Japanese Novel Review: 神去なあなあ夜話 Night Tales from Kamusari by Miura Shion (三浦しをん)

I purchased this novel at Chicago’s Kinokuniya after reading and falling in love with its prequel, The Easy Life in Kamusari(神去なあなあ).  This novel, 神Night Tales from Kamusari(去なあなあ夜話) is written just like the title sounds.  Its been a year since the main character as moved, and he writes a diary secretly at night going over different things that have happen to him since the end of his internship year.

Finishing this novel has really put Miura Shion towards the top of my favorite authors list.  I really enjoy her writing style and her ability to get into niche worlds in each of her novels.

Title: 神去なあなあ夜話
Author: 三浦しおん
Publisher: Tokuma Shoten (徳間書店)
Page count: 352 pages
IBSN: 9784198941178
USA Kinokuniya Link

Story review:

This novel, Night Tales from Kamusari, continues Yuuki’s experiences living in the small village of Kamusari. Yuuki, from Yokohama, was forced to move by his parents and teachers after being unsuccessful in entering college or finding a good job. At this point, its been a year since Yuuki started and now he has the mental space to really think about other things besides work.

He starts to be able to really get a chance to see the people around him and get to know them through conversations and observations.  While the first novel seemed to be very cohesive and plot focused, Night Tales from Kamusari(神去なあなあ夜話) is much more slice of life.  The story jumps in and out of Yuuki’s life as he find the time to write some of the more interesting things that is happening in his life.  It almost feels more like a collection of short stories then one plot line.  If anything, the overall theme is Yuuki being accepted as a member of the community and his journey trying to get his crush, Naoki, to date him.

Here are a few of the topics that Yuuki muses over this time:

Is there any truth to the old folk tales of Kamusari? Does his boss’s family have snake god blood running through them? Is there really a god who can help the village people find their lost items in exchange for fried tofu?

What does Yuuki have to do to get into the gods good favor so he can safely return from the forest everyday and live a long life in Kamusari?

Does he actually love Naoki or is it that she is the only girl in town his age? Even if he can convince himself that Naoki is special to him, how can he convince her of his true feelings?

Why are there so few middle aged people in Kamusari?

Will this years festival be as dangerous as the last one was?

How can Yuuki support those around him and make up for everything people in the village have done for him?

Since forestry is a dying industry, will Yuuki even be able to keep living in Kamusari?

My experience reading this book:

Since the book was written in a diary style, it felt very natural and easy to read.  I think I read this novel over around 3 days? The casual style of the novel helped me to keep going.  When stuff starts getting more formal, I start getting tired and it takes me a bit longer to finish.  This is most likely because I only use Japanese at home and don’t use it at work.

I really enjoyed how Yuuki got more into nature and started comparing feelings he was having to the flight of birds or the different changes with each season. This is the kind of thing I was really hoping for when I picked up this book. I just do not enjoy reading descriptive passages of large cities or urban environments.  They might be visually appealing in person or in pictures… just not in written form.

I feel like I really related to Yuuki in this novel because I am reaching the 1 year point at my new job. I started working in a completely new environment in a new specialty with a fairly new degree. And I did this in the medial field at the start of COVID!  It has been really hard, but I am happy to say that things are starting to get better each day.  There are still many hard days, but I finally feel like I have more mental space to enjoy my free time and have enough knowledge to be useful at my job.

Level Preface:

Just to give some background to my current level. I have been using Japanese for a long time now, but just decided somewhat recently to be more serious about gaining fluent literacy. In 2020 I finished reviewing over JLPT N2 materials and have started on N1. I am planning on taking N1 in 2021. I started reading novels in 2020 and have read over 20 to completion.

Vocabulary:N2 student level

I think that this novel would be appropriate for N2 level students as the reader should have a strong grasp of intermediate vocabulary to make up for the amount of more specialized vocabulary used through out this novel.  N2 level students should not have much trouble with the general vocabulary used through out this novel.  I do not think that N1 students will have much of an advantage unless they happen to have already been exposed to nature based vocabulary.

