読書の秋 

Today is 秋分の日 (shuubun no hi) or the autumnal equinox day, meaning summer is officially over and autumn is starting!

In Japan you often hear 食欲の秋 (shokuyoku no aki) or 読書の秋 (dokusho no aki), which loosely translates to ‘autumn of appetite’ and ‘autumn of reading’ respectively. I haven’t heard it much about any of the other seasons, only autumn. Once when I went to a Japanese class at a community center, the old grandma that was volunteering as the teacher introduced this topic to us, and had us “make our own autumn”, so basically what our image of autumn is, and what would we like to do or focus on during this season.

You can put just about any two-kanji word in front of の秋, 紅葉(kouyou, autumn leaves), 旅行(ryokou, travel), 勉強(benkyou, study), 健康(kenkou, health), 運動(undou, exercise), 睡眠(suimin, sleep), etc. The list is only limited to your own imagination. You also do not have to be bound just by the two-kanji words, some make long and funny ones like “Autumn of it’s getting increasingly difficulty to get out of bed in the mornings”. Just have fun with it!

My top three this season is:

  • Appetite (I want to eat all the nabe I can fit into my body)
  • Reading (my tbr list is getting uncontrollable as you will see)
  • Autumn leaves (they are my favorites)

Today’s title is 読書の秋 so I will be talking about the books I see myself reading this fall.

The line-up
My kindle app

I am still not even halfway through Murakami’s 一人称単数, and I feel like a bad Murakami fan. But I finished 3 books in Japanese in a short time in the beginning of August and kind of burnt myself out with reading Japanese so the next books I read were all in English and so Murakami got pushed to the side. But I will get to him during this autumn.

Rainbow / にじ is a poetry collection with the poems in both English and Japanese! It’s super thin so I could get through this quickly, but I would prefer to take it slowly and think a bit about each poem.

The short-story collection サキの忘れ物 is as per my post about it still as beautiful as ever and I am enjoying the title story!

As I mentioned in my last post, I love books like フランス人は10着しか服を持たない, it gives me a bit of motivation to change and I am learning a lot about French culture!

It was finally cool enough here the other day to wear my flannel dress

I also started The Makioka Sisters. I finished Jane Eyre and on that day I went by the bookstore and got three new books and started two of them. I have no self-restraint. I felt like they wrote too much on the back, but I am determined to enjoy the story anyway.

I started re-reading Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world a while back on my e-reader, but I’ve been busy with other books so I haven’t taken the e-reader out in a while. I need to get back on that, as at the moment I am lugging around The Makioka Sister, the Lessons from Madame Chic, and the サキの忘れ物, and my bag is heavy and my back is not pleased about the extra weight.

Books I have yet to start but that I want to get to:

  • The sequel to Lessons from Madame Chic
  • 若草物語
  • 舟を編む
  • 木曜日にはココアを
  • ラヴレターズ
  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  • The letters of Jane Austen

I really love reading old letters written between people, it is such an underrated art in this day and age.

What is everyone’s 〇〇の秋, and what are you reading this season?

a lost article of “Saki”

I found what I believe is the most “me”-cover I have ever seen and so I consequently had to buy this novel.

Feast your eyes upon this:

It has a book, tea, pancakes, a deer, plants, flowers, sugar… all the things I love. As usual I don’t know what it is about, but with a beautiful cover and an interesting title, you know as well as I do that I am compelled to get it (*hoarding intensifies*)

I love the simplicity of the book underneath the cover, nothing fancy but yet beautiful. Also that they decided to put the title in English!

Maybe I should rename my blog to “Me gushing about beautiful Japanese books that I find”

Upon closer inspection I realize that it is not a full length novel but actually a short story collection. I find myself a bit disappointed but that is life. The cover is still beautiful and I am hopeful that all the stories will delight me, especially the title story 「サキの忘れ物」

Tsundoku

Current tsundoku or TBR pile (I am currently reading the Murakami one though) of physical books

I have gotten better at not doing tsundoku. When I was younger I amassed hundreds of books but didn’t read them all. And even if I didn’t even plan on reading a book, I could not let go of it. That would be sacrilegious. It didn’t help that when I was studying at university, there was a £2 bookshop where every book was only £2. I dragged suitcases of books back home.

Enter the year 2016, I have finished university, and am planning on moving abroad (again). I’d read Marie Kondo’s book and cleaned out as best as I could the little room I was staying in. Now it was time to tackle my room at home.

I piled all my books on the bed.

(Not all, had already done a pre-konmari during a vacation so there was about 90 books atop my closet at the time)

I went from 304 to 124. It took a lot to get to that number. But it is as they say, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Last time I was home I got rid of even more books and have only about 40 left, but even now I look at the books left and think “I don’t need that one, nor that one…” so I am itching to go back and get rid of more.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t stopped loving books. But I just want to surround myself with my favorites, the ones that truly “spark joy”.

When I used to hoard books, I also was very reluctant not to finish a book, it felt wrong somehow. So even when I didn’t really like it, I had to stick it out. And then of course, not get rid of it, stick it back on the shelf so I would have to look at it every day. And my tsundoku pile (or mountain more like) would never get smaller. The pile would haunt me, taunt me. I would feel bad, stress would pile on and it was frankly, tiring.

