Japanese Novel Review: 麦本三歩の好きなもの 第一集 Sanpo Mugimoto’s Favorite Things Part One by Sumino Yoru (住野よる)

This is a book review for Sumino Yoru’s 麦本三歩の好きなもの第一集(Sanpo Mugimoto’s Favorite Things Part One).  Its about the daily life of a carefree(or careless depending on who you ask) librarian.  Cute warm collection of snap shots from a young woman’s life.

Title: 麦本三歩の好きなもの 第一集
Author: 住野よる
Publisher: 幻冬舎
Publication Date: 01/2021
Page count: 289 pages
IBSN: 9784344430525

USA Kinokuniya Link

Story Review

This reads almost like a documentary or case study of the life of Sanpo Mugimoto.  If you ask the people in her life what she is like, you would get answers like ‘She is a silly, spacey girl.’  Sanpo Mugimoto would agree, but would also say that those traits can be said in a more positive way.

Sanpo Mugimoto loves her job at the university library even though her coworkers scold her often. Overall, Sanpo Mugimoto isn’t too concerned with deeper meanings and just try to find any joy in life that she can. She loves to walk and will walk around the neighborhood with no goal, passing by the same houses multiple times in a row just to continue on her stroll. To her, if meaning full days are important, that means that meaningless days have their value as well. Without the comparison, there would be no meaningful days. 

As we follow Sanpo Mugimoto and take peaks into her working life and free time, the novel is broken up into 12 chapters with different themes and focus. Each theme is pretty simple, what does Sanpo Mugimoto like?

Sanpo Mugimoto likes to Walk (麦本三歩は歩くのが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes the Library (麦本三歩は図書館が好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Needle Point (麦本三歩はワンポイントが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Older People(麦本三歩は年上が好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Lime (麦本三歩はライムが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Fresh Cream (麦本三歩は生クリームが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes You (麦本三歩は君が好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Bourbon Pastry Rolls​ (麦本三歩ははブルボンが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Kiki’s Delivery Service (麦本三歩は魔女宅が好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Fan Service (麦本三歩はファンサービスが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Monterey Curry(麦本三歩はモントレーが好き)

Sanpo Mugimoto likes Today (麦本三歩は今日が好き)

Since this novel isn’t really plot based, I have decided not to write summaries of each chapter. I think its worth going in blind to slowly learn about all of the different small details that makes Sanpo Mugimoto, Sanpo Mugimoto.

Even though most of the main characters are nameless, they are pretty easy to keep track of since their are so few of them.  There is her scary coworker, her nice coworker, her weird coworker, and her lovely friend.

My Reading Experience:

I was a bit slow reading this novel due to lack of practice.  Reading everyday for extended periods of time really makes a huge difference in my ability to read in Japanese.  Two weeks ago, my apartment complex changed their policy regarding pets and I became obsessed with adopting a dog.  My obsession worked as I ended up finding the perfect dog for me from like the best shelter ever within a short amount of time.  But I did neglect reading as adopting a dog during COVID was more difficult then I thought it would be.

I wasn’t really looking to read another Sumino Yoru novel. While I did enjoy how the dialog was written in I want to eat your Pancreas(君の膵臓をたべたい), I wasn’t really in love with the story or how the character where written. But repeated exposure to reviews of 麦本三歩の好きなもの第一集(Sanpo Mugimoto’s Favorite Things Part One) on book twitter started to get to me. I love libraries and thought about pursuing it as a career when I was a university student. I have been making use of my local library system more lately and spend a lot of time browsing their online catalog looking for new Japanese novels to read. My love of library and intrigue of a seeming light and playful story line pushed me further and further into thinking about picking this novel up.

I found a review of the second collection of stories, 麦本三歩の好きなもの第二集(Sanpo Mugimoto’s Favorite Things Part Two) on Peregrinja’s blog, The Blog of a Reiwan Lady and fell in love with her description of the book.

So if you like slow everyday life kind of novels this is for you, funny, charming, relaxing.

– Peregrinja

A day after reading this review, I was at Chicago’s Kinokuniya and was able to find a copy of part one for $10.99 and started reading it the next day.

I do not think I’ve ever read a ‘character case study’ style novel before, but I really enjoyed it and think that Sumino Yoru was the perfect author for this novel. He was really able to show this characters good points and bad points really well while still making her charming enough to keep readers attention.

