Thursday, October 01, 2009

Introducing Hello Japan! - a mini-challenge about Japan


Introducing Hello Japan!, a monthly mini-challenge* for all things Japanese. Each month there will be a topic and/or activity relating to some aspect of Japanese literature or culture. Each task shouldn't take more than a couple of hours, unless you opt to do more, and is meant to be a fun way to let you experience a little taste of Japan no matter where you live.  A new topic will be posted at the beginning of each month and you'll have the full month to complete it and post about it on your blog. Once you've done so be sure to come back and submit your link into the Mr. Linky for the appropriate month. At the end of the month I'll compile a post to highlight some of the contributions from participants that month. If you don't have a blog but would still like to play along, you can either write about what you did for this month's task in a comment on this post, or you can email me (inspringthedawn AT gmail DOT com) and I'll include it in the wrap-up post at the end of the month.

Oh, and did I mention that each month there will be small prize? Each month a winner will be selected randomly from those that participated in that month's activity.  There's no commitment to join in every month but I hope that you'll enjoy it so much you'll want to participate every month, and perhaps even learn something in the process.

Feel free to grab the button if you'd like but please save it to your own server. Here is a smaller version (200 pixels by 175 pixels) for your convenience. If you would like a different size or need help re-sizing, just let me know.


*Thank you to Dewey's Weekly Geeks, the various Read-a-thon mini-challenges, and Bellezza and her Japanese Literature Challenge for inspiring me, and giving me the motivation to go ahead with this idea. Also thank you to Paperback Reader and Kristen M. for suggesting the name. There were some great ideas but I liked the shortness and catchiness of Hello Japan! Plus, the objective of the mini-challenge is, after all, to introduce Japan so it seemed appropriate.

October's Topic

In many countries in the West, autumn brings with it it a crispness to the air, colourful leaves crunching underfoot, pumpkins and other assorted autumn fare, and especially in North America, Halloween.  The season also seems to inspire a desire to read spooky, atmospheric stories, as fans of Carl's R.I.P. Challenge know very well.

Autumn is a beautiful season in Japan, but Japan doesn't really do Halloween.  Sure, in recent years, you can see Halloween and autumn-themed decorations in some shops, and there may be some adult parties primarily in ex-pat communities, but you're not going to see kids trick-or-treating in your neighbourhood on October 31st.  The Japanese do, however, love their horror movies, and scary stories.  There are plenty of tales of ghosts and the supernatural going back hundreds of years. Summertime is actually the peak season for horror movies in Japan.  Apparently the idea is that watching a frightening, spine-tingling, chilling movie helps cool you down from the oppressive heat and humidity of the Japanese summer.  While it may not be summer anymore, we're going to indulge in some Japanese frights anyway.

October's Task

As this is the first month of the mini-challenge, I thought we'd keep it very flexible.  The task this month is to read or watch something scary, spooky, or suspenseful, and Japanese of course!  You can read a book (for those that like to multi-task, remember that a Japanese spooky read would also count for both the R.I.P. IV Challenge and the Japanese Literature Challenge 3!), but if you don't have time this month for a whole book you can read a short story, a ghostly folktale (there are some available to read online, see below), or a manga.  Or you could watch a movie, or an anime. 

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I'm sure there are plenty of stories and movies out there that I'm not even aware of.

Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Akinari Ueda - Ghost stories and tales of the supernatural.
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn. You can read the stories online.
Out by Natsuo Kirino, or any of her other books.
(The) Ring - the book by Koji Suzuki, the original Japanese movie, or the American remake, or any of the sequels.
Battle Royale - the book by Koushun Takami, the movie starring Takeshi Kitano, or the manga.
Death Note - the manga, the movie, or the anime.

This post of Halloween Manga suggestions might also give you some ideas. Or this list of Thirteen Horror Manga for Halloween. Or this list of J-Horror on wikipedia.

If you're feeling particularly in the mood you could read the book and watch the movie based on the book, or watch the original Japanese movie and the American remake where available, and compare them, or whatever else you feel inspired to do. 

You don't even need to buy, rent, or borrow any of the above. Instead, you could read an article online, like this one about Ghosts, Demons and Spirits in Japanese Lore, and tell us what you learned, or how the Japanese beliefs and superstitions compare to the folklore in your country.

Be creative and, most importantly, have fun! 

