Bullet Train By Kotaro Isaka

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

Japanese crime fiction

Original title – Maria Bītoru (Maria Beetle) (マリアビートル)

Translator – Sam Malissa

Source – Personal copy

I don’t buy many crime novels but when I  this book caught my eye and I saw it was set on the Bullet train.  Which is on my bucket list of things to try at some point I just love the speed and whole look of the trains . Plus I have a soft spot for crime books set on Trains. This Kotaro won a prize for his debut novel and a lot of his subsequent novels have been shortlisted for Naoki Prize is a sister prize to the Akutagawa prize both run by the same people it highlights rising stars of Japanese fiction. This book has been translated into a number of languages and has seen it been made into an Ensemble film that will star Brad Pitt.

Tokyo station is packed. It’s been a while since Yuichi Kimura was here last, so he isn’t sure if it’s always this crowded. He’d believe it if someone told him therewas a special event going on. The throngs of people coming and going press in him, reminding him of a tv show he and Watura had watched togeth the one about penguins, all jammed in tight together. At least the penguins have an excuse, thinks Kimura. it’s freezing where they live.

Kimura thinks of his son and is on the train to get his killer !!

The book follows a bullet train journey from Tokyo to Morika that has seen the train leave Tokyo with a number of assains onboard train the first is a young man  Satoshi a young man that seems from the outside just like a normal teen and that is his beauty as he really is a deadly assassin and he is being tracked by the Kimura whose young son was caught up in his last job so he has come to kill the young assassin then we have the Nanao or Lady bird another assassin that has had a run of bad luck then we have two assains just known as Tangerine and Lemon, they spend a lot of the trip discussing Thomas the Tank engine which made me laugh. They all have various jobs to do some of them have the cash that is in a case to recover their revenge to sort other a target to kill. But as the journey moves and they move through the train we see that a lot of what has happened and brought this many assains together is interconnect as what has happened to get them as the action unwinds,  so we see in to the past events of them and why they are there and present of each person as we head to the end. The action is shown in each chapter as to where they are on the train or in over in other cases events off the train.  Who will survive the journey and who will complete the jobs they have been sent to do!

“Who’s Edward ?”

“One of thomas the tank Engine’s friends. Engine numer two”. Lemon launches automatically into the character description he’d memorised. ” A very friendly engine, kind to everyone. He once helped push Gordon up a hill and another time saved trevor from almost being scrapped. Everyone on the island of odor knows they can count on Edward”

“wow did youlearn all that by Heart?”

“If Thomas was on the college entrance exams. I’d have got into Tokyo U! “with that lemon walks on, exiting car number four.

I loved this little bit of Thomas the tank engine elsewhere they talk about under siege2  film set on a train as well .

I like this I am as many of you know not a huge crime fiction reader but over the last few years I am liking more crime novels from Japan now this has a nod towards being a film I felt it was one of those novels you could see would be a great film there is a nod to the classic train crime novel but what he has done here is throw in a lot of plots and twists and some unique characters. At times it is maybe a bit daft but I liked the silly chatting about Thomas the Tank engine and things like that the two characters Tangerine and Lemon are very Tarantino to me I was reminded of the round the table discussions in reservoir dog and also the names remind of Mr brown etc from that film with the two just called after some fruit. Are there other fruit assassins out there like an apple and pear somewhere etc. Dark with comic parts as the characters interact with each other and we find out what has brought them all to be on this train at the same time. If Agathe Christie had written a yakuza novel set on a train,  then given it Tarantino to make into a film this would be the novel of that film. Have you a favorite Japanese crime Novel ?

Winstons score – B a steady crime novel that has a cinematic sense to it.

The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

The last children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

Japanese fiction

Original title – Kentoshi (献灯使)

Translator – Margaret Mitsutani

Source – Personel copy

I popped into the Waterstones in Morpeth on Holidfay and brought two books this was one of the two books I brought. Yoko Tawada has been on my radar  since her book Memoirs of a Polar bear was on the radar for the Booker international prize although she has had a lot of books translated over the years she has written in both German and Japanese and has won prizes in both countries.. Known for her connection between words and reality and also how language works she was asked to work on her germna translations which has lead to her comparing the two languages and cultures and even writing in German. This was originally written in Japanese and is the latest of her books to be tranalsted into English.

