TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF MY COLLEGE CAREER!! While you guys are reading this, I’ll be sitting in my Japanese class. I can guarantee that I’m feeling equal parts surreal, anxious, and excited right about now.
Since today is my first day in Japanese class, I thought it would be neat to share with you my top five owned #OwnVoices Japanese books that I would like to conquer this year (specifically during the Winter season), which is the year of my master Kheb, 2019.
Familiar friends will know of my passion for Japanese literature, however if you are new around here, then I’d like to say welcome and that Japanese literature is my favourite genre in existence, followed very, very closely by science-fiction and fantasy. My entire Japanese library is in my bedroom so that I can be close to it at all times. While I have read more of my Japanese library than any other set of books that I own, I haven’t read them all, and my aspiration for the coming year or two will be to conquer every single novel that I own from this genre, including any that I acquire along the way. As I thought more about this, I felt prompted to create a physical list so I have an idea of where to begin (otherwise I’d want to read it all simultaneously and this task would never get finished) as well as something to use as a reference.
I tried to choose books that were from separate genres of one another to help maintain some variety in my reading, and I think I succeeded to an extent. You can definitely tell that I’m in a specific genre mood. The set of top five I will be sharing today are books I hope to have read by April! I’ll probably create two or three more lists such as these throughout 2019, depending on how well I can keep up with them. Wish me luck!
05. Naomi by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Naomi was a book that I read many years ago and was one of the first few novels I read from the genre that would eventually turn me into a Japanophile, especially where literature is concerned. It also made me fall head over heels for the author’s work. Since it has been so long, and since I have evolved so much as a reader, I figured it was high-time to return to it with a fresh set of specs.
Naomi follows a man in his late twenties, named Joji, who becomes obsessed with a teenage waitress. She has a Western aesthetic to her appearance that he finds to be rather exotic. Joji is determined to make her the perfect wife and take her far away from the scandalous parts of post-First World War Tōkyō. When they eventually become married, Joji pays to educate Naomi and slowly starts to realise, as she grows older, that she is far from the image of innocence and naivety that originally drew him to her.
04. Dragon Sword & Wind Child (Tales of Magatama #1) by Noriko Origawa
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is a fantasy novel, the first of two books in a series, that originally attracted me towards it with its premise. As a lover of fantasy, particularly ones that stem from ancient mythos, I was so utterly intrigued by it. Also, the cover for it is absolutely stunning.
It takes place in a land known as Toyoashihara, where the forces of Light and Darkness have been warring for generations. In comes fifteen-year-old Saya, who is far removed from the war and finds it to be unimportant, until she learns that she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and a princess of the Children of Dark. Saya was raised in the warmth of Light and taught to abhor darkness, so the revelation creates in an inner conflict within her that she must come to terms with in order to save her country from this enraged conflict. However, the only way to truly bring an end to the war is to use a legendary weapon that can only be wielded by the mortal Saya, the Dragon Sword. Can Saya make the dreadful decision before her, or will she fall victim to the fate that all water maidens before her have befallen?
03. The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai
Osamu Dazai is one of my favourite authors. I read one of his works so long ago that I don’t even remember which one it was. I do remember that his words and the underlying meaning between everything he wrote swept me away intellectually. He reminded me so much of Natsume Sōseki, who is another favourite of mine. I bought The Setting Sun sometimes last year, or the year prior to it, and haven’t made time for it yet. However, this year, I could like to consume it completely, and hopefully in one sitting. I forewarn you that gushing might occur when I eventually review it.
The Setting Sun takes place during the early years of post-war and explores the destructive effects of war, as well as Japan’s transition from a feudal society into an industrial one via a character named Kazuko who abandons her aristocratic lifestyle and class for something more. The Setting Sun is considered to be one of the most pivotal works of the Japanese language to date.
02. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
Hiromi Kawakami is an author that I fell madly in love with upon reading her work Strange Weather in Tokyo, which is an exceptional piece of literature. Originally, I checked out The Nakano Thrift Shop from the library, but when I found a copy of the book on sale a local store, I grabbed it without hesitation. I don’t want to put off reading another one of her works if I can help it as she is brilliant.
The Nakano Thrift Shop follows a few employees at a local thrift shop as they deal with personal conflicts. One man struggles with a profound sense of loneliness in his life. Another woman is in love with a co-worker, which leads her to confide in a female colleague that she then formulates a friendship with. The novel at its core is about distinct people and the seemingly simple lives they live and what it means to them as individuals.
01. Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami… I don’t have words to describe what Murakami’s existence has done for me as a reader, a writer, and someone who appreciates art on its deepest levels; that’s not to forget his influences on my being a Japanophile. His latest novel released two-weeks prior to my birthday last year in October and I haven’t had time to pick it up yet. My goal is to prioritise this above all other personal novels and dedicate an entire weekend to doing nothing else.
I will not provide a synopsis for Killing Commendatore because I like to consume Murakami’s novels without any information beforehand. It’s the best way for me to make the most of the experience. However, if you’d like to learn more, just click the pink title for a link to its GoodReads page.
What do you think of my list of books? Have you read any of these books or authors before? Please, come chat with me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
If you are interested in learning more about Japanese literature or are seeking recommendations with a specific subgenre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc.) in mind, please let me know and I can share some with you.