Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More input needed, suggest a name, and win a book!

Thanks for the positive response to my last post about perhaps starting up a couple of Japan-related blog events here. If you missed the previous post and you're not sure what I'm talking about, go ahead now and read it. I'll wait....

Ok, so now that we're all on the same page... based on the initial response I've decided to try getting both the monthly Japan-related mini-challenge and the reading group/read along group running. I thought that since there is some interest for both, I might as well try and then I can always tweak things as we go along and find out what works and what doesn't. So I've thought a bit about the logistics and I'd love to know what you think. I'm completely open to ideas so do let me know if you think something might work better.

For the first group, the Japan-related mini-challenges, that will cover all variety of topics, I'm thinking to go ahead with a monthly topic that will be announced on the first of each month. Then whoever wants to join in will have a full month to do that month's task, post about it on their blog, and submit the link. At the end of the month I'll post a wrap-up post to highlight some of the blog posts submitted. The structure would be very much like Weekly Geeks except monthly instead of weekly.

The main problem is that I can't for the life of me think up a good name! So I'd like to ask your help. We need a name that would work for anything Japanese related, both literature and other things like film, traditional customs, etc.
The only thing I came up with was "Discovering Japan" which fits in with my "Reading Japan" label, but that's not a requirement, and it's not terribly exciting. Then jokingly I thought of "Let's Japan!" since there's so much incorrect English usage here but it's probably both condescending and not a good idea to propagate bad grammar. (No need to point out that my grammar isn't always perfect either!)  So please get your thinking caps on and suggest a name. And for a little motivation, if we end up using it for the monthly event, I'll buy you the Japanese literature book of your choice (from The Book Depository).

For the reading group, I think I'll go ahead with a bi-monthly group read, with any read-alongs running concurrently. I'm assuming (maybe incorrectly?) that most people won't join in both the current book group choice and the read-along at the same time, but even if they want to I think it would still be doable. I know I plan to.  My idea is that the schedules of the two would be independent of each other. So, for example, if we start the book group next month, we would have two months in which to read the book on our own and then we would convene sometime around the end of November to discuss the book. The next selection would then be discussed two months after that. The read along would probably last for 2, 3, 4 months depending on the length of the book. As an example, I Am a Cat was originally published in 3 volumes so that could be pretty easily divided into 3 months, or even longer if people wanted. In that scenario I'd probably post an update for each section, therefore a post a month. The books haven't been chosen yet, this is just to give an example.

So I have a couple of questions.

1) Would you prefer to have the reading group discussion on the same day every two months (ie. November 25th, January 25th, etc.), or the same day of the week (such as the last Friday of the month in question)? And equally would you prefer the discussion to be near the beginning, middle or end of the month. I've given examples at the end but that's not at all set in stone.

2) Here are the suggestions so far of books to read (click on the covers to read the blurbs at Amazon):
A Quiet Life by Kenzaburo Oe
The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki

I think the last two would probably be better as read-alongs since they're both on the long side. Are you interested in reading, or discussing any of those? Are there any others you'd like to suggest? I can put up a poll, or else we can just decide informally this time for the first book(s) but then have proper submissions later once we get rolling.

I also don't really have any creative name ideas for the reading group, but figure we can always just go with something typical, like these possibilities:
Reading Japan Book Group (I'll probably keep the "Reading Japan" label that I've been using so far as the overall category with each reading event a sub-category).
Japanese Literature Reading Group (The reason I originally went with "Reading Japan" for my own perpetual reading project was because I also read books about Japan by non-Japanese authors, but we'd probably be reading Japanese authors for the most part for the group, right?)

However, the same goes here, if you can think up a better name for the reading group that we end up using, I'll treat you to a Japanese literature book of your choice.

For the read-alongs I'd probably just use the book's title, like the I Am a Cat Read-along. And once the names are all decided on I'll make up some buttons.

As for the short story feature I mentioned in the previous post, I'd still like to try it but I think I'll wait a couple of months and then try to incorporate it in with the general reading group, perhaps choosing a specific collection to read through week by week.

I've never hosted a reading group or a mini-challenge or anything before so I really do appreciate your input.  I look forward to reading some great books, and discussing all things Japan with you.


  1. "On Rice Paper" or "Climbing Mt. Fuji" (every task gets you to a rest stop on Mt. Fuji)


  2. Hmm, what about something as similarly straightforward as 'Reading Japan' like 'Journey to Japan' or 'Journeying to Japan'? It covers all Japanese experiences and we are metaphorically (albeit not in your case!) transporting ourselves there; it's also alliterative and I do like alliteration.

    The only other one I can come up with is Hello Japan, making a not very obvious play on Hello Kitty.

    I would prefer discussing the book on the same date each month (easier to remember) and mid or end of month.

  3. For the mini-challenges, how about Hello Japan! (like Hello Kitty!)?

    The two month allowance for the discussion group sounds great. I wouldn't have any preference on the time of month but would probably prefer a set day of the week versus a date. I am definitely interested in The Housekeeper and the Professor but honestly would try any book you choose because I haven't read anything set in Japan and just need to try it!

