Books bonanza

So Natsume-san,

we meet again in my search

for more JP lit!

 

Well, just checking in after a bit of a hibernation from my blog.

I had a chance to stock up on a few books lately, with novels by such authors as Natsume Soseki, Kanoko Okamoto, Akira Yoshimura and Murasaki Shikubu now added to my list of works to be relished.  I did see the full unabridged version of The Tale of Genji in the shop but decided I didn’t want to spend the money on it and that the abridged version I had already picked up was good enough.  I was on a cheap book buzz!  As much as I love books, I have a limit as to how much I’ll spend in one go, or on any one book.  I felt like it was a real bonanza in any case.

Well, I started on the Natsume Souseki novel (after finishing another novel I had out from the library) but I wasn’t really feeling it so I might go back to it again as I’ve moved on to Okamoto.  There are in fact two novellas in the book I bought by her and so far it’s going well.  It’s nice to read female writers from that time (late 19th/early 20th) century.  I have to admit I had not heard of her before I bought the book so it’s also exciting in that way.  Okamoto and Yoshimura were new to me but the other two I knew (well I knew of Souseki of course, having other books of his, but not that particular work while I did know of course of The Tale of Genji and its author)

I was delighted anyway on finding these books as I found them in a bookstore which has both new and second hand books over two very big floors for very decent prices.  For decent, read cheap!  Only one was over 10 euros and not that much over it.

Books are one of the few things I like to have as material objects.   I don’t buy much in life really – as travel is my biggest and most worthy expense – but I still buy books (and dvds if I can’t find the film online and I really love the film enough to get the dvd).   I rarely give away or try to reduce my book collection.  Any time I have I ‘ve mostly regretted it.   I’m not even fond of lending books (or dvds) to others.  I always say I’ll try not to buy new books or dvds as I like to keep my overall personal possessions to a minimum but then I come across second hand ones or new ones I’m really interested in (like Pachinko which I bought lately and wrote about here)  and that half-hearted vow is quickly forgotten!!  It’s easier to stick to the vow not to buy dvds as there are so few places left to buy them now if you prefer to buy them in person.

As I said, I use the library a lot and the libraries in my county do have a good selection, not just of books but also dvds, and you can also order from libraries around the country but while I believe in keeping libraries going (staffed by real people, not the self service libraries I’ve heard talk of in the last two years) for community purposes, if you choose to buy a book, buying it in a real bookshop rather than on-line means you’re putting money into the local or national economy.   The exception might be for rare books, or textbooks for study purposes which are hard to find cheap (one way that being a student is unnecessarily expensive for many) or hard to find at all in actual bookshops and need to be bought online.  There is one online bookshop I prefer if buying online, but I’d still prefer to go into a bookshop, buy the book and read it when I decide to read it, which is usually straight away unless there’s a book I’m in the middle of, rather than waiting for it to arrive, however quickly, in the post from some other country.

Well, that’s all for today.  I have another post in mind about Japanese-Korean relations again after seeing an interesting documentary lately on-line which reminded me of Pachinko in terms of people belonging neither in one place nor another.    That’s for another day.

 

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Seasonal cheer?

Over-spending and

eating, songs played to death it

must be Christmas time

 

So,  Christmas is over now and I thought I’d file a post-xmas post to say so long to it until next year.

I don’t know how you feel about Xmas but I like certain customs in the lead up to it more than the day itself which comes and goes very quickly, even the dinner most people slave over (but which is usually pretty well cooked, at least in this household, so I usually enjoy it).  I actually like decorating the tree and other parts of the house and the Christmas dinner itself, the smell of oranges and honey glazed ham, (the turkey itself is not up to much smell-wise by itself and is quite a bland meat no matter how you cook it), and certain songs that come out every year (bar a few of the more cheesy ones), and buying presents for the kids in my family (the adults are harder to please, I find!). There is more I dislike than like about Christmas though, mostly the commercial lead-up – from the end of Halloween to Xmas Day and even until New Year’s Eve – and I sometimes wish I could escape to a country that does not celebrate this crazy season as intensely (there has to be one somewhere).

A few days before Christmas, I heard a song by Jonie Mitchell called ‘River’ in which she imagines skating away on a frozen river to escape all the Christmas fuss.  I thought ‘I know how you feel Jonie’, especially as I was trying to get all my Christmas shopping done.  On the other hand, there are a mix of traditional and modern songs I do like to hear every year that are really true to the original sense of Christmas.  Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie is one of my favourites and I’m glad it’s not played as much or I’d be tired of it by now as well.  It’s a lovely, traditional song duet-ted by two great performers of their respective eras (they could do without the contrived conversation leading up to the song however).  There are more I like, even the odd religious hymn as well (though I’m not a church goer), that give you a break from the popular ones being aired non-stop, when you almost wish there was a blackout.