Every morning, Ypshiro rented a dog from the rent a dog place on the corner to run along the riverbank for about half an hour. Wehn the water level was low, the river looked like silver ribbons that stretched out much further than you’d expect. Long ago, this sort of purposeless running had been referred to as jogging, but with foreign words falling out of use now called loping down, an expression that had started out as a joke meaning “if you lope your blood pressure goes down” but everybody called it that these dats. And kids mumei’s age would never have dreamt that adding just an e in front of it the word lope could cunjure up visions of a young woman climbing down a ladder in the middle of the night to run away with her lover.

Running is a rare thing in this new world !

The last children focus on a greatr Grandfather a man over a hundred as most of those that are still alive at this time Yoshiro is living on the very edge of a no empty Tokyo where the centre is now a no go area and disaster zone. even running is rare as shown early on when the old man hires a dog to walk as the children struggle to do even this now. All this is after a huge catastrophe whoch has wiped out most of the humans and lead to wide spread pollution so those youngster living are growing up with huge problems with  the world changed this sees the areas countries closing themselves off as they tried to deal with the unnamed problems that were caused by the catastrophe this means that his grandson Mumei is growing with out the esential vitamins and minerals that we all need to grow things like Calicum  are in short supply so they are growing up with problems like poor teeeth  and bones so grow crooked and this has leads to people like Yoshiro to become a underground emissary to help the kids out. where they sneak out children on ships as the Japan they live in has gon back to the feudal state of isolation they try to get the kids to other places to find out what is causing the issues..will Yopshiro get his great grandosn out or will he end up worse off ?

On his front doorsteo, Yoshiro unrolled the paper. He hadn’t paid much attention to the newspaper as a young man, but ever since this mediahad been revivied after its disappearence, reading it carefully all the way through had become a daily ritual. As he let his eyes fly low over the poltics section, words such as regulation, standard, adaptation, policy, investigation, and caution stuck out like ttalks in a flattened field. actually reading this section was like slogging through a swamp. He musn’t spend his mornings this way; first, he had to get to Mumei off to school. The word school still carried a faint whiff of hope

School isn’t what it was as the kids die so young.

I loved this tale as given the world we have seen in the last year or two how quckly the world can change around us. what Tawada does so wellnhere is use the hostroy of Japan the isolate era the 200 plus years of the Edo peroid which saw Japan cut itself of from the world. The storyline of supplies running out remind of how we would deal with this and films like soylent green and how the world would have do what happen here and keep supplies for them selves. The other side to this story is the connection between the young and the old and the way Yoshiro regrets the waythe world has change as he relives his youth and how the children are unable to do what he did in his youth. A glinmpse into a world of children growing up with grave issues is told with a tender touches as we see a world flip as the old carry on living and the young are dying. A kafka view of a pandemic and the aftrermath where the world becomes a series of small boxes and if you are in the wrong box your fate is sealed !! Have you read any book by her ?

Winstons score – +A one of my favourite read this year !

 

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Japanese fiction

Original title – Chikyu Seijin

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

Source – personal copy

I got this book last week for my birthday i had given Amanda a list of books that I thought maybe on Tuesday’s booker longlist and this was one of two Japanese novels this was one the other was Breast and Eggs which if it is on the list Tuesday i will get otherwise it will be a while before I get to that one anyway back to this the second book by Sayaka Muruta to be translated into English the first Convenience store women was a hit and one of those books I didn’t read due to the hype but this had been on my radar mainly because I loved the cover art which in fact relates to the book. Sayaka Murata grew up reading sci-fi and mystery novels from her family see even started to write a novel when she was 14. Finally publishing a novel when she was 24 she has published 11 books so far winning one of Japan’s biggest book prizes Akutagawa prize for her book convenience store women. Her books deal with Family, sex, celibacy, asexual relationships, and sci-fi elements.

I took Piyyut out of my bag. He loked like a white hedgehog plush toy, but actually he was an emissary sent by the magic police on Planet Popinpobopia. Piyyut had given me the magic wand and mirror to help meuse my maigical powers, I explained.

“Wow, Natuski, thats amazing” YUu said, his face serious. “It’s thank to you protecting the earth that we’re living in peace”

“Right”

“HEy. What sort of place is that Planet Popinpo- What’s it called again?”

