Reviews

Podcast: The Tale of Genji

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast. Episode 2: The Tale of Genji—The world’s oldest novel. A hero who is a paragon of beauty with an extreme Oedipus complex. (CW: sex, rape, incest, pedophilia.) Support this podcast by buying your copy from Bookshop.org.  Resources: Project Gutenberg: The Tale of Genji. The full on-line text of […]

Podcast: The Kojiki

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast. Episode 1: The Kojiki—Gods having sex, founding of the imperial dynasty, and some of the origins of WWII. Plus thoughts on the role of women in early Japanese history. Support this podcast by buying your copy of The Kojiki from Bookshop.org.  Read the full on-line text of the […]

Review: The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

There is a growing interest in a behavioral phenomenon the Internet has dubbed “main character syndrome”. Whether motivated by narcissism or a healthy sense of self-worth, some people live as though they were the hero in a fictional story and interact with the world around them as though they were its center. The narrator of The […]

Review: Things Remembered and Things Forgotten by Kyoko Nakajima

Things Remembered and Things Forgotten is a collection about memory, but it is also a collection about grief. Gathered from author Kyoko Nakajima’s published work, the stories assembled here speak about loss—of a loved one, of a place, of a culture—and what comes next. More at Asian Review of Books

Review: Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

…Fans of Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami’s first novel published in English in 2020, might be expecting another women-centered narrative. Heaven is radically different. This time, an unnamed male narrator describes his appalling position in the social hierarchy of his junior high school… …But though the graphic bullying is the novel’s context, at its heart is an enduring question: […]

Review: Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

…The narrator offers tantalizing references to other children’s books with magical escapes into other worlds. But the Wolf Queen’s mirror world is fundamentally different. Narnia, Oz, and Wonderland bring adventure to children whose lives are more-or-less ordinary. In Lonely Castle in the Mirror, the villains and challenges the children face are in the real world. It […]

Review: Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki

The stories collected in Terminal Boredom take up themes that might feel familiar to readers of contemporary Japanese fiction. The characters criticize, challenge, or defy social conventions. Narrators raise questions about identity and agency. But unlike, say, Mieko Kawakami or Sayaka Murata, author Izumi Suzuki died more than three decades ago. More at Asian Review of Books

Review: Touring the Land of the Dead by Maki Kashimada

There is certainly no shortage of novels about hotels with complicated histories, but Touring the Land of the Dead is fairly unique in its execution. Natsuko doesn’t mourn for the past or become trapped in the past; her visit to the hotel helps her to escape from her family’s toxicity and move forward with her own life. […]

Review: Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kazuki

By placing the action at a generation’s remove from the actual events, Kuzki blunts some of the harshest edges of the story—and this is one of the novel’s strengths. Soul Lanterns isn’t so much about August 1945 as the trauma it left behind. Nozomi and her friends begin to grow up when they begin to understand the […]

Review: Tono Monogatari by Shigeru Mizuki

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 […]

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