I read through quite a few reviews of this book on bookmeter and found a pretty interested theme. A lot of the Japanese readers tended to find Sanpo Mugimoto charming on paper, but admitted that they would think that it would be irritating to have her as a coworker. So this book is basically the warm story of annoying girl? I think that the personality of Sanpo Mugimoto would appeal more to western readers then to average Japanese person.

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 40 to completion.

Vocabulary: N2-N1 level student(upper intermediate)

I feel that I have a good grasp of N2 level vocabulary and found myself using a dictionary more the usual with this novel.  Most of the time I feel comfortable guessing or just looking up the readings of words I don’t know and moving on.  Due to the detailed character study nature of this novel, I did feel inspired to look up a lot of word as the particulars of each word choice felt really important to understanding more about the essence of Sanpo Mogimoto. Despite that, this novel does follow a young women just living her life.  So a lot of the topics covered in the novel are pretty easy to understand and the book is filled with great general vocabulary that is valuable in daily life.

I think that N2 level intermediate students would not have a difficult time reading this novel per se, but it would be a vocabulary expander.  N1 level students would  have a more comfortable time reading this novel while still learning new words.

One word I learned from this book: おっちょこちょい (careless person; scatterbrain; birdbrain)

Grammar: N2 level student(intermediate)

The writing style in this novel is very plain and easy to understand.  I think that readers who have a solid grasp of N2 level concepts that are getting started on their N2 journey would find this book to be a great choice for them grammar wise.

All of the character in this book speak in standard Japanese dialect.  Readers should not find dialect to be an issue when reading this novel.  But this is not a dialog heavy book and favors descriptive passages over conversations.  This might make the novel feel dense to some readers.

Cultural References

There are lots of little things from Japanese daily life that readers who have never lived in Japan would be unfamiliar with. I found the perfect Japanese webpage for those types of readers!  いま、綴りたい言葉がある is a blog about books and manga.  One of the articles, 彼女の毎日には幸せが溢れている:住野よる 著『麦本三歩の好きなもの』goes into details on some of the specifics of what Sanpo Mugimoto likes.  While this article is written in Japanese, it is very well organized and I think many intermediate Japanese students will find it really useful to use as a guide while reading Sanpo Mugimoto’s Favorite Things Part One(麦本三歩の好きなもの 第一集).  It also gives a quick recap of who the main characters are in the novel.  I think it may even be useful to read the article before the novel just to have a general idea of the characters and favorite items, then circle back and use it as a reference while reading as a refresher on what each item actually is.

Length: 289 pages long (Short – Medium)

At 289, I wouldn’t call this a short novel exactly, but I do really like how the book is split up. There are 12 distinct chapters that could almost be considered short stories or snap shots of the life of Sanpo Mugimoto. While each of the chapters vary in length, each chapter on average would be about 24 pages long. While usually I dislike when collections of short stories have stories that greatly vary in length, I really enjoyed it in this snap shot style.

I think that novels that really make use of writing styles that favor shorter chapters are perfect for language learners. The chapter lengths will help with learners who are trying to set up daily/weekly/monthly goals. As opposed to short stories(which has the same strong point of making bite sized reading material for readers), novels with short chapters follow the same overall story line and tend to reuse vocabulary in related to the environment or themes much more often.

Who Should Read this Book?

Sumino Yoru fans.  Those who like reading books about quirky girls. Readers who like character driven books as opposed to plot driven books.

Is this book right for you?

For those that would like to check out the first few pages to see if this book fits what you are looking for, you can do so at Book Walker using this link. Click on the cover image and that will take you to a sneak peak into this novel. 

Related Media

If you read and love 麦本三歩の好きなもの第一集(Sanpo Mugimoto’s Favorite Things Part One), have no fear as there is a part two that seems like it is equally as charming as part one.  It appears to be written in the same style of a collection of short snap shots into the life of Sanpo Mugimoto. I’m looking forward to reading this book in the future.  Seems like it is only available in hardcover at the moment so I will have to wait until I find it in a library some day or it comes out in paper back.

Late last year I wrote a review of Sumino’s most popular novel, I want to eat your Pancreas(君の膵臓をたべたい).  This is another novel that follows the life of a quirky Japanese girl, but this time through the eyes of a classmate.  This story has truly captured the heart of Japan and has been turned into a movie and an animated film.  It was also runner up for the 2016 Booksellers Award.

I have not read The Same Dream, again(まだ,同じ夢を見ていた) but I have seen it mentioned a lot online as a great book for those who are new to reading novels in Japanese.  Based off of reviews I have read, it seems like the vocabulary and grammar are easier then Sumino’s other novels.


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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