Sunday, 7 December 2014

January in Japan 2015 - Group Reads Announcement!

January in Japan 2015 is less than a month away now, so the announcement of the group read books is well overdue.  Still, I got there in the end, and these are the two books I'm suggesting this time around :)

A couple of years ago, our group read choice was Hiromi Kawakami's The Briefcase (later released in the UK as Strange Weather in Tokyo), and I've gone back to Kawakami for one of my choices for 2015.  This time it's her novel Manazuru - even if the weather's cold, it should make for a nice trip to the Japanese coast :)

The second choice is a classic of modern Japanese literature.  Yasunari Kawabata needs no introduction (but if he does, try this one!), and we'll be reading his novel The Sound of the Mountain, a wonderful story of a man coming to terms with the frailty that arrives with age.

The idea is that we'll read the books and post reviews around the same time - I'll be creating a page on this blog as a home for links to those reviews.  The schedule is:

January 15th - Manazuru
January 29th - The Sound of the Mountain

I hope that many of you will decide to join in - the more people who read the books and take part in the discussions, the better it will be.  See you in January :)

Saturday, 22 November 2014

January in Japan 2015: Sign Up Now!

We're back!  Once again, I'll be starting the year with a whole month dedicated to J-Lit :)  January in Japan returns in 2015, and today I'd just like to give you a taste of what lies in store at the start of the new year.

*J-Lit Giants*
Series three of J-Lit Giants will build on our collection of great writers.  So far, we've inducted twelve into our hall of fame - whose turn is it this year?  I'm a busy boy, so I'll need your help with this: if anyone is interested in penning a guest post for posterity, please leave a comment, or e-mail me at tonysreadinglist at y7mail dot com :)

I'm planning to have two group reads for the month, on the 15th and 29th of January, but I haven't confirmed the titles yet (and I'm very open to suggestions!).  If anyone has any ideas, please leave a comment below :) 

Update (6/12):  The decision has been made!
15/1 - Hiromi Kawakami's Manazuru
29/1 - Yasunari Kawabata's The Sound of the Mountain

Yes, once again we'll be running some Golden Kin-Yōbi giveaways.  Publishers to jump on board so far include Pushkin Press, Penguin Modern Classics and Kurodahan Press: make sure you're subscribed to this blog so as not to miss out on the great books offered!

*News and Reviews*
In addition to all that, every Sunday in January will see a new edition of Nichi-Yōbi News, where Momotarō and I will round up all the latest Japanese literary gossip.  Contributions are welcome - and for the review section they're absolutely vital ;)

So, over to you!  To sign up, just leave a comment below, and don't forget to follow the blog today to keep up with all the news and giveaways next January :)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Nichi-Yōbi News: Week 5 - Sayōnara!

Well, it's been fun, but January (sadly) is over for another year, and it's time to pack away our kimonos and bid farewell to January in Japan.  Before we shut up shop for 2014 though, I just wanted to remind everyone of what's been going on over the past month :)

The past few Sundays have seen some great links in our Nichi-Yōbi News round-ups.  I'm hoping to find a few quiet minutes to store them all on the J-Lit resources page for posterity, but for now, you can always check out all the pages for some great news, reviews and links to free online J-Lit.

We've also been very fortunate, spoiled even, by the number of books offered for our
Golden Kin-Yōbi giveaways.  So far, we've had twelve happy winners, and our final giveaway (which closes on Thursday!) will produce six more.  Many thanks again to all the contributing publishing houses: PM Press, Pushkin Press, Columbia University Press, Kurodahan Press, Stone Bridge Press and Peter Owen Publishers.

This year, we've continued every Wednesday with our J-Lit Giants series, and 2014 has seen five more greats of Japanese Literature inducted into our pantheon.  This time around, we even managed to make up for some of last year's oversights - both Nobel laureates (Kenzaburo Oe and Yasunari Kawabata) were honoured, and Yoko Ogawa and Banana Yoshimoto became the first female members of our hall of fame. Many thanks to Matt Todd for his excellent contribution on Shusaku Endo too :)

Finally, we had a few more events happening this year.  Many people have submitted their reviews (see the 2014 Book Reviews tab at the top of the page), and the linky will remain open for a week or so for you to get your late reviews in.  Jacqui was kind enough to submit a guest review of Hiromi Kawakami's Strange Weather in Tokyo (AKA The Briefcase), and we also had two group readalongs.  The first, Yoko Ogawa's The Diving Pool, was a great success - the second, Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood... wasn't ;)

Thanks to everyone who has taken part over the past month, whether that entailed taking part in the readalongs, posting reviews, leaving comments or just trying to win books - it all helps make the event what it is :)  But that's it for 2014; it's been a lot of fun, but pretty frenetic too (I'm due for a rest now...).