  4. Ok, here are a couple to ponder.
    Joys of Japan
    Japanese Junkets (not sure how to spell that!)

    rebecca dot cox at charter dot net

  5. How about using a Japanese name/word? The first one that came to mind was Harajuku Lovers but Gwen Stefani may have problems with that...Maybe something like "Talking Teppenyaki" or "The Kabuki Club" or "Sensei Selections"

    melacan at hotmail dot com

  6. I have a title idea for the mini-challenges: "Under the Lantern Japan Lies" a bit too long, but my other entry would be "Under Cherry blossoms' gaze". I hope they do work.

    I would so love to be part of the reading group, but finding the reads would be a killer. I am in for the mini-challenges though.

  7. I would personally prefer to see us read as a group for our first work
    either "The Old Capital" (this would be a reread for me which is fine) or the "Wind Up Bird Chronicles"

    maybe Trans-Japan Studies as a group name??-

  8. I vote for I Am A Cat for our first book group book :D. (Professor and Housekeeper has been read by many people so I'd think we should pick something a little less "mainstream"..)

    I think it's very possible that people that join the book group also join the Japan activities thingy (I'm thinking to anyway).

    I can't think of great names for now, but I'll come back with some hopefully.

  9. This sounds like a great idea! I think it could work either having it a certain date or on an end Friday of the month. For some people, a set date might be easier to remember, though.

    Names? I fail at those XD haha. So I'm not really much help there. Sorry ):

  10. Tried to work out a few names for the Japan mini-challenges.
    Some short Japanese-y ones:
    - Go Japan! (in the spirit of your Let's Japan! :)
    - Japan no Tomodachi
    - Nippon Love
    - JapanFan
    - Japan Jest

    Some longer ones: (perhaps work better with your Reading Japan tag)
    - Culturally Japanese
    - Searching Japan
    - Loving Japan
    Now that I think about it, your 'Discovering Japan' might work better..

  11. Another one I thought of last night is The Fusion Project as it is fusing together different challenges as well as our disparate cultures.

    I vote for I am a Cat for the first read-along too :).

  12. How about being very literal in the name? Japan is supposed to be named after the sun, or "Land of the Rising Sun". Though maybe that is a little too 70s rock!

    I only just read your two posts and think tha is a lovely idea. I would very much like to be involved in Japanese discussions, though I don't know how often I would be able to commit every month/2-months to a reading group. I have so many books on the go as it is. Though I am a Cat is one of the books on my shelf, so I could be persuaded to join the first readalong if that gets chosen! Looking forward to some upcoming Japanese related posts :)

  13. You've had some great ideas for names so far, thank you! I think I have a favourite but I'm going to keep you in suspense a little longer.

    Since quite a few of you are in favour of reading I Am a Cat, let's go ahead with that one as our first read-along.

    For the regular book group, at the moment I'm leaning towards The Old Capital since a couple of you mentioned wanting to discuss it with others and it does seem one that would be great to talk about in a group.

    I should have a post up sometime this weekend to launch both reading groups, so if there's something you'd like to have your say on before I post dates and whatnot, please let me know.

    Cara - Or every task gets you closer to the top! ;)

    Paperback Reader - I do like alliteration too for these kinds of things. Hello Japan is also a nice idea.

    Kristen M. - You and Paperback Reader were on the same wavelength! At the moment I'm leaning towards having a specific date but even if I do go ahead with that the discussion will be open for as long as people want to chat about the book, so it'll be no problem to stop by later.

    ccqdesigns - I'm pretty sure that is the way to spell 'junkets'. :)

    Pam - LOL. I wonder if she's put a copyright on the name of the song.

    Harry - Those are both very poetic! Maybe you'll manage to get your hands on some of the books, but even if not I'm glad you'll be joining in the monthly mini-challenges group.

    mel - It sounds like The Old Capital would be a good one to discuss in a group! I just ordered a copy of it today.

    mee - One reason I thought of choosing a mainstream book for the first one is that way even people who have already read it could join in, but you're right, on the other hand it might be more interesting to try something not as well known.

    And thanks for all the suggestions for names! :)

    Faith Adeline - I'm terrible at naming things too, which is why I asked for help. But no worries, thanks for you input and interest. :)

    mariel - I know it's hard to commit to a book group but I hope people will feel welcome to join in when they can. And yes, I think we're going with I Am a Cat for the first read-along so dust off your copy! :)

  14. Why thank you. I do write poetry, so I am very flattered. *smiles*

    I am super excited that you would start these features.

  15. I'd say your ideas are pretty solid. It turns out your good at planning and organizing, Tabanata :)

    I've already reviewed A Quiet Life and The Old Capital, so I'd love to discuss more about the book with the group. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is a thick book and I often feel daunted to start with it, so if it gets selected for the read-along then that would just be great. Something to inspire me :)

    I'm not so good with names myself, but I'll try to think of one :)

  16. I misread about the book group and the readalong. I just realized that they're two separate events that run concurrently. Yea it would be pretty hard to join both. But it all depends on the selection of books (for me).