My top three Christmas songs are:

  • Peace on earth/Little drummer boy – David Bowie and Bing Crosby
  • Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon
  • Stop the Cavalry – Jonah Lewie

Of all the Christmas songs I cannot stand, the ‘top’ one is the Band Aid song. There has been unusual focus this year ­­on how offensive this song is but it is.  And though it was a song meant to raise money for charity for Africa which it did, in spades, it does not mean it is any less offensive to people starving in Africa and other parts of the world.   I think the hypocrisy this year of one certain former singer that co-wrote and produced it is what has brought it back to everyone’s attention.  Freedom of the City medals /honours are handed out willy nilly anyway it seems, judging by the fact he has one (like stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, in some cases, honorary degrees from universities) but once you have one you can’t just give it back under such conditions as ‘take it away from (a certain contentious person) and I’ll take it back’ – how sanctimonious – nor tell a city council how to go about their ‘Freedom of the City’ business.  The Freedom of the City honour, for any city, is still ‘owned’ by a city, not by the person on whom the ‘honour’ is bestowed. Correct me if I’m wrong. The city in council in question accepted the returned freedom of the city honour but refused to give it back to him as requested, whether or not they took it away from the contentious person in question (and yes she really shocked everyone with this humanitarian issue but that’s a whole other post).  Not so much a question of ‘use it or lose it’ but ‘try and give it back and you will lose it’!  So that backfired on him, the sanctimonious twit.   He’s also allegedly got medals associated with colonialism in Africa (when he’s otherwise still making a profit from a song about starving African children) which he has not mentioned giving back. I really cannot stand this person so it serves him right.

Anyway, back to Christmas music, I wonder how many of the above songs are popular in Japan given that it undoubtedly churns out its own hits as well (none of which I know I’m afraid).  I mentioned in a previous post an association in Japan that marks holidays, real or made-up (I think I mentioned a ‘lactobacillus day’) and how much money is spent on them. Christmas is the second biggest one after Halloween in Japan in terms of spending.   No doubt music hits are a big part of this with Japan’s array of boy bands and girl bands.  So, if I wanted to escape somewhere, it appears Japan would not be the best place to flee to, though there must be somewhere in Japan that doesn’t buy into the whole thing (maybe Okinawa,, even with its American military base, which generally does not see itself as Japanese.  Or the disputed Sakhalin Islands? The latter is more Russian I bet than Japanese).

Anyway,  hope you all survived Christmas, whether you managed to escape or not. I hope the season did not sadden to any greater degree anyone who finds Christmas a difficult time of year.

I hope you enjoyed my blog this year and continue to enjoy it in 2018.  I came across some pretty good blogs this year myself as a browser and look forward to finding more.

 

 

 

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Pachinko

Koreans had and

sometimes still have a tough time

of it in Japan

 

I’ve recently finished reading a novel called Pachinko by Jin Min Lee (a Seoul-born Korean American).  It’s a family saga which runs from 1911 to 1989 in the life of a Korean immigrant family in Japan.  it was difficult to put down. I had previously learned a few things about Korean immigrants in Japan but this opened my eyes a little wider to their experience.

It was really sad to see how some Koreans would be so desperate to hide their Korean ancestry from people as to do what one character does.  However, as the author says in her notes at the end, Koreans don’t all want to be seen as victims of the Japanese – they’re a proud people – and, as one or two of her characters point out, Japan has good and bad Koreans and good and bad Japanese.  That said, they must have felt severely tested by the fact they were in a kind of limbo situation – they might have called it purgatory! – in that they could not leave Japan without a passport (which would require citizenship which they could not get) if they wanted to come back and if they wanted to go for good, they would have gone back to a Korea which was both very poor and, as time went on, unwelcoming (their nostalgia would probably have been beaten or starved out of them soon enough).  They really felt like they did not belong to either country.  They could also be deported at the whim of the local authorities. Of course, many Koreans were heavily involved in the Pachinko business which might or might not have lead to Yakuza dealings.   Some of the characters involved in pachinko in this book make every effort to stay away from Yakuza and keep their business clean, but the stigma remained. Any sign of criminal activity would obviously have resulted in deportation.

I’m still surprised that up to a point Koreans could not be employed as teachers, nurses or even policemen in Japan.  Hard to believe right?   It’s like they were not allowed to contribute to society through traditionally respected occupations while being maligned for being a burden or for being criminals even when they weren’t.   They had to be kept ‘in their place’.

I recommend the novel – which has a very pretty cover I might add with a typical Korean wedding dress pattern adorning it – for anyone wanting to learn a bit about the experience of Koreans in Japan.  Sadly, right wingers who parade their hatred through Korean sections of various Japanese cities still believe Koreans have no business being in Japan, whatever they work as.  Worse, hate speech is still not outlawed as far as I know.    A sad state of affairs for a country which likes to say how cooperative it is with peaceful ideologies.

Interestingly, the Emperor of Japan who recently abdicated is rumoured to have Korean ancestry.  How about that? If that’s true, it’s Korean food for thought : -)

About the novel itself, it was well researched and flowed pretty well though I thought there were a couple of gaps in the stories of certain characters that could have been filled in.

 

 

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