“Popinpobopia. I don’t know really. Piyyut said it was secret.

“OH”

She is given magic powers to help save the earth by the plush to that is an emissary from another planet.

The novel is told from the point of view Natsuki she grows up spending her summers with her family in the remote mountains with their grandparents in the WIld Nagano Mountains and also there is her Family her Aunt and Uncle and her cousin Yuu. it is during these summers she buys what Piyyut which she thinks at the time is a white hedgehog toy but he is really an alien from the planet Popinpobia to give Natuski magic powers to save the earthlings. What follows is an account of her youth which has two events that shape her future and that of her family the first is abuse from a teacher that sexual abuses her and the other is a sexual awakening alongside her cousin Yuuwhich they are caught meaning the family unit is split and they stop talking to the aunt and Uncle. So when many years later when she is trapped in the city she describes it as a baby-producing factory and she is stuck in a sexless marriage. As she is driven to go back to the mountains this leads to a reunion with her cousin and also the secrets of her youth breaking through the loss of family she missed the after ripples of the kissing and sex with her cousin in her youth. This leads to a shocking end to the journey through the book.

I once asked my husband why he’d registered at Surinuke dot.cpm. “I thought it was written into our contract not to pry into that”, he said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, that was out of order. I didn’t mean to infringe on our contract>”

“No it’s okay. I feel suprisinglu relaxed talking with you. Natsuki.”

It wasn’t that my husband had no interest in sex. Instead he thought it wasn’t something to do rather something to observe. He enjoyed watching, but he was apparantly disgusted by the notion of touching and being touched by someone else who was discharging fluid. Another problem my husband had was that he hated working. This was obvious in his behacviour at work, so he found it hard to hold a job down.

Her advert and contract husband isn’t all she had hoped for at times.

I am not a huge sci-fi fan as you may know but this uses the sci-fi to drive the narrative and also to point things out. This is studio Ghibli if they let the writers from Law and order special victims unit had written it this uses the sci-fi element as a sugar coating to the horrors of sexual abuse from a teacher which then leads her fumblings with Yuu which then leads to suicide and a family break up these events then lead to her marriage and the events at the end of the book. Murata manages to tackle the subjects subtle and with a uniquely Japanese take on events Piyyut is like a Pokmon character manga creation, then things like advertising for her husband in a very Japanese way the loneliness of the city, and being friendless as a teen the knock-on effect of abuse is seen. A powerful work Natsuki is the flip of those lonely males of Murakami’s novels a female perspective on modern Japanese life. Have you read this book or her first book ?

Winstons score  -A an unusual book

Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

Japanese Fiction

Original title –  Hasen (破船)

Translator – Mark Ealey

Source – personal copy

I will try a couple of books for this year’s January in Japan here is my first book one I have had sat on the shelves a good while ago. Akira Yoshimura was president of the Japanese writers union for over twenty years and a member of Pen. He was married to a fellow Japanese writer Setsuko Tsumura. He wrote over twenty novels and also a number of non-fiction books including one that was about a Tsunami that sold well after the 2011 tsunami his wife donated the profits to a village affected by the Tsunami. This book is one of two he is best known for.

His mother chatted with the old women as they trudged along the path. Isaku was happy; for the first time he had helped the men carry the firewood up to the crematory for a funeral. He was being treated as an adult; before long he would be carrying the coffin with the men. But he was small for his age and slight of build. His father was due to return in two and half years, and like other teenage boys and girls in the village Isaku would no doubt be sent into biondage in his fathers place, pretending to be two or three years older than he actually was.  At such time, if he was small, the broker would either refuse to barter for him or would take himon for a paltry amount

He has to grow beyond his years and beyond his frame in the book

The book is narrated and seen through the eyes of Nine-year-old Isaku. The setting is a small fishing village in Medieval Japan where his father has had to go and spend three years at sea as an indentured sailor to help the family thrive. Life for this nine-year-old is tough as he becomes the man of the house trying to help his mum as much as possible. Struggling learning to catch driftwood this is a tough world but he gets on there are moments where we see him growing when he notices a girl a year older than him that also lives in the same poor village as him Tami he worries she will be sent away as a servant as they never return to the village the life is tough the things they do the fishing follows the seasons and when things are hard to catch they suffer. like the lack of octopuses. They also make salt from the seawater in large cauldrons this is a day and night job on the beach when the chief appoints Isaku in charge of keeping the fire going overnight in the cauldrons his mother is honored but this act as a lure to get sink ships that are lured onto the rocks in the winter or as the village calls it O-fune-sama its been a while since a ship has done this so when one does and then the agents for the owners start sniffing around the village panics but what happens when later a second ship with no real bounty just the red outfits of the dead sailors arrives what happens to the village after this event. Will Isaku’s father make it home?

