Japanese Novel Review: 天国はまだ遠く Heaven is Still Far Away by Seo Maiko (瀬尾 まいこ)

Recently Seo Maiko(瀬尾 まいこ)’s words have really made their way into my heart and she has become my favorite author. Heaven is Still Far Away(天国はまだ遠く) is the first novel’s of hers that I have read. I purchased it off of Kinokuniya’s USA online site for $9.99.

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Japanese Novel Review: ハリー・ポッターとアズカバンの囚人 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

This is a review for the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(ハリー・ポッターとアズカバンの囚人) by J. K. Rowling.

Harry Potter, as I am sure you know, is an extremely famous book series that has ingrained itself into American culture despite being a book from England.  I think most people have heard of the series and basically everyone I know has at least a basic idea of the story and have seen a movie or two.  Growing up many of my friends were reading the book series as it came out.

Due to people’s familiarity with the story line, many people seem to turn to this book as a first choice when trying to start out reading novels in a new language.  I too purchased random Harry Potter books that I found at Book Off while living in Japan.  Anytime I saw one for 100yen, I purchased it until I had the full collection.  While I started this book many times my first year living in Japan, I never really got past the first chapter because it is a fairly difficult novel.  I do not recommend this book for beginners and I will get more into my reasons below in this book review.

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Japanese Novel Review: キッチン Kitchen by Yoshimoto Banana(吉本ばなな)

I had a hard time deciding whether to review this novel or not. Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is famous in both Japanese and English. It is often recommended for beginners and is the go to recommendation for those who are looking to get into the world of Japanese novels. I reread the book, took some notes, and really thought about whether or not I would be able to add anything of value to the discussion on this book. Then it hit me, while I love this novel, I do not think that this is a good book for beginners. I will get more into why I think so in my review below as well as offer some alternative suggestions for those looking for a good first book.

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Japanese Novel Review: 西の魔女が死んだ The Witch of the West is Dead by Kaho Nashiki(梨木香歩)

This is a review of the novel The Witch of the West is Dead(西の魔女が死んだ) by Kaho Nashiki(梨木香歩).  This is a young adult novel that really high lights that fact that juvenile fiction isn’t always easier then regular novels from the language learners perceptive.  I do not recommend that this be any language learners first book.

I bought this book while I was visiting my partner’s parents in Osaka at Book-Off.  I have seen the book a few times and the very easy to read title and cute cover stuck out to me.  It was only 100yen so I decided just to pick it up and opened it up for the first time this year. I was inspired to read this story due to the fact that a Japanese blogger I watch often mentioned it as being one of her favorite books.

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Japanese Novel Review: 星の子 Child of the Stars by Imamura Natsuko(今村 夏子)

 

This is a review for the novel Child of the Stars(星の子) by Imamura Natsuko(今村 夏子).  Imamura  is a well renowned author who has won an impressive amount of literary awards.   Child of the Stars won the Noma Literary Prize in 2017 as well as being nominated for the Book Sellers Award in 2018. I looked at this book every single time I walked into Kinokuniya, but never got around to reading it until just now.  I purchased the book on Amazon JP’s online store for 654 yen.

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Japanese Novel Review:5分で読書: きのう失恋した Yesterday’s Heartbreak in 5 Minutes by The カドカワ読書タイム Team

I found this book for free on yomeruba.com. I saw from a post on reddit that this website has been doing campaigns where they have a monthly selection of novels that can be read for free. I decided to read this novel to see if it would be a good choice for beginner students. This is my first time reading a Japanese novel online. I really prefer paper based novels as I love everything related to trees in general. But I really wanted to seek out more beginner reading materials and I am interested in find free materials online to help me with my budget. There are some more expensive hardcover books that I am interested in, but my current budget would only allow me one paperback book per week.

Ive heard of this book series before, but basically it is a collection of short stories with the same theme.  Each story is broken up into sections that would take a Junior High School level Japanese student around a few minutes to read. I think that this format would work well for language learners as well! It is nice that it basically tells the reader a good place to stop. While the description might make it seem like its the same thing as chapters in a normal novel, the timing of these breaks is more consistent.

