[2022] 多読/extensive reading challenge

RachelG wrote in the poll thread that the warning message has been turned off for all categories.

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This has mostly been one of those “mean to do stuff but aimlessly do nothing at all” kinds of weekends, but tonight I did finish something I’m excited to share…

Hearing about Mandarake enabled my most self-indulgent group of Japanese-language purchases yet (which… is saying something): several issues of Monthly Halloween, a manga magazine from the 80s and 90s that bills intself as ホラー・オカルト少女マンガ誌.

I’ve said before I’m really a huge horror enthusiast, or an expert on shojo manga, but I’m definitely interested in and appreciate the aesthetics of both. And it turns out combining the two amplifies that effect considerably – I heard about this magazine on twitter, and if you google image search the name, you’ll see the kinds of cheesy covers that roped me in.
So at Mandarake prices… well, I meant to just get one as a fun novelty, but ended up with what arguably amounts to a small (and very scattered) collection of the things, and I think they’re really cool! To the point I’m a little tempted to get a scanner and go to town, since I’m really not sure how hard or not hard it is to find these online or otherwise.

But in lieu of that, I wanted to do the same rundown I did for those other, more modern manga magazines!

The first issue I read is… the first issue!
With the cover date of January 1986

NOTE: blanket warning below for gore – it turns out Halloween does NOT hold back, although I definitely won’t be including pictures of the most intense stuff here.

What's in Monthly Halloween No. 1

The very first thing is an ad for Ultraseven on laserdisc – a good sign in my book! Also advertised here on the inside cover are ヤマタノオロチの逆襲, an obscure monster movie that seems easily findable (in terrible quality), and an Umezz adaptation, EVIL HEART / 奪われた心臓, which I am truly dismayed to be unable to find except as a VHS listing on auction sites.

The second thing is your classic horror warning gimmick:

Then we get a full-color multipage rundown of the movie Creepshow, which seems to have been in Japanese theaters at the time. I haven’t seen it! I probably will because of this!

Then we get spooky spirit photography! Call me a skeptic but… I don’t see the ghosts.

They open the first issue of a new horror magazine the right way: with new Umezu.
Unfortunately though, it’s the first part of a two-parter that’s mostly setup, and I don’t have the second issue. :’( I’m curious if this story is among the many Umezu works on bookwalker but it’s a little hard to tell.

There’s a column from a celebrity (谷啓) about his horror collection – I felt a bit of kinship with him when he bragged a little about his obscure “GHOST LEGENDS” tapes from America being hard to come by!

Then there’s a giveaway where in return for filling out a reader survey, you can get a chance to win VHS OR Betamax (!) copies of a various movies, or some cheap tat objects of mystic power.
The movie selection is very strange: The Devil’s Rain, Vampire Hunter D, EVIL HEART (which I mentioned before), The Dark, They Came From Within, Blood for Dracula, Mutant, and Flesh for Frankenstein.
I don’t know how that ended up being the selection (I guess it’s just what they had??) but if I’d been alive in 1986 I would 100% have signed away my personal information for maketing purposes for a chance to win a betamax copy of an X-rated Andy Warhol-adjacent Udo Kier movie about Frankenstein from a Japanese comic book for girls.
I actually watched The Devil’s Rain after hearing about it here (it’s rentable on amazon). It’s… not very good!!!
Among the objects of power are bits of jewelry that are meant to harness 「宇宙エネルギー」and these psychic stickers.

I assume they’re very effective.
In any case, I’m pretty stoked to have now ogled crap offered in the middle of an old comic book magazine in two different languages!

The next manga is 聖餐 by 高口里純 (and others? It credits four other people, I’m not sure if they were assistants or what)
I thought it was a great mood setter! It totally has that dreamy shojo manga atmosphere, but it’s also horrifying and extremely bloody and has cannibalism elements. I kinda don’t feel like I can even show the most striking imagery here, because it’s violent and has nudity. But this panel captures the eerie unreality it’s going for:

Part of the fun of this for me was looking up the authors and seeing what happened to them, and what Wikipedia said was their 代表作. It seems like 高口里純 had a long career!

In lieu of regular bios, in the author listing, Halloween has them describe something scary or supernatural that happened to them in real life. I get the impression most of them are grasping at straws!