October's Prize:

Since we're paying a small homage to Hello Kitty with the name, it seemed only right to have a Hello Kitty prize this month. (Don't worry there will also be plenty of non-Kitty prizes too!) Also, to celebrate the launch of Hello Japan!, and because I couldn't decide, this month we'll have two winners. So, in fitting with the October theme, it's Punk/Gothic Kitty and Halloween Kitty!

One winner will receive this notepad and pen designed by fashion designer h. NAOTO.


And one winner will receive this little bean-bag stuffed Halloween Kitty.
Kawaii desu ne!


Once you've completed the task and posted on your blog, don't forget to come back here to fill out the Mr. Linky below. Please submit the link to the actual post, not just to your top page, and please please please only submit links to posts relating to the Hello Japan! task for this month. All other links will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding!

Hello Japan! October Participants

1. Terri B. (Tip of the Iceberg)
2. Mel U (Ring by Koji Suzuki)
3. Gnoe's Graasland (Dark Water)
4. Velvet (Japanese Female Ghosts)
5. Tineke Schaap
6. We Be Reading (The Cain Saga: Forgotten Juliet)
7. Michelle (Shadow Family - Miyuki Miyabe)
8. Bellezza
9. Claire (Paperback_Reader) Battle Royale film
10. Velvet (Black Hair)
11. Novroz (Natsume Yuujinchou)
12. chasing bawa (Grotesque)
13. Velvet (Woman in the Snow)
14. Velvet (Ring)
15. Natakiya
16. Velvet (Hoichi, the Earless)
17. Lynda (Real world)
18. Travis (Kwaidan)
19. Velvet (In A Cup of Tea)


  1. Can Non-bloggers play? I would love to play, but I don't have a blog....

    rebecca dot cox at charter dot net

  2. Fabulous! I am so excited that you chose Hello Japan for the title.

    I am planning to read Battle Royale this month for RIP IV and Japanese Lit 3 so this is perfect for me; I'll also try to watch the film adaptation.

  3. Serendipitous for me that your topic is what it is, as I wanted to let you know about the latest book from Chin Music Press: it's called "Big in Japan: A Ghost Story."

  4. This looks wonderful! I'm so going to do it...but it'll have to be the second half of the month as I'm off to New Zealand in a few days.

    I'll come back!


  5. What a fun idea this is! I'm so happy you're hosting all of these new ways for us to learn and share with others who have the same interest in Japan. I'm definitely in. I've got Tales of Moonlight and Rain out so I can start it as soon as I finish up my current read.

  6. So glad to see Hello Japan! up and running. I just placed my library hold on a manga title so I'm ready to go. I'll be back with my review in a couple of weeks. :)

  7. I LOVE the button, and this month's theme is perfect! Thank you in particular for the link to the lists of spooky manga. I'm tempted to read one, but then again, I also love Japanese cinema... decisions, decisions :P

  8. Hi Tanabata! I came over from Terri B's and was smacking my head for not discovering your blog earlier. I would love to participate in the "Hello Japan!" mini challenge.

    I've got a couple of books I think that might fit in this month's category pretty well. :D

  9. Tanabata, I'll be reading Uchida Hyakken's Realm of the Dead for Carl's RIP IV, my JLC3, and your Hello, Japan! I'm very excited about learning things from you, and one another, in these monthly mini challenges! Great fun, great idea!

  10. I really love this idea.

    Also, that Halloween Hello Kitty is one of the cutest things I've ever seen!

  11. Yes, this is sooo cool! And Mr Gnoe will love this task as well ;)

    I would like to add a recommendation to your list: Strangers, by Taichi Yamada, is a marvelous ghost story. It is even recommended by the author David Mitchell!

    Now let me think about what to do exactly for this first Hello Japan! mission... Catch you later!

  12. The problem is that the Japanese do scary too well. I find it more disturbing than things from any other country. I have only watched a few bits of Japanese horror, but had to stop after it freaked me out too much.

    I'm afraid I'm going to have to skip this month's challenge - I don't want to have nightmares! I hope you all have fun though!

  13. Hi-I just posted a review of Ring by Koji Suzuki-who has been called the Stephen King of Japan. It is a pretty good horror story set modern Japan. I have listed in in Mr Linky.

