Monday, December 19, 2011

Virtual Advent Tour: Christmas in Japan (Photo Edition)

Virtual Advent Tour 2011
It's hard to believe that this is our last Christmas in Japan. I've taken part in the Virtual Advent Tour for the last couple of years so even though we're in the midst of sorting, packing, throwing out, and all the other craziness that comes with moving in just over two weeks (two weeks!) I couldn't let the year pass without joining in again. So, to keep it simple, here is a taste of what Christmas looks like in Tokyo this year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: November links

Hello Japan!

Thanks to everyone who took part in the last Hello Japan! mini-challenge for this year. November's task was to share five Japanese favourites. Click on the links to find out more about everyone's favourite books, TV shows and much more.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hello Japan! Goodbye Japan!

As our move across the ocean gets closer, I can't help thinking about all the things that I'll miss about Japan, and equally those things I Won't Miss. So for the last (at least for a little while) Hello Japan! mini-challenge, which asked us to share some Japanese favourites, I thought I'd share some of them with you.

sakura
Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Tokyo

Saturday, December 03, 2011

JLit Book Group Discussion: '1Q84' by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Original title: 1Q84 (ichi-kyu-hachi-yon)
Book One & Two originally published in Japan in 2009, Book Three in 2010. English translation released in October 2011.
Book One & Two translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin; Book Three translated by Philip Gabriel
Longlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize
The year is 1984. Aomame sits in a taxi on the expressway in Tokyo.
Her work is not the kind which can be discussed in public but she is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. She agrees, but as a result of her actions starts to feel increasingly detached from the real world. She has been on a top-secret mission, and her next job will lead her to encounter the apparently superhuman founder of a religious cult.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Kokoro' by Natsume Sōseki (JLit Book Group)

Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki
Original title: こころ (kokoro)
Translated from the Japanese by Meredith McKinney
Fiction, Published in Japan in 1914
(new English translation, 2010)
Penguin Classics, 234 p.
No collection of Japanese literature is complete without Natsume Soseki's Kokoro, his most famous novel and the last he completed before his death. Published here in the first new translation in more than fifty years, Kokoro--meaning "heart"-is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man and an enigmatic elder whom he calls "Sensei".

Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student's struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Salon: Is there such a thing as too much hype? ( + giveaways old and new)

So like many people, I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's latest book to appear in English translation, 1Q84. After waiting about two and a half years since Book One and Two were published in Japan in May 2009 (and Book Three which followed in April 2010), at last all three Books were released in English translation late last month.

Murakami fans all over the world were impatiently waiting and there was some serious hype in the lead-up to the publication date. Quite impressive for a book in translation, there were some stores that even had midnight openings to cope with the demand! And it's very long story too at around 1000 pages between the three books.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: September and October links

Hello Japan!

The Hello Japan! mini-challenge for September and October was When One Isn't Enough, a double dose, and the task was to compare two works or other elements of Japanese literature, culture, or entertainment.. Thank you to the two of you who took part... twice each! Click on the links below to read their posts.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Hello Japan! November mini-challenge: Five Favourites

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

There's just something about Kyoto...

Kyoto Gosho
Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace)
I can't believe it's November already! My apologies for disappearing yet again. These last couple of months have just completely slipped away from me! Sick for most of September plus a trip to Canada, and more recently a few days in Kyoto. Plus we're also in the midst of preparations, and the oh-so-fun bureaucracy involved with a big international move. It really has been a busy time but I feel bad that the blog has been so dormant lately. Sigh.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Across the sea and back again


East Sooke Park
East Sooke Park, September 2011

So sorry for my long absence here. If you wondered where I disappeared to over the last while, a combination of illness and travel is what has kept me away from the blog for about a month. (I swear, where does the time go?) I was struck down by a nasty flu halfway through Book Blogger Appreciation Week (which made me sad that I couldn't participate fully), and then came my annual trip "home" to Victoria. I hadn't quite got over the flu by then and it decided to follow me to Canada where it turned into a lung infection. So fun! (Not really!) But even though I was a bit under the weather the whole time I was there, I still had a great time visiting with friends and family, some of which I hadn't seen for a few years! Now I'm back in Japan, mostly over the jetlag (and the lung infection), and getting back in the swing of things.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop (October 15 to 19)