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Japanese Novel Review: 愛はなんだ What is Love by Mitsuyo Kakuta(角田 光代)

 

So I randomly saw the movie based off of Mitsuyo Kakuta(角田 光代)’s What is Love (愛はなんだ) and fell in love with the atmosphere of the movie.  I have never took an interest in directors before and usually know nothing about them, but for the first time I can say that I am a fan of director and his name is Imaizumi Rikiya(今泉力哉)!

I started watching other movies he has created and found them equally as enjoyable. 

I didn’t even realize that What is Love was based off a book until I saw Inhae’s review on it over on her blog, Inside that Japanese Book. I looked more into the author Mitsuyo Kakuta(角田 光代) and she seemed really interesting and has written some award winning stuff so I decided to buy the novel at Kinokuniya’s USA online store for $8.99.

Story review:

Romantic Horror seems to be the best way to describe this type of story.

This is the story of Teruko Yamada and her process of slowly destroying her life over her obsession with Mamoru Tanaka.  Since the day she met him at a friends party, she started to lose touch with everything else.  Anything unrelated to Mamoru was put in the ‘I don’t care pile’ and left to rot away.  Her work performance started to suffer.  The coworkers that she used to get along with grew distant as she stopped answering phone calls and started coming into work late.  But that was okay with Teruko!  She and Mamoru were doing great from her point of view.  They weren’t official, but they were hanging out, having fun, and she knew things were going somewhere.  He even suggested that she quit her job so that means he was thinking about marriage, right?  She started to live the house wife life and take care of all of Mamoru’s needs. Until he started to feel overwhelmed with Teruko and started to pull away. 

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Japanese Novel Review: 時をかける少女 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui(筒井 康隆)

This review is for the Japanese novel The Girl Who Leapt Through Time(時をかける少女) by Yasutaka Tsutsui(筒井 康隆). I have had this book for so long that I have forgotten when and where I even got it! I used to carry it around with me often so the book itself is very well loved and the book cover is long gone. If I had to guess, I am sure that I bought it at a used book store in Japan for 100 yen.

Why did I pick this book?

When I was first learning Japanese, I thought that if I picked one actress to learn from and copy, that maybe my Japanese accent would be overall more consistent and easy to listen to. I am not sure if it actually worked or not, but the actress I ended up picking was Naka Risa(仲里依紗) as I really enjoyed her speaking style and the types of roles that she tended to play in films.

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Japanese Novel Review: コンビニ人間 Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata(村田沙耶香)

Illustration by Paisen Japanese https://www.instagram.com/paisenjapanese/

This review is for the novel Convenience Store Woman(コンビニ人間) by Sayaka Murata(村田沙耶香). This novel has won the Akutagawa Prize, which is one of the most famous literary prizes in Japan. It was such a hit in Japan, that is was translated into English as well. This is a review for the Japanese version of the novel.

I bought this book at Kinokuniya at Chicago for 9.99. It took me a few tries before I was able to purchase this book. I had a hard time paying so much for such a short book! I was finally able to do and am glad that I did. I am happily awaiting the day I am able to move back to Japan and spend all of my time in used book stores and libraries. I hope that day is coming sooner then later! But who knows with COVID.

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Buying Japanese books in America: US Kinokuniya Online Store

US Kinokuniya Online Store has recently reopened! This is the first time that I am even able to see this site. The first few times that I attempted to use this site, it was under construction for what seemed like an extremely long time. Anyways, this is my first time buying Japanese novels online and I wanted to share my experience with you guys.  

My shopping goals

My goal was to spend $100 on books, but I really fell short of that goal. $50 was the minimum for free shipping so as I soon as I was able to hit that goal, I just decided to purchase what I was able to find. While the selection on the site was great, many of the books were out of stock. For the sake of writing a review on my experience, I decided to stick with books that were in stock so I could include shipping time as well.

One of the other goals I had for this shopping spree was to purchase books for authors I have not read or bought before. I was able to do so! I tried to also include some award winning novels as well. I could have bought a few more books, but I tried to stick to one book per author as I was limited in my ability to flip through the books to get an idea of each authors writing style.

I wanted to only buy books that were around $10. There are many books that I want to read that sell in America for over $20, but those will have to wait until I move back to Japan. I cannot wait to go to Japanese libraries. I will be there weekly.

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