  14. LOVE this idea! I'm not sure if I can squeeze in any more books this month (dumb challenge!) :) but maybe I'll watch a movie. Not The Ring, though. That movie still gives me nightmares. Can't wait to see what else you have in store for us.

  15. I don't think I can join in this month. Too many commitments! Please stop by my blog, there is a surprise for you here.

  16. Rebecca - Sure, you can still play. You can write about what you read or watched in a comment here, or you can email me (inspringthedawn at gmail dot com) and I can add it to the wrap-up post at the end of the month.

    Claire - Thanks again for the great suggestion! I'll get your book out to you very soon.

    I've been thinking about possibly reading Battle Royale too either this month or anyway, soon. I saw the film quite a few years ago but don't remember much of the details anymore.

    Teresa - Nice timing! I actually just received an ARC of Big in Japan this week. I was so thrilled when Chin Music Press contacted me. They'd seen my recent review of Goodbye Madame Butterfly and wondered if I'd be interested. But of course! :)

    Aimee - No worries, you've got until the end of the month. I hope you have a fabulous time in New Zealand!

    Terri B. - Well, I'm so happy that people are actually interested in taking part! :)
    I hope you enjoy Tales of Moonlight and Rain, I still remember some of the stories quite clearly.

    Kristen M. - Thanks again for the suggestion on the name. I've contacted you about your prize. :)
    I'm looking forward to seeing which manga you chose.

    Nymeth - Thanks! When H saw it he asked if I really put a hole in the page of our atlas. I think the photo turned out pretty well though and it's only a little hole through Tokyo. ;)
    And hey, you could always do both! :P

    Alice Teh - I'm glad you found your way here, and that you'll be participating. The more the merrier, right?

  17. Bellezza - I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Realm of the Dead. I hope these mini challenges are fun, and maybe even a little educational. :)

    Michelle - It is pretty cute, isn't it? I had fun browsing all the Hello Kitty goods at the character goods shop last week and when I saw that I knew it was the perfect prize for this month.

    gnoegnoe - I can't wait to hear what you've chosen to do for this month's task.
    I actually read Strangers a couple of years ago, and have to admit that I wasn't crazy about it. I'd picked it up based on the cover blurb by David Mitchell! LOL.

    farmlanebooks - I'm sorry you won't be able to join in but I understand. My husband and I don't really do horror either although I don't mind psychological suspense.
    Some of the folktales or ghost stories aren't very scary, more like superstitions. You could always try to read one online if you like, but if not that's ok too. There will be plenty of non-nightmare-inducing tasks in the months to come.

    mel u - Great! The first review! Suzuki does seem to be the master of horror, or at least one of them.

    Trish - I'm a bit swamped with books to read this month too so I know where you're coming from. I'm hoping the read-a-thon helps a bit. I've never actually seen Ring but I've heard it pretty darn scary.

    Gavin - I know all about having too many commitments. I hope you'll be able to join in a future month. And thank you so much for the award!

  18. Great idea - I'm in ;0)

  19. Hi Nat :D

    This is such a great idea !!!

    I will most likely read a short story, I'll see, but I ill do something.

    I hope soon to also join you read along.

    Enjoy your Sunday, hope you have cooler weather, here it became warm again :(

  20. Lynda - Glad to have you! :)

    Sylvie - I look forward to seeing what you choose to read. The weather has been pretty changeable here lately, one day cool, the next warm again, but at least it's generally feeling more like autumn.

  21. Great challenge, too bad i already entered three! :) Enjoy.

  22. Nina - Well maybe you'll have time or be inspired to join in one of the coming months. :)

  23. This is easy. I am so on it. This is awesome. :)

  24. I've been meaning to post on this, and to leave a comment here since the first day I saw this, but just haven't found the time till now.

    I'm definitely joining in this mini-challenge, and also plan to join the book group, and perhaps the read-along.

    Thanks for hosting!

  25. Harry - Glad you like the first task. Looking forward to seeing what you do to complete it. :)

    Michelle - I'm always doing that - meaning to post somewhere but not getting around to it until much later. I'm so glad you'll be joining us for this and some of the reading groups.

  26. My post is up :) Doing the challenge didn't take me a lot of time, but blogging about it did ;)

    Tanabata, the prizes are cute but I am not really a Hello Kitty fan so you can keep me out of the tombola. This time. ;)

  27. Gnoe let me know of this site and I'm thrilled! I already bought the old capital and you made me finally read Out by Natsuo Kirino. Thanks a lot. I'll be watching your site. It's lovely!

