‘The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance’ is Edmund de Waal’s highly acclaimed memoir tracing his family history through a collection of objects. In the early 1990s, De Waal studied ceramics in Tokyo as part of a two-year scholarship where he met his great-uncle Ignace (Iggie). Following Iggie’s partner’s death, de Waal inherited 264 Japanese miniature wood and ivory carvings known as netsuke often representing animals, people or mythical creatures. Traditionally used as toggles to attach carrying pouches to Japanese robes, netsuke were originally designed to be useful everyday objects rather than purely decorative ones. De Waal became intrigued by the story behind the collection and how it came to be passed down through the generations of his family across the world. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Japan
After selling more than one million copies in its first week of publication in Japan in April 2013, ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ by Haruki Murakami has been one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year arriving in bookshops in the UK earlier this month. It tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki who had four friends in high school whose names all coincidentally contained a colour: Akamatsu (‘red pine’), Oumi (‘blue sea’), Shirane (‘white root’) and Kurono (‘black field’). During his second year of university, Tsukuru’s friends announce without warning that they no longer want to see him or talk to him ever again and refuse to tell him why. Now in his mid-thirties, Tsukuru meets Sara who thinks he should finally come to terms with what happened and find out why he was suddenly shut out by his friends all those years ago. Continue reading
Set in Tokyo, ‘Parade’ by Shuichi Yoshida tells the story of four twenty-somethings who share an apartment together. However, when a homeless teenager called Satoru moves in, nobody seems very sure who the newest resident really is, why he is living there or if he is connected with the shady activities of their neighbours and the recent violent attacks on local women. Or, as Yo Zushi writing in the New Statesman put it: “Imagine if Friends had ended with the revelation that Chandler was a psychopath – and that Joey, Monica, Ross, Phoebe and Rachel weren’t bothered by it.” Intrigued? I certainly was.
I really enjoyed ‘A Tale for the Time Being‘ by Ruth Ozeki which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year. I was lucky enough to get my copy of her debut novel ‘My Year of Meats’ (or ‘My Year of Meat’ in some older editions) signed at the shortlist readings event at the Southbank Centre in October and this week, I finally got around to reading it. Originally published in 1998, it tells the story of Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American journalist and documentary film-maker who is producing a series called ‘My American Wife’ for Japanese television. Sponsored by BEEF-EX to promote American beef in Japan, the aim of the programme is to promote a “wholesome” image of America. However, as Jane travels across the United States searching for suitable families to participate in the series, she becomes more alarmed by the methods of meat production and plans to expose them in the programme. Meanwhile, the story also follows Akiko, a Japanese housewife married to Jane’s abusive boss, and eventually their lives converge. Continue reading
‘Strange Weather in Tokyo’ by Hiromi Kawakami (also known as ‘The Briefcase’ in the United States and Canada) tells the story of Tsukiko, an office worker in her late thirties who meets one of her old high school teachers by chance in a sake bar. His name is Harutsuna Matsumoto but she calls him Sensei. They strike up an unusual relationship and continue to meet from time to time without prior arrangements as the seasons pass. Continue reading
Haruki Murakami is one of my favourite authors but after reading all three volumes of ‘1Q84‘ when I finished my degree, I decided to take a break from his writing for a while. Somehow, two years seems to have gone by in a flash and his next novel ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage’ is due to be published in the UK in August. I borrowed Murakami’s collection of short stories about the Kobe earthquake ‘after the quake’ from the library some time ago but I thought I should finally investigate the other two volumes of his short stories that I had yet to read. I recently bought ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ from a charity shop (by recently, I mean about eight months ago) and ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ has been on my shelves for some time. Continue reading
Shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki tells the story of a diary written a decade ago by a Japanese teenage girl called Nao which is washed up on an island off British Colombia in a Hello Kitty lunchbox after the tsunami in 2011. The diary is discovered by a novelist called Ruth who tries to find out what happened to Nao and her family, including her great-grandmother, Jiko, a Buddhist nun and her great-uncle, Haruki, a kamikaze pilot in the Second World War.