    I agree with you. I think we should have a mix selection of mainstream and more obscure books so everybody could feel included. And I'm guessing you may get more participants with the mainstream books -- which is good.

  17. I would be very interested to join in with I Am a Cat, but first will have to check around what date you're looking into, as I have a read-along for all the remaining months of the year, and then Proust in November on top of that. I'll check in on the discussion here. Thanks for organizing this! :)

  18. 1. I think the same day of the week vs. same date! I'm neutral towards when in the month it falls, although my sister's birthday is very early February and it always sneaks up on me! So maybe later would be better :)

    2. I'm most interested in The Housekeeper and the Professor. The Old Capital has me torn-Kyoto's the city I find most fascinating in Japan (and the one I'd visit if I could only visit one!), but I didn't like the anttitude towards women in Snow Country at all. Still, I'd be willing to give him another try! A Quiet Life sounds a bit po-mo for my usual reading tastes, but I bet it'd make for some great discussion. :)

    As for names, I think there have already been more than enough suggested!

  19. I would love to start with The Pillowbook since I need to read that for the end of this year anyway :)

    I don't think I prefer any specific time in the month for discussion (it would just be handy if it is a moment that can easily remembered), except that the bookcrossing 24 hour read-a-thon is usually in the last week of the month so then it is reading time instead of blogging time ;) But I am in a different time zone anyway so that might prove a problem altogether.

    Now, some name suggestions...

    Bookgroup: Japan Monogatari (or Nippon Monogatari, or Reading Monogatari)

    Mini-challenge: Nippon Mission / Sakura Sessions / Enjoying Japan (sounds a lot like ccqdesigns suggestion Joys of Japan ;)

    I am looking forward to your decisions! AND to all the fun :))

  20. I like gnoegnoe's suggestion: Sakura Sessions, it sounds chic :)

  21. This looks like something I'd enjoy participating in, although probably not every month (due to time, etc).

    You have a lot of good suggestions already, but how about a title that includes an Japanese word? What is the Japanese word for "books"? Maybe that?

  22. Oh this is so exciting. I'm sorry I'm late to the posts about your upcoming project - just been a crazy week! :)

    I don't know but I'm really loving "Hello Japan". But there are lots of great suggestions.

    I don't know how active I can be with both but I've never tried a read-a-long so I will definitely try my hardest to join in, whichever book gets chosen (although I'm sort of rooting for a Murakami one :)

  23. Harry - Well, you're very welcome! I'm so glad that people are excited about these ideas.

    Mark David - Thanks. :)
    You've made me want to read both A Quiet Life and The Old Capital, so I ended up adding both to a book order this week! I think the reading group will be bad for my wallet!
    I know exactly what you mean about needing some inspiration to read those thick books as I'm the same.

    mee - Yeah, I don't expect most people to read both current book selections although of course anyone can if they want to! But I thought doing just one or the other would mean only 6 or less books a year. This way there is more choice and people can join in the ones they want to. I hope it works!

    claire - I'm thinking of starting the I Am a Cat Read-along in November and running through to January, but you could definitely start later and just join in when you can. I hope you can fit it in. The more the merrier, right?

    Eva - I know what you mean about days sneaking up on you!
    I love Kyoto and completely agree that if you could only choose one city in Japan to visit, it should be Kyoto!
    I'm looking forward to reading The Housekeeper and the Professor too, but whichever books we read as a group, I hope we have some good discussions. :)

    gnoegnoe - The time zone isn't a problem at all. It would be too difficult to try and get everyone together online at the same time to discuss the book in real time. Once I put up the post about the book, you'll be able to comment on it anytime.
    I think the read-along will be near the middle of the month and the reading group will be near the end of the month. I hope that won't conflict with your read-a-thon too much.
    And thanks for all the suggestions for names!

    Valerie - I hope you'll join in whenever you can.
    Thanks for your suggestion. The Japanese for book(s) is "hon", like in "Nihon" or "Honda", but I haven't been able to think of a name incorporating it. I really am terrible at naming things though!

    Iliana - No need to apologize, I always seem to be behind on reading blog posts myself.
    I'd love for you to join in when you can! And we'll definitely have to do a Murakami book at some point. :)

  24. What about those:
    Traveling Japan
    Touring Japan


    Japan, Baby!
    Nippon, Baby!
    (in loving memory of the London episodes of Friends ;-) )...

  25. Kathrin - Ah, good ol' Friends! And how about when Joey does the Japanese commercial for blue lipstick? :P

  26. LOL The blue lipstick... I almost forgot that episode - time to watch the show again ;-)

    How about "Blue Lipstick" Chronicles?

  27. Kathrin - LOL. It was such a funny show.

  28. Definitely :-)
    The only show I managed to watch all episodes of within two weeks LOL

  29. Kathrin - All 10 seasons in two weeks? Wow! That's impressive! :)

  30. Yep, all 10 seasons :-D I didn't do much else during those two weeks, though...


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