There’s a page where it shows you a method for 数霊うらない, roughly taken apparently from Jewish mysticism: add the digits of your birth date together until you get a number between 1 to 9, then it gives you a horoscope based on which number you get (they were less interesting than I was hoping).
A nice point about this for me is whoever previously owned this wrote theirs in pencil! Looks to me like they were born in December 1962, so if this was new at the time I suppose whoever they are would have been about 23.

The next is the start of an anthology series by まつざきあけみ: 百蝶譜


Some more striking imagery, directly referencing a famous painting by 速水御舟, which was an added educational touch I appreciated (since I hadn’t heard of it before):

ある夜の出来事 by ささやななえ is the most light-hearted by far in here, but still kinda scary! (it just turns out to be a misunderstanding)

篠原烏童ー妖獣の門 was, I thought, going to be relevant to a couple of new wanikani vocab words… but it turns out the bad boy in question has a weirder problem: his torso is like, a door with a demon inside?

There’s a small column talking about Christmas ghost stories. I never did understand exactly why magazine cover dates don’t match when they’re meant to be on the stands…

新田真子 ー 血まみれ喰人細胞
gooey zombies!!

There’s a column talking about Dracula, that after listing the details of vampire lore ends with こうして見てみると、吸血鬼って案外弱点いっぱいで、かわいそうですね.

井上宣 ー サンタクロース:地獄からの贈り物
evil santa!!

There’s a column with very brief stories about various scary things, like germs, and piercings, and ice cream (makes you fat!) and あんドーナツ (sticks in your mouth!)

永久保貴一 ー 遊ぶ踏切
This one’s about a haunted railway crossing, and it’s well-done but boy, the scenes where people get hit by the train are to me the most disturbing in the magazine by far.

There’s a column about 怪奇大作戦, a show created by 円谷英二, the special effects legend who also created Ultraman. I didn’t think to look at other stuff he had done! This looks really interesting to me, and there’s a(n expensive Japanese) blu-ray… hmmmmmmmm…

The last manga, Make Up, by 亜木蒼子 was my least favorite, but to be fair I was pretty tired when I read it. It’s about a make up artist who specializes in gore and strives for perfection… in the way you might expect with that set-up.

And we end with a discussion of what Halloween means, since after all, if you’re the target audience for this magazine, you might not be very familiar with it! Our ending note:
さて。。。乱痴気騒ぎと暴力と破壊が思いっきり許される今宵ハロウィンパーティに、貴女を招待いたします!!

Finally there’s another Vampire Hunter D ad with some great Amano art, and on the back cover, some OVA laser disc ads!
One advertised, Twinkle Nora Rock Me! is on youtube and is apparently fairly well-known for being terrible! I always knew that 好評発売中 tag was slapped onto anything!

All in all, I enjoyed this! I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but I appreciate a lot that despite its target audience, they really don’t skimp on the horror. After all, Tales from the Crypt didn’t back in the 50s!
I like the blend of atmospheres a whole lot, and although there wasn’t like, a standout narrative, if anything that at least just makes it easier to read with the bare scattershot of issues I have.
I don’t go in for nostalgia, but I certainly don’t mind gawking at a different time and a different place from time to time, and there’s a whole lot of that kind of charm here too.
I hope nobody minds my long self-indulgent post about it!

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Not at all! People geeking out over something they love is always great.

I appreciate getting a look into this niche you’re exploring (or, all the niches you and others are exploring and sharing). They’re usually things that I would never care to find out about myself, or just never find myself. In this case the former because horror’s just not my thing (:scream:), but it’s still super interesting.

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Finished 4th HameFura. With this, I’m at 6/18 for my year goal, but I think it’s still according to 計画? In the first half of the year JLPT preparations ate up much of my time, so. And I still have 6 HameFuras to stuff into the goal.

It was still a very nice reading, although I think it suffers from the same issue many shounen long (?) series do - everything is just so slow-paced after the initial setup…

digs out @Naphthalene’s impressions

…so apparently it was still too fast paced according to the writer/editor/publisher, huh.


