Before We Say Goodbye — Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before We Say Goodbye -- Toshikazu KawaguchiThe fourth book from this rather enjoyable series: at least it had been rather enjoyable up to this book.   But i’m beginning to feel that Toshikazu is beginning to get a bit repetitive and the cafe is beginning to become a little stale.

I think that Toshikazu is simply rushing out books and not really making any effort to create something new and interesting, which is a shame.   I really feel that what this series needs is for Toshikazu to just put it down for a while and not come back to it until he has something new and interesting to bring to the cafe.

That’s my thoughts on the matter, it really doesn’t need to be ruined to meet a deadline, either with the publisher or with Toshikazu’s bank account.

Bye for now.

Toshikazu’s Page

#scifi #japan #toshikazukawaguchi

Quicksand — Junichiro Tanizaki

Quicksand -- Junichiro TanizakiThis is written by the author as though a desperate housewife is telling him personally about her affairs and marriage problems.

I gave up about a third of the way in, i couldn’t take it any more.

If you’re the kind of person that likes reading about chaos in other people’s relationships then it might just suit you, but that’s not my thing at all.

Awful main character.

Bye for now.

Junichiro’s Page

#5t4n5 #japan #junichirotanizaki

Before Your Memory Fades — Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before Your Memory Fades -- Toshikazu KawaguchiThe third book in the Before The Coffee Gets Cold series, and what a great book.

If you haven’t read any of this series yet then i really, whole heartedly, suggest you get back to the beginning and give them a go.   The time-travelling-chair-in-a-cafe really is such a great story telling device, especially with the rules that come along with it.

And it’s in those rules that the stories shine.   The main one being that you cannot change anything in the present by going back to the past.   This rule really does sort the wheat from the chaff and creates stories that are deep and meaningful for all of us.

This third book takes us away from the first cafe to another cafe in Japan with it’s own chair and ghost.   The owner has gone away so some of the crew from Tokyo have taken over because only a female over the age of 7 years, from their family, can pour the coffee.

A lot of this book is about death, and how we all deal with the death of a loved one, and the ending is incredible: Toshikazu really nailed the ending, it’s so perfect and so moving.   It’s not often that my eyes get soggy at the end of a book, but this one did it perfectly.   While the whole book is really good, it’s only when you get to the ending that you realise that it’s all been about building up the ending, where Toshikazu brings everything to a perfectly sharp focus.

And don’t forget, the next book in the series, Before We Say Goodbye, is coming out in September 2023, so be sure to put that in your diary.

Bye for now.

Toshikazu’s Page

#scifi #japan #toshikazukawaguchi

Musashi’s Dokkodo — Miyamoto Musashi

Musashi's Dokkodo -- Miyamoto MusashiJust before Musashi died, he wrote a set of precepts for his favourite student.   In this book the precepts are discussed one by one by five martial artists from different backgrounds and careers.

A really good look at Musashi and his ideas with five different interpretations of both the man, the legend and his precepts.

A must read for those of us who are interested in Japanese culture, especially from the feudal era.

Bye for now.

Musashi’s Page

#japan #miyamotomusashi

The Power of Chowa — Akemi Tanaka

A quite enjoyable Japanese wisdom book with a rather different perspective, that of a Japanese woman who at times comes across as the outsider, shunned in some ways by conservative Japanese society for standing up — and standing out — as an independent woman, while at the same time Akemi is very clearly a traditionalist in all the ways that truly matter.   At least that’s the view i get on Akemi from these pages.

And why shouldn’t strong-minded, independent women take the very best of tradition and leave the worse of it behind?   Surely that’s the point of evolution, to take what is the best, that which benefits the most and to leave behind and slough off those very things that hinder, bind and stifle all of us ultimately; and in doing so build stronger and more resilient societies for the future.   Of course, there will always be tension between which side of this coin things fall on, the ultra conservative who blindly want to maintain everything, regardless of worth and value, while on the other side those who want to cast of everything they see as old and done.   Or maybe there’s a middle way, a way of Chowa?

It’s from these two different perspectives that Akemi takes us on this journey to discover Chowa, that balance and harmony within and without that we could all use a good dose of in our crazy modern lives.

Definitely another one of those books that i feel everyone who reads it with an open mind can find some small nugget to take away to help improve themselves, their lives and their environments.   I certainly feel it was worth the read and feel others will do so as well.

Akemi’s Page

#japan #akemitanaka

In Praise of Shadows — Junichiro Tanizaki

I’m currently reading The Power of Chowa, wherein Akemi mentions this book in passing.   When i read the name of the writer i was sure i had some of his books in my pile of books waiting to be read, and sure enough, one of those books was this one.

So i put aside The Power of Chowa for a while and gave this a read to fully understand the impression that Akemi was trying to give.

