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.




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.




(Cyber-) Mania, Magazines and Memorials

Positive change can

only come, it seems, from

one group at a time


I wonder if Black Friday took off in Japan this last Friday …. or Cyber Monday? I haven’t noticed anything in the Japanese newspapers I’ve been browsing on-line this evening. Do you know in French, they call it Vendredi Fou? Mad Friday.  In some francophone parts of the world anyway.  No wonder!!  People do go a bit mad but I guess it is a good time to get early Christmas shopping in as long as you do it wisely, and even if it is just for yourself : P.  I took advantage of Cyber Monday myself- seeing as I missed Black Friday (and Black Weekend for some shops) as I was busy working – to buy myself a coat which I’m going to consider my Christmas present to myself.  I never buy clothes online as I prefer to check something out myself first but I guess I got caught up with the buzz.  I hope it looks good because the thought of returning clothes makes me feel very lazy!   I have bought footwear on-line and luckily that turned out well so I’m hoping this does too.  I’m a big fan of coats and would have bought this one at its normal price (25 euros more) so I think it will be worth it.

Speaking about news articles from Japan, I was just thinking back to my post on #metoo.  It seems to be gaining traction now in Japan with various recognisable people talking about their experiences, one of them a journalist writing in an article about being groped by a chikan on a train at the age of just eight!!  The stigma about being a victim in Japan, whatever about everywhere else, is said to be very strong so people prefer to be silent but hopefully they’ll get the courage to at least talk about it with people even if they cannot get justice against the men in question.  She only began to speak about it as an adult.

On a similar subject, I came across another women-related article about how a well-known convenience store chain in Japan is planning to take pornographic magazines off its shelves.    Why?  The Olympics apparently.   It has taken them this long and only because of the Olympics to take these magazines off the shelves, realising that it would make foreigners uncomfortable.  What about regular Japanese people, or indeed anyone living in Japan, who feel uncomfortable seeing men (I think it’s safe to assume it’s just men who do this!) in the shop just to perve at the young women, probably young girls (or boys) in these magazines, while they (the regular folks) are in getting their groceries or what not.    I understand that Japan wants to make as good impression as possible on visitors for the Olympics (or indeed the Rugby World Cup the year before) and of course Japan already makes a good impression on most visiting foreigners but just to make this decision now when they could have made it a long time ago which would have pleased an enormous amount of people. Hmmm. It says a lot that it’s even news.

Yet more unbelievable news about how women are thought of by some men in Japan, this time in a historical sense.  The Mayor of Osaka has cut a six-decade tie with San Francisco after the latter’s mayor designated a comfort women memorial as city property.   Not only has this Mayor announced his plan to cut ties because ‘trust was broken’ (get real!) but the Japanese government itself opposes the existence of that memorial and others.  I say bravo to the Mayor of San Francisco.  Cool city, cool mayor!!   Of course, many Japanese abhor this denial policy of Japan’s leader and support the memorials to these victims – let’s not forget that either.  Better for Abe and his cronies to change their views themselves than be forced to do it later just to look good for the Olympics or whatever.  The idea of cutting off ties with a prestigious city like San Francisco – a bonkers idea in general – just because its mayor clearly does not ‘bow’  to Japan’s policy is just fascist.

The news from Japan should be a real eye-opener this evening.   There’s another story about rent boys in Japan (vulnerable victims as well) but I’ll leave you to chew on the above for today, or check it out yourselves. Besides I could just read the headline as I had reached my ‘story limit’ for the day (annoying or what).

Postscript:  It seems that the convenience store is only ‘suspending’ (中止する )the ban on those magazines, implying that they may return.  Hopefully not though. They should realise that they should have been doing this along.   The English used by the person who translated the article (you can opt to translate it yourself but there is a translation already done) isn’t great by the way.  They used the word ‘nationwidely’.   Noone says that.  Widely by itself yes (widely known, widely regarded, etc.)  Nationwidely ….no!  Nationwide is fine. This is for the English language version of a big Japanese newspaper by the way but the quality of writing, or lack of editors to pick up on poor quality writing, in newspapers is pretty dire these days from regional newspapers to bigger national newspapers everywhere, so unfortunately it’s not alone in its misuse of words.   Are people so keen to get out the news that they forget their English?  Apparently so.  Then again, I was in a hurry to report this interesting news and missed the word suspend so I should have been more careful myself, even if I’m not a national newspaper.