It was agony tending the salt cauldrons on snowy nights. Again and agian Isaku would carry firewood throughthe driving snow and throw it under the cauldrons. The snow appeared to dance wildly, glimmering red from the colour of the flames. Once in Febury, they were hit by a blizzard. The houses were snowed in; it was almost dark inside. Isaku and his mother cleared the snow from the roof and outside the windows, making a space for the sunlight to shine in

A harsh world for the ten year old Isaku looking after the fire every night through the winter.

This is a beautifully written book of a harsh world the village is a dive the only way out is through indentured work for those living there and that is via the man in the next village that gets them the jobs. Like Isaku’s father or his observance of all the young girls that are sold off to be servents and never return which means either they die from overwork or just never see freedom again. Stark world of the village is governed by the seasons from the capturing of the small fish then, they move on the go for octopuses or look to the mountain and rabbits to eat. a tough world that is dotted with funerals but also a hard observation at times like when food is scarce the rice running low and a dying relative is taking too long to die and is still eating his share. I am always a fan of books set in the village and here we see a village caught in its time the lack of options is hard to accept through modern eyes so you feel for this ten-year-old and his be=leak future and no wonder his mother seems so distant at times she is broken by the loose of her husband and having to bring up three children. Have you read this book?

The Key by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

The key by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki 

Japanese fiction

Original title – 鍵 Kagi

Translator – Howard Hibbert

Source – personal copy

Here is my first of a few post time willing for this time round for Kaggy and simon year club the year this time is 1956 and the first book I have read is from Tanizaki who I have reviewed once before on the blog so when I saw this a latter book from the writer the last book I reviewed was written twenty years before this book. which is a later book by Tanzaki in his writing life. So when it was on the list of books that had come out in 1956. I decided to order it start away. The book has been made into three films over the years.

This year I intend to begin writing freely about a topic which, in the past. I have hesitated even to mention here. I have always avoided commenting on my sexual relations with Ikuko, for fear that she might surreptitiously read my diary and be offended. I dare say she knows exactly where to find it. But I have decided not to worry about that anymore. Of course, her oldfashioned Kyoto upbringing has left her with a good deal of antiquated morality, indeed, she would dip into her husband’s private writings.

The opening lines were written on new year’s day

The book has two narrative parts the both of them in the form or a diary of an older husband who has a much younger wife Ikuko whom he is very in love with but is deeply worried about his desires for her. Then we see the other side as Ikuko tries to help and follow her husband’s desires as she tries to stop letting him know she knows what he is up too. This is an inner look at a marriage of an older man and younger women and it shows the covents of the day where the only insight into there innermost wantings and desires is via these two diaries we see him for the first time see her body and take pictures and also starts to sleep more with his wife that is over ten years younger than him. when he and his future son-in-law take the drunk wife and undress her in the bed this leads to an affair on the wife. As the husband gets Kimura to develop the pictures of his naked wife the younger man is drawn to his future mother-in-law.

I suppose he carried me here from the bath that night, put me to bed, and then, since I was still inconscious, amused himself with me in all sorts of ways. Once, when he was kissing me and roughly under my arms, i was tartled awake. He had dropped his glasses onme; my eyes opened the instant I felt their chilly touch. All my clothes had been stripped off, and I was lying on my back, stark naked, exposed to the glare of light. There was two lamps; the floor lamp and another – a fluorescent one – on the beside table

She drank to much and let him use her as he had wanted too !!

