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This is an accessible and slim volume (only 70 pages!) giving readers an overview of the long history of Japan’s old capital of Kyoto. It covers Kyoto’s early history through the end of the Edo period and explains its culture and society in an engaging way, introducing court life, literature and arts, and the samurai class.
Kawabata Yasunari was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature, and The Old Capital was one of three novels cited by the committee in awarding the prize. In this novel, he tells the story of a young woman who is the daughter of a fabric wholesaler in Kyoto. It embodies the feel of the old city and traditional crafts and festivals in Kyoto, as well as telling a captivating story of a girl who questions her own origins.
A fascinating introduction to the history of Kyoto and its art, and a good overview of several contemporary artists’ work. It covers a range of art types from installations and multimedia to painting and sculpture. This book is a catalog of an exhibition held at the Smith College Museum of Art in 2004.
The 3/11 (March 2011) earthquake, tsunami, and reactor meltdown in northeast Japan reverberated through the nation, and continues to impact life today, including in politics and energy policy, community revitalization efforts, activism, and cultural works.
This book contains a number of short stories, as well as poetry and a comic, that are reactions by Japanese and foreign authors to the events of March 2011. Some were collected from a variety of literary magazines and others were written for the anthology, and are presented in translation here.
A collection of sixteen short stories written between March and September 2011 for the Waseda Bungaku Shinsai Charity Project. Conversations between authors are also included. Waseda Bungaku is a well-known literary magazine in Japan. This volume contains sixteen stories in English, two in Chinese, and two in Korean, as well as the original Japanese versions of all those that were translated.
Japan is rich with culture and history that becomes amplified with captivation when personally adventuring through the nation. Offering visitors the best of all ends of the spectrum, Japan allows travelers to relax during a serene walk through many of their colorful gardens and ancient paths, challenge Mt. Fuji on an unparalleled hike, and enjoy their proclaimed "geek life," within the district exemplifying the country's video-game and anime culture. In addition, visitors can explore history in real-time with the exploration of Hiroshima, and immersing oneself in past and present Japanese culture and customs.
Train Man (Densha Otoko) is a story that originated as a series of forum posts on 2-channel, an online chat board popular in Japan. It is an adaptation of posts relating to a geek’s journey to ask out a stylish, elegant woman who he saved from a drunk man’s rude gestures on a train. Both the novel and the film cleverly use references to chat language and emoticons, and tell a heartwarming story that was extremely popular in Japan at the time. This novel was also adapted into a film, which is available at the Van Pelt Library.
A unique photo book showing interior spaces inhabited by “otaku,” or geeks, in Tokyo. It contains interviews with many otaku about their hobbies and collections, as well as their lifestyles, and includes photos of their rooms and items important to them. This book is a look inside a variety of interesting subcultures in existence in Tokyo.
This book covers centuries of events in a Japanese inn in the countryside on the Tōkaidō road running from Edo (Tokyo) to western Japan (Kyoto and Osaka). Experience the Edo period (roughly 17th-19th centuries) through the people who passed through the inn and the family who ran it for hundreds of years.
The “Sarashina Lady” (name unknown), daughter of a court noble in the Heian period (794-1185), traveled in the countryside outside of Kyoto and recorded the events of her life and her inner monologues in a diary respected as one of the classics of Japanese literature. In addition, she writes about acquiring and reading another great classic, The Tale of Genji, written at the time in the Heian court. This is a new translation of her diary along with commentary.
Alex Kerr documents his thirty years in Japan, covering various cultural trends and experiences living as a foreigner, with a focus on environmental degradation and cultural disappearance that is the “hidden” side of contemporary Japan. This book was originally written in Japanese and won the Shinchō Gakugei Literature Prize. He now lives on the island of Shikoku in a small village and continues to write on Japan, in particular the book Dogs and Demons which continues the themes of Lost Japan.
This is an accessible, classic work of Japanese history by a major figure in the field. Totman approaches Japan’s premodern history through the perspective of the environment and its influence on Japanese society. It gives a good overview of Japan’s long and complex history, from pre-history to aristocratic courts and through the military government, up to Commodore Matthew Perry’s visit to Japan in 1852.
This memoir is a fascinating look into the daily life of an American reporter working for the largest newspaper in Japan, the Yomiuri Shinbun, and his experiences as a Japanese corporate employee – and, of course, on the vice and organized crime beats as a journalist. He pulls no punches about the nature of the content he covers, so this book is not for the faint of heart, but it’s full of valuable insights into the ways in which the media, police, and organized crime interact in Japan.
This film narrates the troubled life of a salary-man who has been downsized from his company and seeks to hide his unemployment from his family. It simultaneously focuses on his son, who wants more than anything to play the piano and does so on the sly to hide this un-manly activity from his father. Tokyo Sonata sensitively depicts the complexity of what it means to be a man in twenty-first-century Japan and issues of gender and family in contemporary life.
Lafcadio Hearn, by Frederick Gutekunst, via Wikimedia Commons
These books offer accounts of travelers to Japan as it was modernizing in the late 1800s, providing valuable evidence of the ways in which early modern Japan was existing alongside Western influences. They give an interesting picture of Japanese daily life and customs in a time period vastly different from present day Japan.
Lafcadio Hearn, who adopted the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo, lived in Japan in the late 1800s and is famous for his translations of Japanese ghost stories such as Kwaidan. This book is some of his observations of less-frequented parts of Japan. Also available on HathiTrust.