おばちゃんたちのいるところ 👻 (Intermediate Book Club) ・ Week 9

Week 9 31 December 2022
Story 8 and 9
End page 157
Page count 6+11
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Discussion Guidelines

Everybody should feel free to post and ask questions–it’s what makes book clubs fun! But please do not post until you are familiar with Spoiler Courtesy!

Spoiler Courtesy

Please follow these rules to avoid inadvertent ネタバレ. If you’re unsure whether something should have a spoiler tag, err on the side of using one.

  1. Any potential spoiler for the current week’s reading need only be covered by a spoiler tag. Predictions and conjecture made by somebody who has not read ahead still falls into this category.
  2. Any potential spoilers for external sources need to be covered by a spoiler tag and include a label (outside of the spoiler tag) of what might be spoiled. These include but are not limited to: other book club picks, other books, games, movies, anime, etc. I recommend also tagging the severity of the spoiler (for example, I may still look at minor spoilers for something that I don’t intend to read soon).
  3. Any information from later in the book than the current week’s reading (including trigger warnings that haven’t yet manifested) needs to be hidden by spoiler tags and labeled as coming from later sections.
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:warning: Because we are discussing two stories this week, let’s preface our spoiler-tagged remarks with the story they pertain to :slight_smile: For example [story 8] this is a remark about story 8.


Story 8 is based on a folktale, a change from the run of rakugo-inspired stories. There is a 10 minute animated retelling of the folktale on Youtube.

My thoughts on story 8:

I’m not quite sure what effect the author was aiming at by having two female characters and referring to both of them only as 彼女 (and then hammering on the word relentlessly) - I guess making the male:female contrast with 彼ら? I wonder how the English translator handled 彼ら – using “they” loses the “bunch of men criticizing” nuance. It did make me realize that the original folktale, or at least that animated version on Youtube, is very much told from the perspective of a bunch of dudes…

We got another glimpse of “ghost bureaucracy” in this story, with the necessity to file a report to some glasses-wearing superior.


Story 9:

The person whose memorial these people are visiting is Yaoya Oshichi, whose story is outlined in the English wikipedia article on her in a little more detail than it is in the story; there’s also a photo of the memorial to her at Enjo-ji in Tokyo.

I wasn’t entirely sure what the calligraphy the main character was doing was, but Wikipedia to the rescue again:

We got another glancing reference to an earlier story – it sounds like the woman from the Hina-chan story has carried out her bone-stealing plan…


Read story 8. Once more I found it sweet and heart-warming. I like these friendly ghosts that are living happy afterlives and take care of the living. And the ghost bureaucracy is such a fun concept.

Does 彼ら necessarily mean men only? I took it to mean other people in general. Women certainly also tend to criticize a lot, sometimes even more harshly. And while the two 彼女s momentarily confused me, I quickly had no problem telling who was who*. I mean, in English they would both be “she” and no one would bat an eyelid, right? (* Although I’m not 100% sure who changed out of her dress at the end and looked like she stood on water. I believe it was the mother, but why give her an otherworldly touch too? Because of her strength and self-sacrifice maybe?)


It certainly doesn’t have to mean men only; I just felt like the contrast between pronouns was intentional here.

That was the mother, and it’s only まるで, so I took that as poetic imagery.


Yes, me too, I was just wondering why.


I did a bit of Googling and I think 彼ら might be one of those instances of ‘technically masculine, but can also be used to refer to mixed groups’ :thinking: I wonder how a native Japanese reader would interpret it. When I was reading it, I completely ‘whooshed’ on the masculine-ness of 彼 and read 彼ら as an all-female assembly, I guess because I associate talking shit about how women raise their kids with women rather than with men :sweat_smile: Interesting how you get confronted with your own biases :wink:


Story 9. I’m so glad that Hina-chan recovered her bones. It’s funny how these stories interconnect in unexpected ways. The girl in this story - with the suspiciously similar name to お七 - goes on and on about how she’s not passionate about anything and has no desires, when she’s been devoted to calligraphy ever since she was a child, and pours all her passion into it, to the point that her letters are almost alive, judging from the 奥さん’s praise. She’s lucky to already be doing exactly what she’s passionate about -she thinks she desires nothing exactly because she already has all she wants. I wonder if we’ll get to see her writing again in the next stories. Maybe from the point of view of the white-haired man?


I think you described that really well! I felt myself getting a little bit jealous reading about her. How lucky she is to be able to spend her days in such a relaxing environment, doing something she enjoys and excels at! I’d love to learn Japanese calligraphy at some point. I have a calligraphy set but quickly discovered it’s pretty tricky to get the techniques just right…