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop October 2011

It's time for another Literary Giveaway Blog Hop! The one held in June was a big success so when Judith suggested a fall version, I knew I had to join in again. Since we'll be moving soon, I'm offering some books that have been in my giveaway box for a while. Better to send them to new homes than take them with me, right?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

BBAW: Reading and blogging, blogging and reading

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

The topic for Day 4 is all about the reason we blog in the first place, because of the books! I know for me, being able to share this love of reading with others is one of the best things about book blogging.

Monday, September 12, 2011

BBAW: Interview with Iris from Iris on Books


I missed the deadline to sign up for the BBAW Interview Swap but when I mentioned this on Twitter over the weekend, Iris kindly offered to be my partner. So today I have the pleasure of sharing with you the chat we had during the last couple days. We've divided it into two halves: the first half is over at Iris on Books, the second half is here. So if you haven't yet read the first part, be sure to head over to read Part One of our Interview, then come back here for Part Two.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Community Spirit


Book Blogger Appreciation Week begins today, a week-long celebration of everyone who blogs about books. This year's theme is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers, and each day there is a different topic to discuss. Today we are focusing on the members that make up this great community.

I never really know what to say exactly for these kinds of posts since I love the wide variety of blogs out there, and all the wonderful people who work so hard on them. Book bloggers are some of the nicest people you'll find online and each and every one of you is a valued member of this community. Whether you blog about classics, or literature in translation, or non-fiction, or poetry, or YA, or audio books, or kidlit, or... you get the idea. Whether you blog every day, or once a month. Whether you're just starting out, or have been around for a while (cough). The thing that draws us all together is our shared love of books.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

JLit Preview: 'Kokoro' by Natsume Sōseki (+ JLit Book Group Schedule Change)

Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki
Original title: こころ (kokoro)
Translated from the Japanese by Meredith McKinney
Fiction, Published in Japan in 1914
(new English translation, 2010)
Penguin Classics, 234 p.
No collection of Japanese literature is complete without Natsume Soseki's Kokoro, his most famous novel and the last he completed before his death. Published here in the first new translation in more than fifty years, Kokoro--meaning "heart"-is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man and an enigmatic elder whom he calls "Sensei".

Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student's struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Six Months Later

I remember exactly where I was on September 11th, 2001 when the planes hit the twin towers in New York. I was in our apartment in Tsunashima (we lived in Yokohama then) watching TV in bed (the 9 o'clock evening news was almost finished). We saw the second plane hit on live TV, and we guessed that this was no accident while the reporters were still scrambling, before they even figured out what was going on. We were glued to the TV, and were horrified as we watched the towers collapse. The world changed on that day, and it has never completely recovered. Understandably, today, many people in the US and elsewhere are remembering that day ten years ago, and remembering the 3000 people whose lives were taken so cruelly.

Today also marks exactly six months since the huge earthquake and tsunami devastated large parts of northern Japan. I will always remember where I was at 2:46 PM on March 11th, 2011 as well. I was here in our apartment, this time in the eastern suburbs of Tokyo. I will remember how when the earthquake started at first I kept sitting at my desk thinking it would be over soon. You get used to having little earthquakes happen on a fairly regular basis when you live in Japan. But I will remember how it didn't stop. How it kept getting stronger. How the whole apartment was swaying dramatically from side to side. I will remember how I wondered if this might be it. The Big One. And whether the building might collapse around me. (It was a big one, but not The Big One, as far as Tokyo was concerned, as we soon found out). And then when the earthquake did finally subside, I will remember how I, a little bit shakily, went back to my desk and was glued to Twitter for news and updates. I will remember watching on TV the utter horror of incredible waves of water inundating entire towns along the northern coast.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

'State of Wonder' by Ann Patchett

Fiction, Harper Collins, 2011
ARE (Advance Reader's Edition), 349 p.
Source: Publisher/ Harper Collins
From the publisher's website:
Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Best Cultural Book Blog?

