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. 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.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: May links

Hello Japan!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge for May. The topic was Mystery and Mayhem and the task was to enjoy a Japanese mystery story. Click on the links below to visit everyone's posts.