January in Japan wrap-up

January in JapanJanuary is over and with that, so is January in Japan. I always end up participating less than I intended, but I had a lot of fun nonetheless 🙂 Thank you Tony, for organising this once again. I hope we can look forward to another round next year!

So remember that post I wrote where I made a selection of books to read for January in Japan? I didn’t think I’d stick to it, but I ended up reading four out of five books I selected… and then some. In the end I read nine books for the event. I’m pretty pleased! So here’s what I ended up reading:

January in Japan 2014

  1. The Diving Pool by Yōko Ogawa [review]
  2. Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Rampo Edogawa
  3. Harmony by Project Itoh
  4. Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa
  5. Vuurvliegjes: Nishikawa Sukenobu’s Ehon Chiyomigusa by Sukenobu Nishikawa
  6. In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami
  7. Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto
  8. Lonely Hearts Killer by Tomoyuki Hoshino
  9. The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

It’s very hard to decide which book I enjoyed most. Books that stood out were definitely the two dystopian novels, Harmony and Lonely Hearts Killer, both very different. In Harmony, the world is in a state of ‘perfect healthcare’ and ‘harmony’: you can’t really get sick and it is socially unacceptable to be unfriendly and uncaring toward other human beings. There’s only one way to ‘fuck’ the system. Lonely Hearts Killer, which I won during the January in Japan event (thank you Tony and PM Press!), portrays media gone wild and ‘Japan’ in ’emperor crisis’. One of the more complicated books I read in a long time, and so good. I definitely recommend both to those who love sci-fi and dystopia!

Then there were the two Ogawa’s. I really enjoyed Restaurant of Love Regained, despite that one scene. I gave it four stars, went back to three stars, but in the end I realised I loved it anyway so there.

Whether he realises it or not, I was introduced to Rampo Edogawa by my friend and former classmate Ho-Ling (check out his blog, all about Japanese detective fiction). The first story in this collection drew me right in. Very enjoyable book, full of ‘perfect ways to commit a crime’, and a decent dose of wtf.

I strayed from my usual reading with some waka poetry. I don’t usually care about poetry but I have to admit this translation by Henri Kerlen, who is an expert in the field of Japanese poetry (among other topics), is really good. I now both appreciate and understand classic Japanese poetry a bit more. Might even pick up more in the future.

In the Miso Soup was a disappointment. This was my first book by Ryū Murakami and it just didn’t live up to the author’s reputation. Or maybe I should have started with Coin Locker Babies?

Can’t go wrong with Banana Yoshimoto. I understand why not everyone is a big fan of her work, but to me her books are calming and touching.

And finally there’s The Goddess Chronicle. From what I gather, people were quite disappointed with this one, expecting something more from Natsuo Kirino. It is certainly something quite different from her usual work, but not in a bad way. Anyone else can’t wait for In to be published?

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