If you're a book blogger, you probably already know about Book Blogger Appreciation Week, which is coming up next week. However, if you haven't yet heard about it, in the words of the original founder Amy Riley of My Friend Amy, it "was started in an effort to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading." In essence, it is a week-long celebration of book bloggers and the book blogger community.

One aspect of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is the Awards for Best Blogs in a variety of different categories. And I was very thrilled to find out today that In Spring it is the Dawn made it to the shortlist for Best Cultural Review Blog. I don't know who nominated me in the first place, but whoever you are, you're awesome! Thank you!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: August links

Hello Japan!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge for August. The topic was Origami and the task was to create some origami. Click on the links below to see the beautiful things that everyone made.

Hello Japan! September and October mini-challenge: When One isn't Enough

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above.

September & October's Topic

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'The Quiet Gentleman' by Georgette Heyer

Fiction/Regency Romance
First published in 1951
(re-issued by Sourcebooks in 2011)
trade pb, 334 p.
Source: Publisher/Sourcebooks
From the back cover:
Returning to his family seat from Waterloo, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St Erth, could have expected more enthusiasm for his homecoming. His quiet cousin, stepmother, and young half-brother seem openly disappointed that he survived the wars. And when he begins to fall for his half-brother’s sweetheart, his chilly reception goes from unfriendly to positively murderous.

One of Heyer’s most suspenseful Regency romances, The Quiet Gentleman combines an ingenious mystery plot with her signature witty style and effervescently engaging characters.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

'Thousand Cranes' by Yasunari Kawabata (JLit Book Group)

Thousand Cranes 
by Yasunari Kawabata
千羽鶴 (senbazuru)
Originally serialized from 1949 - 1952
(English translation, 1958)
Translated from the Japanese by Edward G. Seidensticker
Vintage International, trade pb, 148 p.
With a restraint that barely conceals the ferocity of his characters' passions, one of Japan's great postwar novelists tells a luminous story of desire, regret, and the almost sensual nostalgia that binds the living to the dead.

When Kikuji is invited to a tea ceremony by a mistress of his dead father, he does not expect to become involved with her rival and successor, Mrs. Ota. Nor does he anticipate the depth of suffering that will arise from their liaison. But in the tea ceremony every gesture has a meaning. And in Thousand Cranes, even the most fleeting touch or casual utterance has the power to illuminate entire lives - sometimes in the same moment that it destroys them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Summer holiday in Hokkaido: The Food

sushi

Hokkaido, situated as it is in the north, is known for its fresh and plentiful fish. So of course a trip to Hokkaido would not be complete without some sushi. Even better, we had dinner at a popular sushi restaurant in the port city of Otaru. (See yesterday's Summer holiday in Hokkaido: The Sights post for photos of Otaru's historical canal).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer holiday in Hokkaido: The Sights

Furano Hokkaido

In Japan, most companies close for a few days around August 15th for the celebration of Obon. This year, because of setsuden (energy conservation) due to the power shortage in the Tokyo area, many companies gave their employees longer than the usual 3 or 4 days off. H had 10 days off so we decided to make the most of it and travel to Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France' by Karen Wheeler

First published in the UK in 2009,
US publication, 2011
Memoir, trade pb, 311 p.
Source: Sourcebooks
From the back cover:
Fashion editor Karen Wheeler thought she had it all: a glamorous job, a handsome boyfriend, a fabulous home, and an even more fabulous assortment of gorgeous shoes. But not all is as it seems, and on an impulse she decides to wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle and go it alone in a run-down house in rural France.

