Crime spree

I went on a crime

spree lately … that is to say

a crime fiction spree!!



Belated Happy New Year.  Well, I’ve more than satisfied my Keigo Higashino curiosity for now, through this crime fiction spree of mine, having got no less than five of his books out of the library at some point over the last month or so.  Yeah five. Once I am interested in something, I just dive in.  I started with A Midsummer’s Equation and have just finished the quintet with Newcomer.  Two of the books belong to his Detective Galileo series (said detective is not a detective in fact but a scientist nicknamed Galileo who helps his detective friend(s) solve crimes) and two belong to the Detective Kaga (friend of said Galileo) series.  I just flew through them and not because I wanted to spend time away from the madness of the holiday season, and get through a dull January.   Now, while they’re good I wondered at times if there were inconsistencies in one or two of them.  In small details I mean.  Is this an oversight in the plot or in the translation?  Over all they were pretty good reads despite any ‘huh?’ moments I had.   I thought it was strange how the detectives in this book – Kaga et al – spoke so much with the main suspects in a case (one or two characters in fact ask the detective(s) this very question in one of the novels) and were so casual with them.   Isn’t that strange?  These novels have some strange and disturbed characters but also very decent ones.

I haven’t really read a crime novel in a while, years actually, but I have watched a good many crime dramas – of varying quality – from different countries so I had something to compare the novels to – sort of.    By the way, speaking of other countries, I wonder how Higashino feels about being called the Japanese Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004 but was most famous for his posthumously published Millenium Trilogy.

I note the translators of these particular books were all men.  There are plenty of female translators of Japanese fiction out there but most of the books I have on my shelf were translated by men, with the exception of three or four of them and one of those is co-translated with a male translator.   As long as the translation itself is good, that’s great but I’d be interested to know if there are more women out there translating Japanese crime fiction or actually writing it.  I hope there is no sexism involved on the part of the writers but I suspect that certain authors, male or female, just have their favourite translators who just happen to be men and don’t want to change.   As long as more books are being written and more authors are made aware of budding literary translators, whoever they may be, there should eventually be more work for more people.  As for the translation itself, I wondered more than once in more than one of the novels about the English used at times. Even without seeing the original Japanese, or any other language, you can tell pretty easily if there’s something wrong.   In one or two of Higashino’s books, there are two translators involved.  Not that team efforts are a bad idea but you have to be more careful, to make sure you’re singing the same tune.  I’m sure they check everything before it’s published but even experts (including at the publisher’s end of things) make mistakes as the Japanese proverb goes (猿も木から落ちる ).

It’s always good to widen the literary net and though Keigo Higashino is a pretty prolific writer, I think that’s enough of him, for now. If anyone can recommend any other Japanese crime writer I’d be delighted to hear suggestions, male or female.  Just so I have someone to compare Keigo Higashino with,  and maybe I’m not quite finished with crime (fiction) just yet.

I’ve got a couple of books on the go at the moment but when I’m done with those, I’ll return to Natsume Soseki as I bought two of his novels – Kokoro and Sanshiro – before Christmas but I’ve not yet started them.  I’ve read Kokoro before but it was years ago and I borrowed it from a library so I thought I’d like to read it again.  That, along with Sanshiro which I’ve not read, should fill out my NS collection a bit more too (if not complete it, I don’t know how many more works of his I have left to read and may have them all now).  The translator of this copy of Kokoro is a female translator which is nice to see but again a good translation is what matters.  I hope I am not offending any translators, male or female, here.

I also bought and have already finished a book of essays about different members of Japanese society towards the end of the 19th and around the turn of the 20th century which was very interesting. It’s also called Kokoro (though with an added subtitle: hints and echoes of a Japanese inner life).  I have to admit though that there were one or two essays I felt like skipping!  It’s by Lafcadio Hearn, one of whose former houses I paid a visit to while in Japan last year (he was mainly based in Matsue but lived and worked in other parts of Japan as well during his life there).  He was a contemporary of Natsume Soseki.

It’s really cool to have new books at hand by favoured authors knowing that you’ll enjoy them when you are ready to pick them up. Same goes for other writers and other books that you anticipate reading for other reasons.  So any tsundoku is never long term in this bookworm’s space!  And as much as I like to declutter, books are almost never included in my decluttering drives.

One last book I bought was a craft manual – for the Japanese stitching technique known as sashiko.   I’ll talk about that in another post.  Anyone tried it who’s usually not a craft-oriented person?  I’d love to hear how you got on with it.


Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji gets a

nod at last as a top spot in

world heritage.

What took them so long?    So many people climb this perfectly cone-shaped mountain every year and it has had a great influence on Japanese art and other aspects of Japanese life.   I was seriously considering climbing/hiking up it myself when I was first in Japan but I thought better of it.  It was mostly laziness and hesitation (at what might be found at the top – a so so view due to fog, littering, crowds of people etc) that got me.

