(From Publishing Perspectives. Link to the complete article given below)
Having opened on December 10, a concept bookstore in central Tokyo is getting novelty-press attention primarily for its admission fee.
It costs 1,500 yen (US$13.89) to enter the 460-meter Bunkitsu, which is set in a location known for bookselling, formerly the site of the Aoyama Book Center. The name reportedly translates roughly to an idea of consuming culture, and to that end the store features a firmly curated collection of some 30,000 books and magazines on topics “from humanities and natural sciences to design and art,” according to the company’s promotional messaging.
The entry area in the Roppongi Electric Building features regularly changing exhibitions and a focus on the 90 or so magazines featured as part of the offer. There also are areas designated as a library, a reading room, a “laboratory”—a kind of meeting room for group discussion—and a tea room.
Some of the services offered include personal curation: give the store three days’ notice and the staff will choose some books to match your interest and have them ready for your visit. When you arrive, there’s a locker for your things and free wi-fi and power. While the emphasis is on the curated collection in-store, the company accepts orders for books not on the shelves. if your book or magazine costs more than 10,000 yen (US$92.63), shipping is free.
Read more at the Publishing Perspectives link here
Tokyo has been a subject of literature for centuries, and continues to inspire writers today. These ten fiction and non-fiction works capture Tokyo’s unique character, revealing multiple aspects of the city from its arts scene to its pop culture, and down to the depths of its underworld.
After Dark, Haruki Murakami
Internationally acclaimed Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami has published many works set in Tokyo, including Norwegian Wood, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and After Dark, which was originally published in 2004. In After Dark, Murakami depicts one night in the city from midnight until dawn, using a third person perspective to portray the many characters which occupy this night time sphere. From Denny’s Restaurant to a ‘Love Hotel’, the locations of the novel are reminiscent of the seediness of a bustling street in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho. Murakami captures the urban midnight landscape of Tokyo where different people’s lives interlink and where the boundary between today and tomorrow, reality and dream are blurred.
Almost Transparent Blue, Ryu Murakami
Ryu Murakami’s Almost Transparent Blue is based upon events from the author’s own life during the 1970s in Fussa-city, Tokyo, when he was in his twenties. Ryu, a hero of the novel, is living in an apartment located near the American military base in Fussa. On the margins of this base, Ryu and his companions lead a life of sex, drug and violence without any hope for the future. Although the story is depicted through Ryu’s perspective, Murakami maintains a sense of objectivity about everything which occurs, and relates it without any trace of empathy. Through the novel’s haunting emptiness, Murakami achieves a poetic depiction of the devastating life of the Japanese youth during the 1970s.
OUT, Natsuo Kirino
Natsuo Kirino’s OUT, the first Japanese novel shortlisted for the Edgar Awards Best Novel prize, is a story about four women working for a bento factory in the suburbs of Tokyo. Plagued by problems in their families and jobs, they are desperate to get out of such a tedious and repetitive life. This desperation manifests itself in a tragic form, as they are suddenly led into the violent underworld of Japan after one of them impulsively kills her abusive husband. In OUT, Kirino depicts the dark side of modern Japanese society with a profound insight into the reality of ordinary people’s lives right after the collapse of the ‘bubble economy’.
By Kris Kosaka
Even some dedicated Japanophiles are unaware of an important international espionage ring that operated in Tokyo before and during World War II.
“Target Tokyo: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring” by Gordon W. Prange is an exciting introduction to this complicated chapter in Asia’s history. Richard Sorge, a half-Russian German national, led the international ring to protect Communism from the growing power of Imperial Japan. Sorge and his ring meticulously collected information and conveyed analysis to Moscow in the years leading up to the war, and later advised Stalin during crucial battles. Read more
Source: The Japan Times
By Iain Maloney
It takes a brave writer to make their main character as unlikeable as Kensaku Tokito. It is even more startling because Naoya Shiga was consciously writing within the ‘I’ novel tradition, where the author deliberately draws on their life story for source material.
Initially serialized in the 1920s, “A Dark Night’s Passing” is a study of rootlessness. Kensaku is a dissolute literary man — a writer who spends more time in brothels than at his desk — who learns a dreadful secret about his birth. Given justification for his tendency toward self-destruction, he moves from Tokyo to Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, before settling in Kyoto. He attempts to start a family, marrying Naoko and settling down. Read more
Source: The Japan Times
By Iain Maloney
The third issue of the “Tokyo Poetry Journal” takes music as its central theme and, rather in the manner of the Nobel Committee for Literature, has chosen to blur the lines between poetry and songwriting. The first half of the new volume features song lyrics accompanied by QR codes that, once scanned, take the reader to songs on SoundCloud. Ranging from Bob Dylan-esque acoustic numbers to bilingual hip hop tracks, the editors are to be commended for this multiplatform approach to publishing. However, reading the lyrics on paper without the musical framework renders them somewhat denuded.
