Reading Japan: Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

It’s been my practice with this blog to just read one book per country, since I’m already walking this long path at a very slow pace. But not for Japan!

After really enjoying my first selection, which I found courtesy of OhioLINK, I decided to check out my own bookshelves. I’m definitely a proponent of tsundoku, a Japanese word that roughly translates to buying a lot of books and leaving them stacked up everywhere, unread. It’s not just a habit for me; it’s a lifestyle. Because of that, my search yielded many excellent choices, but I went with Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura, translated from the Japanese by Mark Ealey.

A 16th-century Japanese Atakebune coastal warship.
A 16th-century Japanese Atakebune coastal warship. (Image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stark is the main word I would use to describe this book. Mr. Yoshimura is a masterful writer; the chilly tone and repetitive scenes he puts to paper convey perfectly the experience of the protagonist, a young boy named Isaku. I’ve not quite experienced such brilliant use of language and structure like that in a novel; when I realized what he was doing, I almost stopped and clapped. The translator deserves a well-earned shout-out as well, for keeping that framework so beautifully intact.

As I often tell you at the end of my reviews, read this book!

 

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)