All other snow pales in comparison to Suzuki Bokushi’s account of a Japanese winter world: The Smart Set

snowIs there a place on Earth where people had to shovel snow from their roofs during winter every day? Where they lived like moles under the snow? Where there was never a question whether or not there would be snow at the end of the year?

In fact, there was: near the western coast of the Japanese peninsula, where weather conditions have always been markedly different from the coast of this country facing the Pacific Ocean. The seasonal winds coming from Siberia pick up evaporation from the Sea of Japan which helps to increase their humidity. Clouds form and as they pass the high mountains they cool and transform into masses of snow that almost defy description. Snow begins to fall towards the end of October.

With such a piddling amount of Japanese fiction finding its way into English translation each year, you learn to make the most of what you can get. So when this year’s Tokyo International Literary Festival marked the launch of not one, but two compendia of Japan-related writing, it felt like an embarrassment of riches. In addition to the latest issue of “Monkey Business,” the annual journal edited by veteran translators Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen, the festival welcomed the arrival of a Japan-themed issue of the British quarterly, “Granta,” released simultaneously in English and Japanese.