Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda

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. Continue reading at Asian Review of Books…

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

A Woman’s Ambiguous Place in Japan’s Creation Myth To appreciate The Goddess Chronicle, you need to be familiar with The Kojiki, the oldest recorded mythical origin story of Japan. (Kirino provides a good summary in part II, chapters 5-6.) In The Kojiki, the first anthropomorphic gods are Izanami (She Who Beckoned) and Izanagi (He Who Beckoned). They quicklyContinue reading “The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino”

Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami and A Man by Keiichiro Hirano

The Evaporated People in Contemporary Japanese Literature Each year in Japan, thousands of people disappear. They haven’t been kidnapped. They haven’t been murdered. (Japan has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. An American is almost twenty-seven times more likely to become a homicide victim.) They are the evaporated—the johatsu. First, let’s acknowledge that theContinue reading “Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami and A Man by Keiichiro Hirano”

ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino and Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Cannibalism in Two Contemporary Japanese Novels Like many other countries, Japan has its own body of folklore with cannibalistic monsters. For more than a thousand years, demonic female yamauba have roamed Japan’s mountains, assisting some travelers, eating others. The connotations of cannibalism in Japanese folklore are always negative. Today, cannibalism is a quietly contentious political issue inContinue reading “ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino and Earthlings by Sayaka Murata”

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl by Tomihiko Morimi

“Hooray for God’s plot conveniences! Namu-namu!” … The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is an essentially simple story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy chases girl. Girl is oblivious. Simple. Until you add in the triple-decker train, a tengu demon, and the God of Used Book Fairs. As in Morimi’s other novel published inContinue reading “The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl by Tomihiko Morimi”

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Or, What the Hell Is a Double Metaphor? “I am a Metaphor, nothing more… I only follow orders—acting as a link between phenomena and language. Like a helpless jellyfish adrift on the ocean.”—Long Face … As in many novels by Haruki Murakami, 2017’s Killing Commendatore doesn’t have an obvious antagonist. Yes, there are characters with ominous secrets,Continue reading “Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami”


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