At the heart of this is the problem of the convention in marriages in Japan at the time where sex and desires aren’t talked about so when on the 1st January he starts his diary as a secret but leaves the key in an obvious place for his wife to find so when she reads and starts to act out his desires he wonders how it happens. This is an erotic work a man desires for his wife to be a certain way that she isn’t this is shown when he first sees her body fully naked and who drawn he is to her. I was reminded of the emails of the german novel love virtually where it is her a flip flop of what he wants and she secretly discovers his desire like in love virtually where the two characters start opening up. |This is another gem turned up from the year club it wouldn’t be my next choice as a book from Tanizaki I had some of his better-known books down to read at some point but this is a short gem that can be read in an evening. Have you read this book?

The glass slipper and Other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

The Glass Slipper and other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

Japanese Short Stories

Original title -ガラスの靴 (title story glass shoe)

Translator – Royall Tyler

Source – personal copy

I have brought a number of Dalkey Archives older books when I have seen them cheap. I picked this up by the Akutagawa Prize-winning Shotaro Yasuora. He fought in the Philippines in world war two and was one of the few survivors to come back from there. He then started to study English but near the end of this contracted tuberculosis which affects his spine, he had spent a long time just lying on his back that is what started his writing career. The title story of this collection was one of the spending time recovering and amongst his earliest ones. He wrote and was listed for the Akutagawa prize but he did win it two years later in 1953. He won a number of other prizes and was the translator of Alex Haley’s books after he had visited the south of the US during that time and wrote about it.

I soon became caught up in Etsuko’s fantasy play. I enjoyed it goign along with her stories mademe feel as though I had taken possession of her. At her suggestion we played hide and seek. For all pratical purposes, the house and evertything in it belonged to us. There were hiding places everywhere – under the bed, behind the curtains, in the chest of drawers, in the dressing room woth all of it mirrors, I went upstairs and hid in a battlefield water bag that hung unused, in the closetat the end of the hall.

The played as the romance blossomed in the glass slipper

The title story The glass slipper sees the narrator a young man that has a job in a gun shop as he is asked to deliver a rifle to a US Colonel. Colonel Craigow house. When he arrives with his delivery he is meet by the families Japanese maid Etsuko he is smitten with her and returns as they spend the summer but then she isn’t there a nod to the fairy tale of the glass slipper. There are eight other stories. One sees a man selling his father’s beautiful enameled war medal to a US serviceman so he can make ends meet in the poor post-war times which is the time the stories are all set. Elsewhere a man is told by his boss to compose the company song via a shared love of verse. Jingle bells as the title suggest see a boyfriend on his way to his girlfriend but are running late and as is the case he keeps getting held up.

“JIngle Bells” was playing on the radio, and I was walking in time to it. It was christmas day. Noonetheless, the eateries lining both sides of the street in front of the station were flying big red-and-white banners against the leaden sky advertising “Grilled Sweetfish Tamagawa Specialty!Tasty !Tasty

Jingle bells, jingle bells

I tred not to walk in step, but it didn’t work. I seemed to have cords around my ankles that kept me marching along. I remembered how in my first year as a member of the Takasski Infantry Regiment the sergant had called “Hup,Two,Three,four” they called came a gap in the rhythm. Jingle(Hup) Bells(two) Jingle (three) Bells(four)

Jingle bells a man called by his girlfriend to visit her.

I read that this is a collection that Murakami recommends to readers it is a light-hearted collection of self-perception with a collection of characters that are all struggling in post-war Japan. The translator is American so we have a lot of American terms like Pants and vacations. But you can cope with that, Shotaro characters all have odd jobs a man guards a half-burnt house, a man writing a song and a translator. A varied section of post-war Japan. he died a few years ago. There is only this and another collection available in English by him. Have you read him?

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Japanese short fiction

Translator – Richard Nathan

Source – review copy

I bring you the second book of the red circle series of short novellas from Japanese. Kanji Hanawa was before he retired a professor of French literature having only visited France as a student he has spent a lifetime teaching and in retirement has translated fifteen books from French into Japanese. He has also written a number of short stories and Novellas been listed for the Akutagawa prize twice.He is known for his for exposing the pressures and challenges of modern life in Japan. Here he has used the true story of Yamato a boy who was left by his parents in the woods of the northern Island of Japan and wandered off.

Ishida: “I imagine, don’t you think, they will set up the incident cemtre at the foot of the mountain?