If you're lucky, I might see you all in 2015... ;)

Friday, 31 January 2014

Golden Kin-Yōbi: 5 - Stone Bridge Press & Peter Owen Publishers

Welcome to the last Friday of January and the final Golden Kin-Yōbi for 2014!  While parting may be sweet sorrow, I'm trying to ease the pain a little with a very special post - today's giveaway is a double :)

Two more publishers of quality J-Lit have kindly offered some prizes - American-based Stone Bridge Press and British-based Peter Owen Publishers.  These giveaways will be geographically limited:  the Stone Bridge Press books will be US and Canada only while the Peter Owen books will be for everyone outside those countries.  All clear?  Then it's time to introduce today's books :)

Stone Bridge Press have kindly put three of their recent publications up for grabs, two of which are from acclaimed writer Junzo ShonoEvening Clouds is a short novel, an elegant, lyrical description of everyday life in suburban Tokyo, while Still Life and Other Stories is a collection of tales which Stone Bridge publisher Peter Goodman describes as "one of the books I'm most proud to have published at Stone Bridge Press."

The third Stone Bridge offering is Masaaki Tachihara's Wind and Stone, a short novel which is described as "a disturbing tale of seduction, based on Japanese aesthetics and the artistic pursuit of destructive beauty."  The writer won the popular Naoki Prize and was twice nominated for the Akutagawa Prize, so this is bound to be a good read :)
The selection offfered by Peter Owen Publishers is also an impressive one.  There are two excellent novels by Shusaku Endo to be had: Volcano, a simmering tale of life in the shadow of sin and the natural world (my review here); and When I Whistle, an excellent story about dealing with right and wrong in the modern world (my review here).

The third of the books on offer is Ryunosuke Akutagawa's Kappa, a rare longer outing for Japan's supreme short-story writer.  Let's face it - if you have a country's major literary award named in your honour, your books must be worth a read... 

So, if you'd like to win one of these books, simply comment below, leaving your name, an e-mail address and the name of the book you'd like to win.  There's no need to follow me, either here, on Facebook or on Twitter (unless you want to, of course!) - anyone can enter (in their geographical zone...), and everyone has an equal chance of winning :)

Entries will close at 8 p.m. (AEST) on Thursday, February the 6th (that's 9 a.m. on Thursday, London time), and the winners will be posted here once they've been announced (the winners, naturally, will be chosen using some kind of random on-line draw thingy).  So, what are you waiting for?  Get commenting, and good luck! 

And, of course, we need to announce the winners of last week's prizes!

Oh, Tama! goes to Mihai
The Nobility of Failure goes to Paul
Blue Bamboo goes to M
I will be in contact with the winners shortly - thanks again to Kurodahan Press for providing some great prizes :)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Readalong Two: 'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami

Welcome to the home page for the second of our two January in Japan readalongs :)  This time we're looking at Haruki Murakami's breakthrough novel, Norwegian Wood, and below you'll find links to the reviews and thoughts of all the readalong participants (this will be updated as I become aware of the posts!).

Before that though, I just thought I'd leave a few posers for people to ponder (and perhaps reply to in the comments section):

1) What did you think of Toru and his behaviour?
2) Did the tone of nostalgia strike a chord with you, or did you find it hard to empathise with the characters?
3) Norwegian Wood is a much 'straighter' novel than much of Murakami's work - did you enjoy the realistic tone, or would you have preferred his usual twists on reality?

P.S.  Did you know that the original title is based on a mistranslation?  In the original song, the 'wood' referred to is a wooden floor, but the Japanese translation is actually 'wood' as in a group of trees...  Murakami kept the mistranslation as it suits his themes :)

If you'd like to comment on these questions (or anything else...), please feel free to ;)  And now, the reviews...