Thursday, December 27, 2007

Japan Challenge wrap-up

For the last 2 years I've set myself a personal challenge to read more Japanese Literature. In 2006 I read 9 books by Japanese authors and this year I decided to keep track on my blog, setting myself a goal of 12 books. I didn't quite make it but I'm still pleased with some of the reading I did do.

Books completed:
1. The Bridegroom was a dog - Yoko Tawada
2. The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
3. All She Was Worth - Miyuki Miyabe
4. Zen Buddhism - D.T. Suzuki
5. Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata
6. The Dancing Girl of Izu and other stories - Yasunari Kawabata

I also read 3 books by non-Japanese writers, set in, or about Japan, which I think should count too, since my interest is in all things Japanese, not only Japanese authors.
7. Hitching Rides with Buddha - Will Ferguson
8. Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne - Ben Hills
9. Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan - Lafcadio Hearn

So all together I figure 9 out of 12 isn't too bad.

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
Easily The Makioka Sisters. I really enjoyed this one and it'll be in my Top 5 for the year.

Book(s) I could've done without?
Unfortunately I could've done without The Bridegroom was a dog which I just found a bit too bizarre for my taste, and Zen Buddhism since a fair portion of it was simply beyond me and made me feel a bit discouraged about ever understanding Zen Buddhism. I also wasn't crazy about All She Was Worth, but I'd been noticing her books in the bookshops for ages so it was still worth trying one.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
All the authors were new to me! The ones I'd most like to read more from are Junichiro Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, and Will Ferguson. I'd also like to read more of Lafcadio Hearn's writings on Japan, specifically the old myths and ghost stories.

Best thing about the challenge? What did I learn?
That there are so many more books by Japanese or about Japan that I'd like to read!
Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge has helped get me back in the groove and even when her challenge ends early next year, I plan to continue reading Japanese Literature whenever I have the chance. Instead of setting a specific goal though next year I'm going to treat it more like a long-term personal project. I'll post more about this again in the New Year.


  1. I would say you completed the Japanese Literature Challenge and then some! I love setting personal goals for myself and accomplishing them, so congratulations for readign all that you did in your goal. I'm very glad to have your input on the worthy Japanese books since I know next to nothing about thme. Many ideas are so new to me: you describe a bit of the Zen Buddahism being unfamiliar; in my readings of Japanese work I'm coming across so many authors who express the idea of destiny and fate (which is not something I believe in). For me, I put my faith in God and trust Him to direct my path. I guess our faith plays a large part in our literature, or understanding of it. I'm so glad to have your blog, your knowledge, your interest in Japan (books and photography, food and beauty). Thanks, Tanabata.

  2. Bellezza- You're welcome and thanks! I'm so thrilled that you're interested in Japanese Literature too lately. I think what you say about faith showing up in the literature is very true. And I would like to understand the thoughts and beliefs behind it better. See there's simply no end to the books I'd like to read about Japan! ;)

  3. I loved, loved, loved The Makioka Sisters, and if I had an all-time favorite book list, it would certainly be on it. Glad you liked it too!

  4. Gentle Reader- It was a great book! I'm going to have to try to read something else by Tanizaki this year.

  5. Tanabata word of caution - be careful with L Hearn's writings. They are notorious for being Caucasionized (if that word doesnt exist it should). I encourage you reading them for he is important but not as an accurate source of Japanese history or literature. (My source is valid - my degree in Jap Lit had all my professors shove this into our brains). I am just passing it on.

    Enjoy the read. I recommend some Fukuzawa biography if early meiji interests you...

  6. Nessie- Nice to 'see' you!! I'd wondered where you disappeared to.
    Thanks for the word of caution about Lafcadio Hearn. I'm just reading these books on my own so it's good to get input about which ones aren't as authentic. I'll have to look up Fukuzawa, thanks.


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