  28. Hajimemashite :)

    This sound really interesting!!

    Count me in :) there's always something Japanese in my monthly life coz I love almost everything about Japan.

    Tho October is almost over...I hope I still have something to write before the end of the month.

  29. Tanabata, I just finished Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware. It was such a fascinating book; I felt like I have a better understanding of Japanese feelings now. Come tell me what you think. XO

  30. gnoegnoe - Well, I enjoyed reading your post, so hopefully it was worth it. :)
    No problem, I'll keep your name out for this month's draw. And don't worry, most of the prizes will NOT be Hello Kitty. :)

    mylifeshesaid - Welcome! And thank you. I'm glad Gnoe directed you here, and that you'll be joining us for The Old Capital?

    Novroz - Dozo Yoroshiku :)
    I'm happy to have you join us!

    Bellezza - You're making me want to read this ASAP! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much, I'll be over to check out your review soon.

  31. Oh goodness, I just finished Spiral by Koji Suzuki for RIP IV! Hahaha! Well, it's the sequel to Ring it's not the one used for the film sequels (in both Japanese and Hollywood versions). I think Spiral was used in the other Ring-related movie known as Ring 4 here in the Philippines which I didn't get to see :(

  32. The anime that I choose to review is not entirely spooky but it involve ghost and other supernatural being ...I hope that's okay

  33. Lightheaded - That certainly fits in with this month's Hello Japan! theme. Please feel free to add the link to the Mr. Linky here if you'd like me to include it in the round-up of what everyone did, and to be entered to win the Hello Kitty prizes.

    bokunosekai - Ghosts and supernatural beings are perfectly fine. :)

  34. Here's my 'entry' for the October "Hello Japan!" since I don't have a 'real' blog (I made a mistake by inputting my URL so please forgive me for that and delete it - thanks!):

    I read "Promenade of the Gods" by Koji Suzuki

    When I first started this book, I thought it might be a nod to Murakami, as that is the last name of the main character and there's a husband who disappears at the start of the story. My son disagreed with me and I became less sure of my 'theory' as I read along, but it's still a decent mystery in any case. (It's not 'horror' as is his "Ring," which I've also read the trilogy of and think is better than this book of his.) I enjoyed the characterization of the main female character; and the send-up of the media and how it can be manipulated. Unfortunately, the text contains some sloppy translation and lazy editing.

  35. hello tanabata, while i realize one entry is needed and valid i posted more for just reading pleasure. i'm having a great time with this. thanks. ;-D

  36. Teresa - No problem, I just deleted the link for you. And thanks for participating! I haven't read (or watched for that matter) anything by Koji Suzuki, but I think I've almost convinced myself I need to read Ring. That's too bad that the translation and editing in this one left much to be desired.

    vvb32 reads - More is great! I'm so glad you're having fun with this! I haven't had a chance to read your posts yet but I'll be over soon. Thanks.

  37. I am very excited! Such a wonderful idea and I can't wait :) It's an inspired way to get people to learn more about japanese culture and just what I needed.

    My post about it isn't great, but I loved the reading that I did and learned a lot :) Thank you!!

  38. Natakiya - I'm so glad you were able to participate and that you enjoyed the reading you did and even learned some in the process. And your post was great! :)

  39. mylifeshesaid - BTW, I couldn't find a way to comment on your livejournal blog (is it possible to allow Open ID?), but hopefully you or gnoegnoe will see this.

    To reply to your wondering about the way people live in Japan, sadly it really is that hectic, and also can be that lonely. Gnoegnoe is right in that people only usually get 2 weeks of holiday a year, and not together. One week is in the spring, the other week in summer, and a few days off for New Years. It's a nation of workaholics, and a lot of it is down to social pressures.

    As for looking balanced on the outside, that may be but I would assume the loneliness is hidden inside. People tend not to show their personal emotions here. It's all about maintaining a certain image that is expected. There's a good reason isolation and loneliness is a common theme in modern JLit.


Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I love hearing from you and I read every single one!

P.S. In an effort to eliminate spam, I moderate all comments, so there will most likely be a delay between when you submit the comment and when it appears on the post. Please let me know if you have any trouble leaving comments here, and you can also chat with me on Twitter, if you prefer. Happy Reading!