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.
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.
I was inspired to write this blog by Peregrinja’s post over on her blog, The Blog of a Reiwan Lady, on her own habit of collecting novels but in Japan and back home.
I am sure that for most people reading this blog, Tsundoku(積読) is a word that you have seen before. Its basically the habit of collection books but not actuality reading them. The word implies that the book collector had originally planned on, or still does plan on reading the vast amount of books that they have managed to collect.
When I was younger, I was an avid reader in my native language and would read non-stop no matter where I was. My parents really supported my hobby and got my as many books as I wanted. While I had an extremely large collection of books, they were all books that I had read cover to cover and I never really got into the habit of letting books sit around unread. That changed when I moved to Japan. I started feeling guilty about reading books in my native language when I felt that I should have been using that time to focus on my Japanese. This lead to me putting a pause on reading for pleasure for quite a long time.
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.
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.
On my mission to read one Japanese novel per week, I have decided buy some books! A few weeks ago I made an order on Kinokuniya’s USA online store and wrote about my experiences here. There were a lot of things that I liked about Kinokuniya, but there were so many books that I wanted that were out of stock. So I decided to place an order on amazon.co.jp as well since they did have copies of all of the novels I have been wanting to read lately.
My shopping goals
I’ve given myself a yearly budget of $500 dollars to spend on Japanese novels as that would equal roughly about one book a week where I live. I made the goal of staying later at work to make extra cash to pay for this budget and I have succeed already! We are very understaffed so it did not take very long. I am really happy that I don’t have to worry about spending so much money on novels as I am now able to shop happily while reaching my savings goals as well.
In this post I want to reflect on the goals I created last month and make new goals for how I would like to move forward in September. Here is what I had planned for August.
I did not read either of the two books that I picked out for myself. I guess that style does not work for me and I need to be able to pick each book based on my mood the day I start reading it. I think I may have to officially give up on reading Weathering with You(天気の子). I saw this movie in theaters and really enjoyed it, but I am just not into the idea of reading another novelization of an anime. I think I am just going to give it to a Japanese Professor I know so that she can re-home it. Having books around that I do not enjoy is kind of bothering me so hopefully I will be able to do something about it soon.
My goal of reading one book a week for a year would mean that I would need 52 books. At around $10 each that would mean that I am looking at needing over $500 to fund this goal. This is a lot of money for me! Since I plan on moving to Japan in the future, I can’t even keep these books with me long term! It would be too expensive to bring them back to Japan with me. But the more I think about this goal, the more it makes sense.
I just feel extremely passionate about this blog and my reading goals. I have no idea why, but I just feel like if I keep this up good things will happen. I just have nothing but positive feelings about reading Japanese novels right now! This is such a change from the past when I would feel overwhelmed by the idea of reading in Japanese. That feeling caused me to stop reading for pleasure in general as I felt too guilty to read books in English when I could be reading books in Japanese.
I tend to lean towards a minimalist mind set. I do not own many things and it really surprises people who come into my apartment when they notice all of the empty space and distinct lack of furniture and storage. When I moved to my current apartment, my heaviest box was filled with exclusively Japanese novels. As of right now I have a collection of 35 Japanese novels.
Last year, I did not watch animated films often. I think that I didn’t have enough knowledge of anime to find movies that I would be interested in.
I remember when I first started hearing about the movie Your Name. I saw it mentioned a few times in the news about breaking records in ticket sales. I read articles that mentioned that people loved the movie so much that individuals were going to the movie theater multiple times to see it. Even then I didn’t really look into it. I just figured that it would be too new to be available in America. And the fact that anime fans saw it multiple times? My image of anime fans is that they watch their favorite series on repeat. So I didn’t really see the big deal about that either. But I was wrong, and now I am a repeat watcher of Your Name as well.
I started watching it with no prior knowledge of the story line. I really enjoyed the music and the scenery shown in the movie. I did not expect the plot twist at all and over all really enjoyed the movie! This movie inspired me to start looking into other animated films as well and I have found a few that I really enjoy.
I purchased Your Name at Kinokuniya in Chicago for 10.99. Kinokuniya also had copies of novels based off of other popular movies directed by Makoto Shinkai.
Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko (角川つばさ文庫) is the publisher’s version of popular books for younger readers. While this may not apply to 100% of the Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko, they tend to have the same text as the original Kadokawa Bunko publications. The main difference being that the text will include furigana.
What is furigana? It can sometimes be found next to Japanese characters. It will give you the reading for the word and let you know how to pronounce it. In Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko, almost all kanji will have furigana. The text might also be bigger with more spacing between words and sentences, meaning there will be less words per page. There may also be additional annotations and pictures included through out the text.
Here is an example that shows what the inside of Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko books look like.
What is the difficulty level of these books?
The grammar and vocabulary words used in these publication series are at a somewhat advanced level. For example, in Your Name(君の名は）the Tsubasa edition and the ‘normal’ Kadokawa edition both have the same story inside. They use the same words, the same grammar, and the same kanji. The main difference is that the Tsubasa edition is easier to read as it has furigana and larger text. If you are looking for novels that are both have an easier grammar and vocabulary level and have furigana, I recommend the series Aoitori(青い鳥）made by the publishing company Kodansha. I will write a blog post later explaining Aoitori books and how to find them.
Who would benefit from reading Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko books?
Those who want to get started reading Japanese novels, but lack knowledge of kanji or feel imitated by seeing a large amount on kanji all at once. These books could help you get started off on the right foot! You would have the pronunciation for each word available to you and this can help you to look up the meanings of new words. Or maybe you read books often and are looking to have a break from constantly being challenged. It could be a nice change of pace! It could also help intensive readers get a taste of what extensive reading feels like.
They also are a great choice for new readers who would like to read a story line that they are already familiar with. Many well know anime movies have novelizations published by this company. The novels tend to be extremely loyal to the movie’s plot. Here is a list of a few examples.
Your Name – 君の名は Weathering with You – 天気の子 A Whisker Away – 泣きたい私は猫をかぶる Penguin Highway – ペンギン・ハイウェイ Her Blue Sky – 空の青さを知る人よ Wolf Children – おおかみこどもの雨と雪
What are the disadvantages of books with furigana?
As a learner, you will need to do some self-reflection on why you want furigana and if it will help you level up your Japanese. For some people, they may end up relying on furigana as opposed to really actually learning the readings. If you feel that furigana will prevent your from progressing in your Japanese, I would advise purchasing the normal publications.
How can I find these books?
Look for green edging around the cover. Also look for the 角川つばさ文庫 icon. It is green with white writing. It has the phrase 『ひらがな、どこでも』or 『角川つばさ文庫』. They can be found online and at physical book stores. In America, I have seen them at Book-Off and Kinokuniya. Below I have added an example of a Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko to help you see what they tend to look like.