And wow, this is definitely one to put on the shelf next to The Book of Tea.   Both books have wonderful passages of ranting, but it’s intelligent ranting fuelled by a genuine passion for something truly precious; and in between the passages of ranting one gets some wonderful, thought provoking passages of delightful, descriptive writing: this book is like a painting in words.

Written in the 1930’s, concerning Japan’s modernisation it’s news to me to read how, even before WWII and the surrender to the USA, Japan’s desire to ape American culture was already underway.   But, that aside, i do feel that Junichiro fails to appreciate that even in the west we have lost so many of our own shadows.   It seems that most of my life that here in Europe, we have been hell bent on illuminating everything to ridiculous levels, banishing all shadow wherever it may lurk.

The never ending pursuit of cleaning out the dirt and dust and any corners where it may lurk: banish the shadows for your own health’s sake!   The continued insistence on ridiculous levels of cleanliness and sterility within and without our homes, which has lead to ever lower immune function and plenty of allergies along with it.

And it’s not just the shadows, it’s any semblance of quiet we will blast sound into.   Where now can we truly be quiet and stare into the night sky and see the stars as they truly are?   When was the last time you truly experienced the peaceful quite and shadows of the real world without modern technology to protect and coddle you?   Or are you one of the new people, ever terrified of what unknowns may be lurking there where you hear and see nothing but vague outlines and impressions?

I agree with Junichiro, we have lost something truly precious.

The only thing i would say about this book is that, for me at least, the “Afterword” would be better placed as a “Foreword”.   I just feel that it would focus ones attention on certain things a lot more if they had been pointed out before hand instead of afterwards.   I will definitely be reading this again at some point before i die and when i do i will definitely read the “Afterword” first.

Junichiro’s Page

#japan #junichirotanizaki

Tokyo Ueno Station — Miri Yu

This is quite a strange story, in that our protagonist/narrator, Kazu, is dead.   Before Kazu died, he was homeless and living in a cardboard and tarpaulin hut in Ueno Park, right next to Tokyo Ueno Station.

All too often we are shown the shiny-shiny capitalist face of Tokyo that those in power wish us to see, the Olympics, etc., but never do we see, or hear, those who are cast aside, unwanted and unneeded by a system that some just can’t keep up with.   Tokyo Ueno Station is their story, told by a ghost of one of the many people that society has no place for any more.

I know it sounds all rather depressing, but i didn’t find it so because it’s a view of Tokyo that is told in such a unique and interesting way, keeping our attention when most writers would have lost it, making us realise, consider and re-revaluate.   How many homeless people die on the streets every year and no one ever gets to hear their story, or realise the truth as to why they were homeless in the first place, this book makes you think about those things: they are important.

It’s certainly a fact in the UK, where i live, that the government deliberately maintains a homeless population in order to keep the threat in front of people of what will happen to them if they don’t comply with society’s demands.   I presume this is the same in Japan:   “Do you want to end up like them, Salaryman?   Well you’d best work hard, do lots of overtime, and do as you’re told — or else you’ll be living in Ueno Park too!”

Yu’s Page

#japan #miriyu

The Girl who Leapt Through Time — Yasutaka Tsutsui

There’s two short stories in this book and i’ll review each of them separately below.

The Girl who Leapt Through Time

A short while ago i read The Maid, which was my first trip into the writing of Yasutaka, and i thoroughly enjoyed it: so much that i decided to collect every book of his i could find and read them in published order.   And so i began with The Girl who Leapt Through Time from 1967.

What doesn’t get a mention when approaching this book is that it’s a children’s book, i would perhaps place it around 11-12 year old level, so that’s something to bear in mind if you do decide to read it.

So it’s very simple writing and a rather simple story about some children having a bit of a crazy time with time travel and teleportation.   I felt the best thing about this was it’s simplicity in it’s writing because as an adult you don’t have to think about anything and can just breeze along with the story itself, and it’s quite a good little story.

So yeah, i’m more than happy to have come back to Yasutaka’s earliest book that’s so far been translated into English.   Definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of his writing, or if you just want a quick and easy read of some temporal sci-fi.

The Stuff that Nightmares Are Made of

This is quite a different story to the previous one.   Once again, it’s another children’s book, but this time dealing with the theme of repressed trauma manifesting as unexplained fears.

Although it’s a book for children, i do feel that there’s a few things for most adults to learn here as well, especially parents, whose words and actions can create all kinds of unintended consequences for children.

And that’s me done with this book.   The Maid was next in the original publishing time line of Yasutaka’s translated books, but i already read that, so next up will be Paprika, which i hope to get around to reading some time soon as i’m really enjoying Yasutaka’s writing.

Yasutaka’s Page

#japan #scifi #yasutakatsutsui