Here`s a pic of Fuji-san courtesy of  Hope they don`t mind me using it.


Beautiful Mount Fuji

Beautiful Mount Fuji


Marriage and divorce on tv

Dramas about divorce and 

air control – a strange pairing

but worth comparing

I started watching this Japanese comedy drama online a month ago – about a young couple who divorce but continue living together.   A very funny and enjoyable piece of television I must say.  The two main characters are brilliant.   There`s another couple linked to them that are quite a pairing themselves but I won`t say anymore because I`m only about five episodes in and other people who do know it might not have got that far yet.   I`m not going to give the name nor am I going to say where I found it in case the `internet swat team` go and look it up and then take it off line because it shouldn`t be on there (one series I used to watch, not a Japanese one, was closed down by the エフビアイ no less).   But you`ll know if you find it what I`m talking about.   It`s hard to think of an equally good show to compare it against but if other Japanese shows follow the lead of this one, they`ll do ok.

Before I get onto the one about air control, there was another drama I watched, last year, about 2 women sharing an apartment and their views of marriage.   One, in her 40s, was committed to her view that she didn`t need to get married and that she was married to her job.  I don`t think it`s ever healthy to be married to your job, however much you love it, but at least she didn`t succumb to pressure about actual marriage.  The other one was trying to be independent but kept faltering because of various things her family members were saying to her about her not being married in her mid-30s (and still only being a contract worker as well which doesn`t seem to give you much job security in Japan).  The guys in this are a bit lame and have problems getting their act together.  It was nice to see the situation where the first woman didn`t mind not getting married.  Well, at first because then she kind of let her convictions fall by just falling into a relationship with this college lecturer because they both happened to be single at a certain `late` time in their lives(their 40s).    So why create this role at all if she wasn`t going to stick with it?  Probably to show that life doesn`t go as you expect it to – best laid plans and all that.  The 30 something year old annoyed me in this one and her colleague in the travel agency really got on my nerves.

I was watching another drama for a while but it`s also finished up now. In comparison to the others, I do wonder how I managed to watch the whole lot because it`s so cheesy with their `here`s the moral of the story for today …./let`s all work together …` monotony.   It`s about air traffic controllers (and as far from Pushing Tin as you can imagine).  There was a bit of that `moral of the story` thing going on in the one I just described above, but it wasn`t as full on as it was in this one.   It`s quite condescending to the audience, this air-control one.  And the opening credits sequence is baffling.

If you want to watch a tv show to help your casual Japanese, I would definitely recommend the first show here as it has a good mixture of slang and language you might use among your family and friends to take the mickey or whatever and it shows Japanese people being completely blunt with each other and not hiding their true feelings or thoughts.   The other one about marriage (or not) had a good bit of formal language but overall it was informal as well and easy enough to follow language wise.   True, the air-control drama is set in a serious work place so it would be formal language anyway (apart from all that air traffic control jargon which they speak with, sometimes, not very well pronounced English I must add) and you have to act a certain way in the workplace.  However, as they don`t show any sense of humour  (inside the tower,  that lack of humour is allowed of course), and the characters are a tad irritating, it might be good to watch this if your Japanese is only going to be used in academia or the workplace (don`t worry – I`m not insinuating anything about the people in Japanese academia or Japanese workplaces).  Not in daily life with family and friends.  Even the few personal conversations in this seem stilted and formal (though that could be the fault of the actors involved).  Of course, you`d have to be really well settled into Japan to be speaking with your Japanese friends (and family if you happen to marry into one and then it might not be a very happy marriage given the context) the way people do in the first and second drama I`ve described above, but I`m sure you get my drift.

So yeah the two shows about marriage and divorce are helpful if you want to concentrate on casual Japanese (and watch a good show at the same time, in the case of the first one), though the one about the divorced couple contains a lot of slang and rather heavy accents so the subtitles do help more.  The other is for formal work language (with a smattering of  straightforward language we hear used in the few personal interactions between the main character and her ex-boyfriend).

I have to say to any students of Japanese that there is bound to be a drama out there that will suit you (and hopefully is not so-so but really good like the one about divorce) and that Japanese results at university, or even the JLPT and other tests,  aren`t the be all and end all of the whole learning process.    Like I said elsewhere, I do like my book Read real Japanese (over any boring textbook)  and though I still make notes of certain grammar from each story (that`s part of the design, it would only be a real collection of Japanese short stories if it had no grammar explanations or a dictionary at the back!!), I still try to enjoy the actual stories by these talented writers.  These dramas on the other hand are mostly for enjoyment.  On that note, I appreciate the work of fan subbers out there who make them accessible to others.