Momose:”They will visit the situation. I am a psychologist, but I’m old and not so strong on my feet; nor do I have any children myself. So I’m not sure I can be of much use.But I’ve actually been to take a look and although they say it;sa mountain, it seems more like a nearby hill.The actual location took me by surprise.

THe opening and getting involved in the case.

The story uses an Ishida a psychologist asked to help out and he is called in by an old colleague Toshiko Momose as they were both at H university. Who wants to Ishida panel of experts helping with the investigation into the disappearance of A a seven-year-old boy who was left as a punishment by his Father as him and his sister and parents that are on the last day of the national holiday and A ios playing up as the family head through the woods of the Northern island they stop and leave him and drive off only to turn and return in a matter of minutes to find A has disappeared they look for him and he isn’t to be seen so they have to call in the police as the woods are bear-infested. What we see is Ishida as he is called to give help to the way the case is covered and he lets us know how they are trying to find A as the days go by the two discuss how the west and Traditional Japanese childhood differ and the fact that A disappeared is what has changed as when Japanese child was sent out of a house he would stayed glued to the spot whereas a western child would wander this is echoed in the western tales of children getting lost in the woods. Will A be found how long was he out there?

The statement compiled by Momose and Ishida was circulated to the chairperson and the others, but with a questionable level of comprehension. As a child was concerned, the media was showing some self-control. Even so, overall opnion was shifting, it was being taken much more seriously. More and more people were calling for a search of greatest magnitude possible, even if hastily excuted, with the largest number of people available. As a result there were 300 people in total, both locals and non-locals, forming small search oparties and heading into the area. Despite this, there was no postive news.

Third day and fears and the search increases for A .

This is another great choice as it is a gripping story that highlights changes in Japan in a way the boy should have stayed when his parents left and the curveball of him walking off is the start of the tale. Ishida and Toshiko provide a sounding board for how Japanese is changing,. Also, the way this case was cover and the aftermath this made headlines around the world. They also discuss the history in fairy tales of Children in the woods in western culture. from Grimm and then before that in Perrault’s tales. This shows how values change and how Parents are treating the children in Japan. I have three more from Red circle the first two have been very interesting so I hope to finish the rest of them in the new year. Have you a favorite Japanese short story or novella?

Travels with a writing brush edited by Meredith Mckinney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel with a writing brush( Classical Japanese travel writing from Manyoshu to Basho)

Japanese travel writing

Editor & Translator Meredith Mckinney

Source review copy

I was rather happy to get sent this, especially after earlier this year reading the Man Booker international prize longlist The pine island which is the second book that had a Basho influence the other being the title of Richard Flanagan booker winner book was a nod to Basho. The book contains a thousand years of Japanese travel writing which includes a number of pieces that were translated for the first time.

Works translated into English for the first time:
• Ionushi’s Pilgrimage to Kumano by Zōki
• Senjūshō
• Pilgrimage to Kumano
• The Death of Sōgi by Sōchō
• Journal of the Kyushu Road by Hosokawa Yūsai

On we went, past Uta no Mastubara. Pines in untold numbers stood along the shore, untoldages old. Waves lapped at the feet of every one; restless cranes thronged around every branch. Unable simply to stand and gave in wonder, one on board composed this:

Miwataseba                Gazing upon thesepines

Matsu no uregeto ni   It seems the cranes

Sumu tsuru wa            Nesting on every branch

Chiyro no dochi to zo Must take the trees for friends

Omoubera naru           A thousand generations old

THis poem doesn’t do justice to the actual scene we saw

From Tosa diary a voyage that lasted 55days at sea.

The book has a great intro and translator notes also map for a number of the Journeys which begin in 759 with MAnyoshu which is one of the first works in Japanese collection it has 400 plus poems the few select are set around boat travels around the island seeing things such as cranes. Then in Tosa diaries, we have a female narrator although as it says in the intro we see that a few times the male writer’s voice is evident this journey is shown on the first map of the maps in the book from Tosa to Kamakura as they see pines and Cranes but as the narrator says the prose doesn’t do it justice. Then as you’d expect we have a pilgrimage piece by Zoki. Then we have a more famous work the pillow book written by a lady in waiting to the empress. Nearly all the pieces in this collection all have the sort poems that five lines long. Another diary of a daughter she is just known just as Sugawara No Takasue’s daughter. Then my favorite title of the works dusts dancing on the rafters That came from a Chinese saying related to two singers. I am only mentioning the first half of this wonderful collection it is taken out of Meredith McKinney own journey through classical Japanese writing and her love in particular of how they described travel this covers a thousand years and ends with the man himself Basho with the narrow road to Oku nearly a thousand years after the first piece. as his fame grew he had to travel to meet his followers in his last decade he traveled more than anything.