Now I am more comfortable to not finish a book if I find that I am just not that into it, and even to get rid of it (not throwing it in the trash of course).

Thus, my books don’t pile up anymore in impossible-to-finish piles. I might buy many books in a short amount of time, but I won’t get suffocated by the unread amount.

I guess it also helps that I am living in Japan where Japanese books are cheap (to me) but they take longer to finish so I mostly don’t overbuy, and foreign books are expensive so I won’t buy one unless I truly want it on my shelf.

This went on a long tangent it feels like. And my tsundoku pile isn’t getting smaller by going on tangents so I better get back to reading.

52-hertz whales 「52ヘルツのクジラたち」

I picked this up at the nearby Tsutaya, where they were having a summery display, but while this book is blue, fitting with the summery theme, it is anything but a light beach read.

What drew me to it was the cute cover and the interesting title. I bought it not knowing what it was about. It said something about a lonely whale on the cover, but quickly flipping through I deduced it would not be about a whale but actual people so I bought it.

Coming home I googled “52-hertz whale” and found out it is an actual whale. A whale of an unidentified species that calls at 52 hertz, while other whales call at around 10-30 hertz, so no one can hear its call and it remains alone. From this you might think that the book will be about lonely people and it was.

While not a very happy story throughout, you keep reading. You get invested. You want them to be happy, to find happiness. Not a light read or as easy-going as for example 「麦本三歩の好きなもの」but nonetheless a captivating read. I only cried once, I swear.

Neither we, nor the locals in the book, know much about her. It took me twenty pages to figure out her name. It is Kiko. But, her friends call her Kinako, the few she has at least. The opening line is:

明日の天気を訊くような軽い感じで、風俗やってたの?と言われた。

“So did you do sex work? I was told as lightly as if asking about tomorrow’s weather.”

She is having some work done to the house she just moved to, a house out in a small town where gossip is the local currency amongst the grandmas. We see that she is not very friendly, I wouldn’t go as far as to call her unfriendly, but she keeps to herself. And she might be harboring a lot of stress or anger or both. She wants to be left alone, to live quietly by herself. She thinks of someone called An, and we get the feeling they were close but something happened and she is torn up about it. Maybe that’s the reason she came to this place, to escape.

There is a sense of tragedy, that something terrible has occured, but the book keeps you in the dark, keeps you guessing. That is not to say it is all doom and gloom, you have some little sparkles here and there but the overall feeling is sad, lonely, searching for something.

While I loved the book and gave it 5 stars on goodreads, it can be quite a heavy book, emotionally, and so be warned.

A thing I learned from this book was about an old hiragana for ‘e’. It looks like this: ゑ

One of the character’s name is さちゑ. Since it looked like る, or looked like it was in there, I thought it was an old way to write “ru” or maybe a kanji for “ru”. I posted on my instagram story with “what the f is this?? A kanji?” (I know, my language is very lady-like), and kept reading her name as Sachiru.

Two people (a coworker and “my” japanese mom whom is actually my friend’s mom) were nice enough to school me in the history of old hiragana. So I learned that her name is not Sachiru but actually Sachie. The only reason I can think of for the author using this old-ass hiragana for that character’s name is only the fact that she (the character) is an old lady. Maybe there are other reasons, however they are not apparent to me.

The boss is too stupid (to function)

This is a Japanese novel I picked up on a day where I was pissed at my job and my company and the title caught my eye and resonated with my feelings so much that I had to get it.

The narrator is 28, works in a bookstore and starts the book with

いつも通りの長い長い店長の話に、いつもよりはるかに苛立っているのに気がついて、私は生理が近いことを思い出した。

Loosely translated (by me) to:

“The boss goes on and on as always and I notice that I am more annoyed than usual which reminds me my period is close.”

Which might have described me perfectly that day. It’s very relatable throughout and as an avid reader I loved to see the daily life at the bookstore. Seeing the interactions between the employees and the customers and how they are when their shift ends and they go home.

Each chapter deals with one thing that is stupid so it goes like:

  • 1: The boss is stupid
  • 2: Writers are stupid
  • 3: The company president is stupid
  • 4: The sales department is stupid
  • 5: God is stupid (or gods as in customers are stupid)
  • 6: In the end, I am stupid

You can feel the characters coming to life in this book. They are all real, flawed, human beings. No too perfect people here.

While it is not a mystery novel, it has a teeny tiny mystery towards the end which makes you want to read faster to get to the bottom of it. I was ready to throw the whole book out the window, but was luckily spared having to do that.

I really liked chapter 5, “God is stupid”, except it is not the god we would naturally think about. In English we say, “the customer is always right”, while in Japanese they say “the customer is God”. The different customers (gods) we meet in this chapter reminded me of my own time working in a couple of bookstores and the kind of people that would frequent them. Not all are bad, but not all are good either. As I do not necessarily believe the customer is always right, nor that they are gods, I believe I am not suited for a job dealing with customers, though I would love to work with books, either in the publishing industry, a bookstore, or maybe a library.

I really hope this gets translated so that more people can get the joy of reading this book. I loved every twist and turn and the little daily happenings that make up our lives.

Maybe I have to set out to translate it myself?

Will definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves books, daily life stories, maybe a bit pessimistic and easily annoyed people, and almost a surreal mystery springing forth between the pages.

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