Reading Japan: Woman on the Other Shore

So many choices for reading about Japan. Not only that, but I’ve already engaged with quite a few of the best known Japanese authors (Murakami, Ishiguro, Soseki, Kawabata), so that left me free to dig a little deeper. And I’m so glad I did.

The book I chose, Woman on the Other Shore  by Mitsuyo Kakuta is just beautiful. It made me realize how rarely you encounter a real telling of relationships between women; friendships, daughters and mothers, coworkers – all of these can be so impactful, but we’re often left to navigate the emotions they bring up all by ourselves. I recommend this book wholeheartedly; it’s well worth your time.

Image of Imaihama-Kaigan Station in Kawazu, Shizuoka, Japan
A location in the book: Imaihama-Kaigan Station in Kawazu, Shizuoka, Japan (Image by Okajun, via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading about New Zealand: Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

Well, I said in my intro to New Zealand that I wanted to move past all that pretty scenery and dig deeper into the psyche of the country.

Mission accomplished. Perhaps OVER-ACCOMPLISHED.

I started a few different titles, but nothing was clicking. Finally settled on Once Were Warriors, by Alan Duff, and stuck with it.

Now that I’m done, I kind of don’t know what to say. There was nothing easy about this book, at all. It’s good, in that it’s well-written, in a confident voice, and about a community -and its problems- that I might never know about otherwise. It’s painful in that quite a few of the characters make terrible choices, and are cruel and abusive to those around them. And the one character I did respect and like…well, it’s just harsh.

Published in 1990, this book is still controversial, and it’s easy to see why. It was made into a movie about a decade later, and I’m still deciding if I can handle watching it…

All told, a worthwhile read but it will hit you hard.

Front of a traditional Maori long canoe
Front of a traditional Maori long canoe
(image by Steve Evans from Citizen of the World via Wikimedia Commons)