257

Kumano e mairu ni wa          Hey you pilgrims

Nani Ka Kurushiki                  What’s so hard

Shugyoja yo                           About the road to Kumano?

Yasumatsu Himematsu       it’s easy pine of Ysumata

Goyomatsu                            Princess pine and five-leafed pine

Chisato no Hama                  and the beach of Chisato

The opening poem from the short selection called Dust dancing on the rafters.

I have often been put off by the great classical Japanese works. But this is an easily accessible work that shows Meredith’s talent as a translator. It shows the beauty of Japan where travel through the land is hard due to forest and mountains or had to be done by seeing due to the many islands which means there is much travel writing out there with pilgrimages and ceremonial events and trips we see how the country is so poetic with its pines cranes insects monks and scenery the sea all around them at times. from sleeping on pillows of grass to wishing to be home and among the books a young girl loved. The works mix fact and fiction and the lines of poetry and prose blur here. As the intro says sometimes it is about finding the places here within like in Ise tales which is sent from Mount Utsu which is said to have echoed down the centuries in the journal of travelers along tokkaido who continue to search out the place identified with this scene. This struck me people trying to find a place a thousand years later from a letter enchanting such a great collection I hope we get more from Meredith as she continues her journey. Have you a favorite work of classical Japanese writing?

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

Japanese fiction

Original title – スタンド・イン コンパニオン(原題:代替伴侶)

Translator – Raj Mahtani

I was surprised when  Richard from Red circle contact me after the suggestion of one of there translators as I don’t review many Japanese novels its works out about two a year over the time of the blog. So to get to have these five slim novellas from some of the best new writers in Japan I couldn’t turn the chance time.Kazumi Shiraishi is from a family of writers his father is Ichiro Shiraishi a prize-winning writer and his twin brother is also a writer. He has published a number of novels initially he worked as a journalist and editor for one of Japan’s leading magazines. He has had two novels published by Dalkey Archive before this one. It is worth noting with sadness that it was the last work the Raj Mahtani translated before he passed away.

By the time the news of her pregnancy was expected to arrive, though, the snow would have completel disappeared. But then again, such a thing as a pregenancy, in the first place, was impossible, Hayato silently thought to himself. “I somehow have this gut feeling i’ll get lucky,” yutori had said a few days ago, regarding the trip to the hot-spring resort this time

Right above now, Hyato mised, she must be dropping her shoulders in defeat, while applying a saintary  pad between her legs in the toilet at the pharmacy, disappointed at the unreliability of her gut feeling

They try and check every month for the result

Stand in companion is a futuristic tale set in the near future where the world has decided that birth control is need and that things like IVF has been outlawed so we meet a couple Yutori and Hayato  a couple who have been trying for a number of years for children we meet them as they do a monthly stop for a pregnancy test to see if his sperm have moved quicker or if the time at the spa has helped her tubes. as this has happened for a number of years we see her move away and then they both decide that they need a new start so they get what is called a stand-in companion of each other but each wants the new companion to have no knowledge of what was the problem with the getting pregnant as they both head of with a new Yutori and Hayato at some point will loser there replacement after ten years on the android laws of this near future.

However, in these past several months, Yutori was gradually fiding it unbearable to see the dark look of disappointment cloud Hayato’s face every time

AN Android activated as a  Stand-in companion, in accordance with the Stand-in android act, is recognised as having rights completely equal to those of humans. Until just prior to their deactivation by a termination sinal transmitted from the control centre of the Human rights Relief Comittee, at the time their rental peroid expired, an android in this soceity was to be treated entirely as an indivdual – a human being.

I was remind of the deatgh of Rutger Hauer in bladerunner here as he was an android with a short life but had seen so much in his life.

