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Fall Reading About Japan

 

 

Need some ideas for fall reading? Consider these books about Japan or books written by Japanese American or Japanese authors.

 

1 The Nakano Thrift Shop By Hiromi Kawakami

 

From one of Japan’s best-selling and most beloved authors comes the perceptive, life-affirming novel that sheds light on the beauty of often overlooked people and objects and invites readers to look at the world with a renewed sense of empathy and wonder.

 

Objects for sale at the Nakano Thrift Shop appear as commonplace as the staff and customers that handle them. But like those same customers and staff, they hold many secrets. If examined carefully, they show the signs of innumerable extravagancies, of immeasurable pleasure and pain, and of the deep mysteries of the human heart.

 

Young and unsure, Hitomi drifts through her twenties before landing at the Nakano Thrift Shop, where the bonds she forms with its oddball cast of employees---from the enigmatic Mr. Nakano, to his self-assured sister Masayo, and above all, the shy, silent Takeo---tug her into adulthood. Among the seemingly arbitrary objects she sells, Hitomi will come to realize that love, desire, and intimacy require acceptance not only of idiosyncrasies but also of the delicate waltz between open and hidden secrets.

 

2 Who’s Next Door? By Mayuko Kishira, illustrated by Jun Takabatake

 

Chicken is thrilled when he finds out someone new has moved in next door. His quiet house deep in the woods can be lonely sometimes, and it would be so much fun to have a friend! But chicken never catches so much as a glimpse of his neighbor , despite many days spent waiting, pacing, and knocking on his door. As it turns out, his neighbor, Owl, has been doing the same things, yearning to meet Chicken --- only he’s been doing it at night. It’s not until after two exchange notes and mix up plans for a visit, each using his own definition of “tomorrow,” that they meet fortuitously and find a creative way to enjoy each other’s friendly despite their different schedules.

 

A comical look at nocturnal and diurnal creatures, this simple story explores the concept of opposites in a smart, subtly funny way. Kids and adults alike will have fun anticipating the punchline, hinted at through the mix of traditional and comic panel-style artwork.

 

Who’s Next Door? Is a page turner that will be a joy to read for the first or umpteenth time. Through its fun, heartfelt look at the anticipation that comes with new friendships, this book celebrates the fact that even those as different as night and day can form a special bond.

 

3 Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

 

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,000 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.

 

It was Japan’s great single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis and meltdown of Fukushima’s nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.

 

Richard Lloyd Parry, Asian editor and Tokyo bureau chief of The Times (London), lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and haunting, and met a priest who exorcised the spirits of the dat. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village that had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.

 

4 Diary of a Tokyo Teen, written and drawn by Christine Mari Inzer

 

A book for comic lovers and Japanophiles of all ages, Diary of a Tokyo Teen presents a unique look at modern-day Japan through a young woman’s eyes.

 

Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and an American father in 1997, Christine Mari Inzer spent her early years in Japan and relocated to the United States in 2003. The summer before she turned 16, she returned to Tokyo, making a solo journey to get reacquainted with her birthplace. Through illustrations, photos and musings, Inzer documented her journey in a self-published book. Tuttle’s new, color edition of Inzer’s well-reviewed cvolume makes this charming travelogue available to a wider audience.

 

In Diary of a Tokyo Teen, Inzer explores the cutting-edge fashions of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district, eats the best sushi of her life at the renowned Tsukjii fish market, and hunts down geisha in the ancient city of Kyoto. As she shares the trails and pleasures of travel from one end of a trip to the other, Inzer introduces the host of interesting characters she meets and offers a unique and often hilarious look at a fascinating country and an engaging tale of one girl rediscovering her roots.

 

5 Momotaro Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway, illustrated by Choong Yoon

 

Margaret Dilloway enjoyed writing this book. She created Xander and his friends as a way to represent the original’s animal companions. Each one has his or her own unique strengths and personal journeys.

 

Percy Jackson meets Hayao Miyazaki in this contemporary twist on Japanese folktale. A Japanese American boy discovers the powers that are his birthright when he goes on a quest to save his father from monsters that are wrecking havoc on earth.

 

6 The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

 

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom.

 

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family—like thousands of other Japanese Americans—are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

 

7 The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated and abridged by Edward G. Seidensticker

 

In the 11th century, Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, wrote the world’s first novel. But The Tale of Genji is no mere artifact. It is, rather, a lively and astonishingly nuanced portraits of a refined society where every dalliance is an act of political consequence, a play of characters whose inner lives are as rich and changeable as those imagined by Proust. Chief of these is “the shining Genji,´the son of the emperor and a man whose passionate impulses create great turmoil in his world and very nearly destroy him. This edition, recognized as the finesse version in English, contains a dozen chapters from early in the book, carefully chosen by the translator, Edward G. Seidensticker, with an introduction explaining the selection. It is illustrated throughout with woodcuts from a 17th century edition.

 

8 Strawberry Yellow by Naomi Hirahara

 

This fifth installment is set in the strawberry fields of Watsonville, California, where young Mas first arrived from Hiroshima in the 1940s. Now a semi-retired gardener who lives in an LA suburb, he returns for the funeral of a cousin and quickly gets entangled in the murder of a young woman. Was his cousin murdered, too?

 

Mas has to figure out what happened, keep himself safe in the face of considerable peril, and uncover the mystery of the Strawberry Yellow blight—and a new strawberry varietal so important that it could be inspiring a murderer.

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