The vocabulary used in the book should be very easy for those who have read the prequel for this novel, 神去なあなあ日常.  While the themes in this novel are different, the specific vocabulary groups in this novel remain the same: Forestry, Mountain based geographical features, Features of Tradition Japanese Houses, and Shintoism.

Features of Tradition Japanese Houses seem to be a theme that I see often in the novels I read as I tend to seek out stories that are set in the country side.  This novel has less of a focus on forestry as the previous novel did, but still the vocabulary is presented in the novel often as many of the scenes take place while the characters are working out in the mountains.  Both novels seem to have an equal focus on folk tails related to specifically to the history of Kamusari.

Since this novel has more of a focus of Yuuki’s daily life in the village, I think that Night Tales from Kamusari(神去なあなあ夜話) has more of a focus on general vocabulary.

Grammar: N3-N2 student level

Readers who have a strong grasp of N3 level grammar points should not find grammar to be a barrier to understanding while reading this novel. This is a first person novel from the perspective of a young Japanese man.  Overall the format of his thoughts are written in causal, easy Japanese.

Due to its diary style, the grammar used in this novel is more reflective of verbal Japanese as opposed to written Japanese.  Verbal Japanese that is used in everyday life tends to be much simpler then how Japanese is written in novels.  There are many common N2-N1 grammar points that I have only seen in novels and have never heard while living in Japan or watching Japanese TV/movies.

But there are some grammar difficulties in this book, and that is dialect. If you prefer to read books that are written in standard Japanese, then this is not the novel for you.  The vast majority of the characters in this book speak in a dialect and the main character Yuuki, while being from a large city is Eastern Japan, actively tries to hide his ‘normal’ speaking style while living in the village. If the dialect is really strong, there will be a short translation into standard Japanese.

The reason I consider dialect to be a grammar issue is because in Japan, the style for conjugating verbs changes with dialect and location.  Dialects do have vocabulary differences as well.  But in this book, the main character will ‘translate’ those vocabulary differences into standard Japanese for the reader.

Cultural References

This book is easy mode culture wise.  The reader does not have to come in with a large amount of Japanese cultural knowledge to understand the story line. There are no modern cultural references or slang. I did not find any cultural references to music, historical figures, or celebrities.

Like the previous book, Yuuki is still a young outsider and other characters in the book take the time to explain cultural concepts are that unique to Kamusari or living in the country side.  At some point two of the characters go on a trip to Nagoya, which is a large city in Aichi prefecture.

It is helpful to know that Yokohama(Yuuki’s hometown) is a large city next to Tokyo as this will give you more context in understanding the cultural differences between Yuuki and those who were raised in the small village of Kamusari.  There are two other characters in the novel that were raised in other areas of Japan, the sisters Naoki and Youko.  Their grandparents are originally from Kamusari, but their parents moved away from the village for work.  Youko met Yuuki’s boss at university in Tokyo and moved to Kamusari with after getting married.  Naoki is is Youko’s younger sister who followed Youko back and now lives alone in their grandparent’s old house.

Who should read this book?

N2 level students who are looking for a casual diary like writing style writing from the perceptive of Japanese guy in his early 20’s.  Readers who like to novel based in the country side. 

People who have read 神去なあなあ日常.  While you don’t need to have read the previous book to understand the plot line… its easy to relate to the characters when you have a better handle of their background and who they are.  If you can, read 神去なあなあ日常 first.

Related Media

I highly recommend reading 神去なあなあ日常 first if you are interested in picking up 神去なあなあ夜話.  The first book is more about Yuuki’s journey into adulthood as he gets his first real job and moves out to a new area.  His job in forest is pretty difficult and there is a large learning curve.  There is a lot that Yuuki has to learn if he wants to say in Kamusari after his internship year is over.

Like I mentioned earlier in this article.  There is a movie based off of the first novel.  I really enjoyed this movie a lot and it has become one of my favorite Japanese movies.  The dialect in the movie is a bit watered down compared to the novel, so it might be a good first step for those who are interested in this story line, but wary of non-standard Japanese.

Author: Kuri

I love reading Japanese novels and have seen that many people want to read them but don't know where to start. I have decided to share my experiences to help people reach their literacy goals.

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