Strangely of all the countries that maybe they don’t need birth control, measures in Japan with a growing older generation and shrinking younger generation in the future, it would maybe be one country that would need more children. But these growing older generations are already getting looked after at times by robots that run memory and exercise classes in the old people’s homes in such of the larger cities. I saw this over the weekend in a tv show here in the UK. Then we have can an android robot replace a human well in Bladerunner there is the main character played by Sean Young her character Rachel is an android that doesn’t know she is an android and this is the sense her the two new stand-ins aren’t aware they are stand-ins for each other it is a question of what we need from life babies or companionship. This short book is just 43 pages long that sits with you for a long while after you put the book down. Have you read any of this Red Circle series?

The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima

Image result for The Sound of Waves

The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima

Japanese fiction

Original title – 潮騷 Shiosai

Translator – Meredith Wetherby

Source – personal copy

I have missed Tonys Japan in January last year so was pleased when Belezza said she was moving her Japanese literature Challenge too the first three months of this year. I have been buying but not reading a lot of Japanese fiction in recent years, in fact, Mishima is a writer I have brought a lot of his books. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book the sailor who fell from grace with the sea as I found it rather brutal in places. But others said I should try him again so nine years later I have got to him again. He missed out on a Nobel when it went to fellow Japanese writer Kawabata won the prize he was an early mentor of Yukio Mishima.

Boththe lighthouse keeper and his wif had taken Hatsue, the newcomer, to their warm hearts. Just when she was so silent that they were thinking maybe she was not so attractive after all, suddenly she would break into her lovely, girlish laughter; and if she sometimes seemed lost in the clouds, she was also most considerate. For instance, at the end of an etiquette lesson hatsue would immediately begin clearing away the cups they had drunk their tea in – a thoughtful action that never would have occured to the other girls – and while she was at it she would go on to wash the dirty dishes she might find in the kitchen.

Help ful and pretty the girl taken in by the lighthouse keepr and is seen by Shinji for the first time.

I choose this as my next Mishima as it seemed different from the other book by him I have read. Set in what seems to post world war two Japan we focus on a small island and Shinji a young fisherman looking after his mother and brother after losing his father in the war. He does jobs around the island one involves visiting the lighthouse keeper and his wife this is where he comes across a young pearl diver that has come there from a nearby island. Hatsue the girl in question is the girl all the local lads like. she is tanned and as Mishima discusses in detail has wonderful breasts. The two fall in love. It turns out that Hatsue is actually the daughter of Teruckuchi the wealthiest local man that had sent his daughter away to leave his son in charge of his empire as the future heir. But when he loses his son in the war he turns to the daughter he left to grow up as a pearl diver to make sure she marries a man he can then call a son and takes as his heir. He favors another but when he sends the two out on one of his ships Shinji and Yasuo a bitter rival of for the affections of Hatsue he had earlier said Shinji had taken his relationship further than he should of  !! who will get her hand and become the new son to her wealthy father?

If Shinji had had more experience with women, as he looked at the naked Hatsue standing across the fire, in the storm encircled ruins, he would have seen unmistakably that hers was the body of a virgin. Her skin, far from fair-complexioned, had been constantly bathed in in sea-water and stretched smooth; and there, upon the wide expanse of a shest that had served for many long dives, two small breasts turned their faces slightlyaway from each other, as thoughabashed, and lifted up two rose-colored buds. Since Shinji r=fearful of being discoverde, had barely opened his eyes, the girl’s form remained a vague outline and, peered at through a fire that reached as high as the concrete ceiling, became almost indistinguishable from wavering flames themselves.

Shinji sees her breifly and is grabbed by her body as he sees it in the flames.

This is a classic boy and girl tale boy meets girl falls in love. Then we have the twists to it father figures missing fathers and missing sons Hatsue was abandoned then taken back by her father as he lost his son, Shinji Lost his father in the war. This is also a story that shows how life works in small villages as the gossip cause a lot of problem for the young couple especially when lies are told. The one thing that shone in the description of Hatsue was it must have been a woman that Mishima knew the way he so sexually described the body of Hatsue through Shinji’s eyes. This was much 6lighter Mishima than in the previous book a romantic work that shows love can win through in the end. A great first choice for the Japanese Literature Challenge.

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