Tout Sweet is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of chucking away her Blackberry in favor of real blackberrying and downshifting to a romantic, alluring locale where new friendships, and new loves, are just some of the treasures to be found amongst life’s simple pleasures.

'Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle' by Georgette Heyer

Fiction/Historical Romance
First published in 1957,
Re-issued by Sourcebooks in 2011
trade pb, 400 p.
Source: Publisher - Sourcebooks
From the back cover:
Rank, wealth, and elegance are no match for a young lady who writes novels … Sylvester, Duke of Salford, has exacting requirements for a bride. Then he encounters Phoebe Marlow, a young lady with literary aspirations, and suddenly life becomes very complicated. She meets none of his criteria, and even worse, she has written a novel that is sweeping through the ton and causing all kinds of gossip … and he’s the main character!

Friday, August 12, 2011

'The Restaurant of Love Regained' by Ito Ogawa

Original title: 食堂かたつむり
(Shokudou Katatsumuri)
Translated from the Japanese by David Karashima
Fiction, Published in Japan in 2008
(English translation, 2011)
Alma Books, trade pb, 193 p.
Source: From the publisher, Alma Books
From the back cover:
An extraordinary novel about food, love and the relationship between mother and daughter.

Returning home from work, Rinko is shocked to find that her flat is totally empty. Gone are her TV set, fridge and furniture, gone are all her kitchen tools, including the old Meiji mortar she has inherited from her grandmother and the Le Creuset casserole she has bought with her first salary. Gone, above all, is her Indian boyfriend, the maître d’ of the restaurant next door to the one she works in. She has no choice but to go back to her native village and her mother, on which she turned her back ten years ago as a fifteen-year-old girl.

Monday, August 08, 2011

It's Monday, what are you reading?


The first week and a bit of August has been a pretty good one for me reading-wise. As a carry over from my July book travels, I'm still making my way slowly through The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo. It's interesting to read about the history and importance of tea to Japanese culture, moreso as it was written specifically for a western audience. I always seem to take longer when reading non-fiction though and part of the problem is that I keep getting distracted by other books. Ah, the allure of fiction.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: July links

Hello Japan!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge for July. The topic was Non-Fiction and the task was to enjoy some non-fiction about Japan. Read some of the contributions below and click on the links to visit the dedicated posts.

Hello Japan! August mini-challenge: Origami

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above.

August's Topic

Origami (折り紙) is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. Beginning with a single square of paper, folded in a specific way, to create a miniature paper sculpture. One of the most recognizable origami patterns is, of course, the Japanese paper crane. Folding a thousand paper cranes is said to make a person's wish come true, and has also come to represent peace. But there are a wide variety of different shapes and designs, from simple boxes to intricate animals and everything in between.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Salon: June and July Book Travels

I've actually had not too bad a year of reading so far, considering the 3 months after the earthquake this spring when I didn't read much at all. Books really are a great way to escape real life though and I've had some great armchair adventures over the last couple months. I've lost my memory, been banished to Canada, kidnapped in Nigeria, and trapped in a small town by the sea in Japan. I've survived the Siege of Leningrad, read how books helped one person overcome grief, and opened my own restaurant. I travelled deep into the Amazonian jungle, escaped captivity, and now I'm learning about the history of tea. Whew. It's a good thing these happened in the pages of books and not for real!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Non-Fiction Preview: 'Viewed Sideways: Writings on Culture and Style in Contemporary Japan' by Donald Richie

Essays, September 2011
Stone Bridge Press, pb, 264 p.
This definitive new collection of essays by the writer Time calls "the dean of arts critics in Japan" ranges from Kyogen drama to the sex shows of Shinjuku, from film and Buddhism to Butoh and retro rock ’n’ roll, from wasei eigo (Japanese/English) to mizushobai, the fine art of pleasing. Spanning some fifty years, these thirty-seven essays—most never anthologized before—offer cross sections of Japan’s enormous cultural power. They reflect the unique perspective of a man attempting to understand his adopted home.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Salon: Summer Reading

I used to love summer as a kid, growing up in the Canadian Prairies. Ok, maybe not the mosquitoes, but the hot, dry days were always welcome after the freezing winters. Not to mention, when you're a kid, summer also means summer holidays! No school! I still loved summer after we moved to the West Coast in my mid-teens. It was sometimes cool, or occasionally rainy, but comfortable and with lots of flowers and green everywhere.

