrap of energy” she had. She asks a recruiter to find her an […]
People from My Neighborhood is a book about relationships. Kawakami Hiromi’s collection of micro-fiction, itself only 120-pages long, is about the members of the close-knit community in an exurban Tokyo town. For a volume of short stories, the relationships between characters are remarkably strong. Two and three pages at a time, the reader begins to see […]
Kiki, a thirteen-year-old witch in training, leaves her rural village for a bustling seaside town. With her, she takes only a bento lunchbox, a radio, and her black cat Jiji. She travels by broom, of course. Broom flight is the only magic Kiki has. Western audiences may know Kiki from the massively popular, heavily-lauded 1989 […]
Asa’s husband has just been transferred, so the couple moves into his parents’ rental house, next door to her in-laws. When they move, Asa must quit her job, but “it’s not really the kind of job that’s worth holding on to” anyway. A coworker assumes Asa must be thrilled to become a housewife. She will be […]
Angry women hold a special place in Japanese folklore. Many of Japan’s best-known tales are about “vengeful ghosts”, almost always women, who wreak havoc on the living for some perceived wrong. Where the Wild Ladies Are recasts such classic ghost stories for a contemporary audience. Matsuda Aoko reinvents these women, highlighting the strength of will that […]
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