One standout piece in the second half is Ray Craig’s “Kiss Me Series,” where lines like “Kiss me with Cocteau Twins lullabies on your lips” in Sex Pistols-style lettering are presented alongside badly photocopied pictures of models, creating a wash of nostalgia. Read more
Source: Japan Times
It’s been a difficult year — one that felt like humanity was living on a fracturing ice shelf. That uncertainty came from our exposure to wars and natural disasters, and even our struggles with “truth” itself. The best Japan-related books released in 2016 seemed to channel this feeling of instability by looking inside the growing cultural cracks. Here are 10 that went beyond old narratives about Japan and its people and delved deeper into Japan’s fragmented past, present and future: from alternative views of the Pearl Harbor attack to Japanese prostitutes in the American West and from radical 1960s anarchists to the story of an inspector trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently announced his plan to visit Pearl Harbor to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack, making him the first Japanese leader to visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. “Countdown to Pearl Harbor,” Pulitzer Prize-winner Steve Twomey’s reappraisal of the events leading to the attack, is required reading for those wondering why the Japanese chose such a perilous path to World War II and why the U.S. fleet was caught unguarded. It goes far beyond the slew of op-eds, think-pieces and below-the-line arguments about Abe’s plan. Read more
Source: Japan Times
By Pallavi Narayan
The cover of Kappa Quartet is striking. It’s simple — a subway car opening onto a station platform, with Japanese signs hung up, a man in a hat reading a newspaper on the left, a woman in a dress with a closed book on her lap. The man and woman are faceless, and the person entering is incomplete — a faceless individual with a pair of red glasses perched on (in?) air. Indeed, waiting is the trope the novel appears to be premised on. Water is the element kappas are most comfortable in and around, and it too plays a vital role in moving the narrative forward.
The novel plunges right into the action by taking as self-evident the presence of the mythological figure of the kappa, a river demon of Japanese folklore, in the everyday life of humans and cities. Kappas enjoy a solitary existence and distance themselves from even their families, yet they are integrated into fast-paced society: they drink at izakayas, consume nabe at restaurants, play instruments in orchestras, relax at cafes and hotels, marry other kappas and procreate, marry humans and don’t, get adopted as children, go to school, in short, do everything that humans do. How they are differentiated is through a hole in the head (while bathing, it is apparently a custom for them to have another individual present scoop up some water and pour it into the hole). In some kappas like Takao the hole is very small, say, “no larger than a five-hundred-yen coin”, while his nephew “Goro’s was probably three or four times bigger” (p. 145), because of which he is picked on by his classmates.
Kappas can also take away human souls. It is specialists or senmon-ka such as Ms Neo, Haruhito Daisuke and Ahab who are able to see who is without a soul, and which kappa is prone to turn dangerous. It is not elaborated as to how they gain their powers, and how they protect their souls from being sucked away by kappas. The senmon-ka appear throughout the novel, putting forth the question of what is fabricated and what the actual happenings are.
The Tokyo International Literary Festival got off to a good start. Both the inaugural 2013 event and the 2014 edition were successful, an auspicious beginning to forging cultural and artistic connections between Eastern and Western writers on a global stage. But since the festival’s forced hiatus in 2015 due to leadership changes, it has had to wade through a sea of troubles to stay afloat.
Resurfacing this year, the festival will run from March 2 to 6 at various venues around Tokyo. Headliners include an impressive lineup from both sides of the Pacific. The Festival sets off with an opening session featuring esteemed poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander, two-time Pushcart Prize-winner Seth Fried, Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li and 2015 Akutagawa Prize-winner, Masatsugu Ono, discussing cultural and artistic connections in literature.
Prolific is a word that hardly does justice to Keiichi Tanaami. Born in Tokyo in 1936, Tanaami has worked ceaselessly, imparting a lasting legacy on the landscape of Japanese Pop Art. He has been described as “Japan’s Andy Warhol,” but unlike Warhol, Tanaami’s works are consistently psychedelic; full of psychosexual undertones and hypercolorful memento mori that hint at a Freudian death drive. Read more
Outside the vista windows of the Hotel New Otani’s Garden Lounge cafe in Tokyo, it’s snowing, in March, and it suddenly feels like the spring flowers in the Japanese garden below may have popped too soon. David Mitchell wonders aloud what kind of flowers they are, before returning to our discussion. Read more