However, ever since I've lived in Japan, I've come to really hate summer, more so every year. Once spring arrives, I already start dreading the inevitable, and relentless, heat and humidity of the Japanese summer. If I could, I'd hibernate in an air-conditioned room until October, but this is simply not very realistic. So since it's too hot to do much else, I'm hoping to spend more time reading this summer. What better way to try and escape the heat, right? And these last couple of weeks I've been trying to do just that. Now if only the chores would magically do themselves!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

JLit Preview: 'The Restaurant of Love Regained' by Ito Ogawa

Original title: 食堂かたつむり
(Shokudou Katatsumuri)
Translated from the Japanese by David Karashima
Fiction, Published in Japan in 2008
(English translation, 2011)
Alma Books, trade pb, 193 p.
Book blurb:
An extraordinary novel about food, love and the relationship between mother and daughter.

Returning home from work, Rinko is shocked to find that her flat is totally empty. Gone are her TV set, fridge and furniture, gone are all her kitchen tools, including the old Meiji mortar she has inherited from her grandmother and the Le Creuset casserole she has bought with her first salary. Gone, above all, is her Indian boyfriend, the maître d’ of the restaurant next door to the one she works in. She has no choice but to go back to her native village and her mother, on which she turned her back ten years ago as a fifteen-year-old girl.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Hello Japan! July mini-challenge: Non-Fiction

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above.

July's Topic

Wikipedia describes non-fiction as "an account, narrative or representation of a subject which is understood as fact. This presentation may be accurate or not; that is, it can give either a true or a false account of the subject in question. However, it is generally assumed that the authors of such accounts believe them to be truthful at the time of their composition." Whatever your interest, non-fiction can be a fascinating insight into real people, places and events. And through non-fiction we can gain a better understanding of the world around us.

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: June links

Hello Japan!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge for June (all 3 of you!). The topic was Japanese flowers and gardens and the task was to appreciate Japanese flora. The idea being that with summer arriving, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, it would be nice to simply take a break from our usual daily lives, and enjoy some of nature's beauty, Japanese-style. This topic didn't turn out to be very popular unfortunately, or perhaps you were all simply too busy out there enjoying the season to write about it! Regardless, I enjoyed the contributions from three of our regulars. Just click on the links below to visit the posts.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Winners

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for 4 literary novels. It was nice to see such a great response, and to see some new faces too. Thanks also to Judith for making it happen.

To choose the winners, first everyone was given a number in the order that you submitted your entries on the Google Form. Then I let random.org do what it does best. So here's who is getting what.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

June flowers: 花菖蒲 (iris)

Fukiage Iris Park

Sometimes Tokyo seems to be all concrete and neon. But luckily there are some beautiful parks and gardens where you can escape the metropolitan madness for a little while.

Monday, June 27, 2011

'The Woman in the Dunes' by Kobo Abe (JLit Book Group)

The Woman in the Dunes
by Kōbō Abe
砂の女 (Suna no onna)
First published in Japanese in 1962
Winner of the Yomiuri Prize, 1962
Translated from the Japanese by E. Dale Saunders
Vintage International, trade paperback, 238 p.
One of the premier Japanese novels of the twentieth century, The Woman in the Dunes combines the essence of myth, suspense, and the existential novel. In a remote seaside village, Niki Jumpei, a teacher and amateur entomologist, is held captive with a young woman at the bottom of a vast sand pit where, Sisyphus-like, they are pressed into shoveling off the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten the village.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop

After the success of the first one earlier this year, Judith at Leeswammes' Blog has organised another Literary Giveaway Blog Hop. As I'm trying to pass on a few of the books I've read but know I won't read again, before moving next year, it's perfect timing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

JLit Giveaway winners (and a Norwegian Wood giveaway)

Thanks to everyone who entered my contemporary Japanese literature giveaway.
Random.org has done its thing so without further ado, here are the winners.

