I’m back from my 40 days Japan study program + trip. It had been the best 40 days I’ve ever had in my life, and the trip wasn’t even expensive for a 40 days trip. I have so many books/anime related things I’ve experienced in Japan that I’m going to share on this blog. But first of all, I would like to apologise for not posting for 40 days, and for the weird irregular, uncompleted posts that come out from time to time.
Sometimes I’m halfway through completing a blog post, I would schedule them for a later day so I would remember my posting schedule. It worked well until I left my blog be for 40 days. Then the incomplete posts just started posting themselves without my knowledge. I’ve realised that some of you have seen them and even liked them. Which is a bit strange for me as they are not even completed.
Anyways, back to the books.
So I had decided that I would go to the library instead of buying books for myself, due to the limitation of money and storage space. That changed after I came to Japan.
Japanese books are very different from English books in two very important points:
- They are tiny
- They are cheap
I spent about 800 yen (7USD) on 10 Japanese books, which weight and cost about 1 English book. They are also extremely portable, the height of a Japanese book is a little over an iPhone 6, the width is about 1.5 of an iPhone 6, and the thickness varies, but the average about as thick as an iPhone 6. In conclusion, they are tiny.
You may say, then they must be very short. Not really, I’ve seen the Japanese version of Inferno, the size is just a little bigger than an average Japanese book.
Naturally, I bought a lot…
Now, I don’t know what I was thinking when I was buying all these books in a language I am still struggling to learn. But I struggled with English before, and I figured I would just bite the bullet, struggle through these books, and one day I would be fluent in Japanese as well! (Please ignore the fact that it took me 5 years to start reading in English)
Does that justify my purchases, though…?
I’m now going show you what I have done…
銀河鉄道の夜 (Ginga Tetsudou no Yoru) – Night on the Galactic Railroad by 宮沢賢治 (Miyazawa Kenji)
So we are off to a good start. This is a book with multiple classical fairy tales written by Japanese literature legend Miyazawa Kenji. I figured that if I’m struggling with the language, it might help to start easy. So it was a pretty practical buy, even though I completely ditched this philosophy later.
人間失格 (Ningen Shikkaku) – No Longer Human by 太宰治 (Dazai Osamu)
Ningen Shikkaku is a masterpiece written by Dazai Osamu. It was ranked the second-best selling novel in Japan. It was also the last book Dazai Osamu ever wrote before he committed suicide. I’ve heard great things about this novel, and I can’t wait to read it.
怪人二十面相 (Kaijin Niju Mensou) – The Fiend with Twenty Faces by 江戸川乱歩 (Edogawa Rampo)
少年探偵団 (Syounen Tanteidan) – Boy Detective Club by 江戸川乱歩 (Edogawa Rampo)
2 of the many mystery novels written by Edogawa Ranpo, who is the father of Japanese mystery fiction. I have no idea what the books are about, but I’m dying to find out. I thought a mystery story would motivate me to keep reading instead of giving up when Japanese becomes too difficult for me.
氷菓 – Hyouka by 米沢穂信 (Yonezawa Honobu)
I’ve watched the anime based off of this novel so I am going in knowing what happened in the book. I would describe this book as a campus mystery story with no crime. (If you haven’t seen the pattern here, I love mystery books). I also recommend the anime with the same name, please watch it in Japanese though.
君の名は。(Kimi no Na Wa) – Your name. by 新海誠 (Shinkai Makoto)
秒速五センチメートル (Byousoku 5 Centimetre) – 5 Centimetres Per Second by 新海誠 (Shinkai Makoto)
言の葉の庭 (Kotonoha no Niwa) – The Garden of Words by 新海誠 (Shinkai Makoto)
Shinkai Makoto is not an author but an anime director. These novels are written by himself based off his 3 anime movies of the same names. I haven’t seen any of these movies so I won’t read the books until I have seen them. I recommend these movies to anyone who enjoys animation so realistic and aesthetic that it makes reality looks dull in comparison. I can’t say anything about stories but the art makes the movies worth seeing even if you are not an anime fan. Again, I recommend watching them in Japanese. I’ll leave the links to the movie trailers here:
So… we have ventured to the zone of light novels. Light novels are generally targeted to younger readers (middle and high school students), with anime-like stories and generally would be adapted into mangas and animes. They are relatively shorter and easier to read compared to normal novels. You can see how it is perfect for a foreigner like me. In addition, they have wonderfully illustrated covers and are generally cheaper. So naturally, I bought 40 of them.
デュラララ!! – Durarara!! by 成田良悟 (Narita Ryougo)
The Durarara!! series consists of 13 books + specials which I couldn’t find. The story sets in Ikebukuro, a commercial district in Tokyo (I went there and it was awesome, but there were no headless knights running around). There are multiple sub-stories revolving different characters whose relationships would not be apparent until later in the series. The interesting thing about this story is that all characters are eccentric and unusual, crazy even. There isn’t one ordinary person in this series and that’s what I love so much about it. As you may have guessed, I’ve watched the anime adaptation. My main reason for buying this series is to see how the author presents such a complicated story with just words.
とある魔術の禁書目録 (Toaru Majutsu no Index) – A Certain Magical Index by 鎌池和馬 (Kamachi Mazuma)
These series consist of 22 books and 2 specials. There is a new spinoff series that I didn’t buy. If you like science fiction AND fantasy, this would be the perfect series for you. The story is set in a futuristic world with espers with super powers and religious magicians. The story touches on subjects such as ethics in science and the hypocrisy in religious organisations while being very humour. Again, I have watched and recommended the anime of the same name and it’s spin-off とある科学の超電磁砲 (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun) – A Certain Scientific Railgun.
ハイ☆スピード! – High☆Speed! by 横谷昌宏 (Yokotani Masahiro)
High☆Speed! is the original light novel about a boys swimming team. If that isn’t obvious enough, it is the original light novel that the anime Free! is based on. Unlike the anime where the characters are all in high school, the first book is set when the characters are in primary school and the second book is set when they are in middle school. I’m mainly drawn to the story because of the bromance (or romance?) between these friends. I’m so curious about the stories that are not told in the anime.
I’m pretty sure all of these books have English translations out there if you look for them, and I would recommend all of them for people who want to expand their reading options and try something from a different culture. Japan produces very different stories from the west, and it would be wonderful if people who are not into anime and otaku culture to explore these stories through reading.