Be With You
Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa goes to litera.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Salon: Too many books?

Usually I'd be the first one to say that one can never have too many books. That way you are never without a good story to get lost in. Plus there are certainly worse, and weirder, things to collect and surround yourself with. However, looking at my double-stacked, jam-packed, sagging-in-the-middle book shelves, I have to wonder if there actually can be such a thing as too many books. Living in a small-ish Japanese apartment doesn't help either as we simply don't have any extra space for more shelves.

My book collection really went a bit wild when we were living in England. Far too many book stores to tempt me, with their sales and all those shiny covers beckoning. After having lived in Japan for a few years it was like heaven to have big book stores full of books in English! I don't remember now how many exactly, but we did have quite a few boxes of books, mostly mine, when we moved back to Japan. And then when we moved a couple of years ago, from one side of Tokyo to another, my books alone filled something like 30 or 40 boxes!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Salon: In Case of Emergency - Just One Book

Three months have passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami took place on March 11th in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. I haven't written any updates here on the situation for awhile, because for the most part very little has changed. The situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is not yet resolved, and in the worst tsunami-affected areas, the recovery effort will take a long time, but here in Tokyo things are mostly back to normal.

There is always the possibility of a big earthquake hitting Tokyo in the near future, but the main concern for us now is the continuing power shortage, especially as the weather continues to get warmer. We're in the middle of rainy season now so the humidity continues to climb, seemingly on a daily basis, making it feel hotter than it actually is. Every business and household has been encouraged to decrease their electricity consumption by 15% from last year. Otherwise, there simply won't be enough power to cope with the extremely hot summer days in July and August. So we're being more careful about turning off lights and unplugging appliances we're not using. And every time I leave the house I make sure to leave extra food and water for the cats, in case we can't get home right away. But other than that, our daily lives have returned pretty much to how they were before the earthquake.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Japanese Literature Challenge 5 (and a JLit Giveaway)


It's time once again for the Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by the lovely Bellezza, and already in its fifth year! It started last week on June 1st and runs to the end of January, 2012. All you have to do to take part is to read ONE book! However, it's no surprise, I'm sure, that I plan to read more than that. I have a bookshelf full of JLit books that I haven't read yet, but these are some of the ones I'm most hoping to read over the next few months.

Monday, June 06, 2011

What I've been reading...

My reading had still been going in short bursts of focused attention over the last little while, but finally seems to be levelling out, and for the last week or so I've been reading on a pretty much daily basis again. Yay! It's been about a month since I last shared what I've been reading, so I do have a few books to tell you about.

Most of what I've read these last few weeks has been manga, short stories, or mysteries. All perfect for my easily distracted state. One of the manga I read was Oishinbo: Sake, written by Tetsu Kariya, and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki. Like the title says it's a manga all about the production of sake from the famous Oishinbo series. Despite living in Japan, I haven't actually drunk much sake. It was really interesting though, and after reading it, I went out and bought a couple of bottles of small brewery sake which I'm looking forward to trying soon. The other manga I read was vol. 2 & 3 of the Maoh: Juvenile Remix series, written by Kotaro Isaka, and which I hope to post about later this week.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hello Japan! June mini-challenge: Japanese flowers and gardens

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above.

June's Topic

Japan is a land of opposites. Traditionally, nature was highly revered in all forms of art, and daily life. Nowadays in the cities, we're surrounded by concrete and neon, but even within all the hustle and bustle, and modern conveniences, the Japanese still take time to appreciate nature. From the highly skilled art of ikebana (flower arranging) or bonsai, to cherry blossom viewing parties, Japanese gardens, or simply strolling under the bright yellow ginkgo trees in autumn.