And I also always appreciate your posts! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Anyone here familiar with 三日間の幸福? Didn’t see a bookclub for it (yet). It’s the best rated LN on Anilist and I read the spinoff manga (don’t know if the story is the same) and that one was really good! I was wondering if the LN is as good and if it’s a bit readable for someone who read something like 君の名は。(which will be my first novel) :blush:

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Here are the last things I’ve read.

Ever17 -the out of infinity-

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This is actually a visual novel (pretty old one from 2002) but I’m gonna say it counts. It’s my first VN, and I actually started reading it like 5 years ago but never got too far. I picked it up again recently and finally finished it! It follows the story of 6 characters trapped in an underwater amusement park that got partially flooded. They have 119 hours to escape before the whole thing collapses. You might expect something action packed, but it’s actually half slice of life, and half revelations and plot twists. It gets a bit far fetched at times but it’s gripping too (once you get to the plot twists) and has been rated an “all-age masterpiece [that] is nearly flawless in every regard”.

刀語 第一話 絶刀・鉋

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The first book of the 12 volume Katanagatari light novel, about a guy from a swordless school of kendo trying to collect 12 mythical swords, each with their own special ability. Was recommended to me by a friend who watched the anime. It’s half serious sword stuff and half humor, I enjoyed it.

インドなんてもう絶対に行くかボケ! ……なんでまた行っちゃったんだろう。

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This is a travel/humor book about the author’s second trip to India. The author runs the さくら通信 podcast which I listen to regularly, and which is why I decided to buy this book. I actually bought it by mistake, I thought I was getting his first book, which is called 「インドなんて二度と行くか!ボケ!!―…でもまた行きたいかも」 So I bought the sequel of sorts, but it can be read independently. I actually enjoyed that it was his second trip in India because as a result he already knew a lot of the scams which allowed him to mostly avoid them. And a BIG part of the book is about scams, which I found really entertaining. Some of the rest is, well, let’s say I finally got to use the word 下痢 which Anki had taught me. The style is very very casual, a bit like a blog, with a lot of font size changes and onomatopeia.

すべてがFになる - The Perfect Insider

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Mystery novel with elements of computer science that I read with the Advanced Book Club. I enjoyed it! We’re reading the sequel now.

涼宮ハルヒの退屈

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Third volume of the Suzumiya Haruhi light novel series. I mentioned last time how volume 2 bored me to death, and this one was definitely better. There’s actual stuff happening, and it’s not just Haruhi being a bully (and the bullying that does happen is not too bad). I was a bit disappointed that it’s a collection of independent stories, which I wasn’t expecting, but I enjoyed it overall. Chapter one forced me to learn the rules of baseball and boy is it a complicated game. Felt harder than learning Japanese.

I’ve wrote like a 2 line review on bookmeter which took me way too long to write and I was afraid to publish it since I didn’t want you all finding out how terrible my Japanese actually is :sweat_smile: (my skills are very lopsided) But I never speak/write japanese so it’s good practice I think.

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I haven’t read the LN, but the anime is one of my favorites. Glad you liked it!

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I hadn’t heard of it, and it looks like a search doesn’t turn up anything on the forum, but it’s got a Natively entry, for what that’s worth, and Bookwalker’s got a generous preview. Seems like it might be a little harder than Your Name but I’m guessing not too much!
Might be a good one to suggest when the intermediate book club rolls around too.

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Nice pick! I read Ever17 a few years back in English since I wanted to explore Uchikoshi’s work more. Overall pretty positive, though I did think parts of it dragged. This isn’t new for VNs, but the pacing is… questionable at times. Still, unique work, and the details have stuck with me decently to this day. Same with chicken sandwiches (which I just learned weren’t chicken sandwiches in Japanese) and kick the can.

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I finish volume 10 of Ranma 1/2, meaning I’m halfway through (…Ranma 1/4?). It’s still fun!

Here's some thoughts about Ranma 1/2

The story’s told in multichapter sections that don’t feel quite long and involved enough to be “arcs” at least in the Dragon Ball sense, but tell a clear episodic story with a beginning and end across anywhere from 1 to several chapters.

The recipe for a really fun Ranma 1/2 story seems to be along these lines:

  1. Set up a love polygon
  2. Pick a mundane theme (e.g. food delivery, card games, outdoor obstacle course, Romeo and Juliet)
  3. Throw in a mystical macguffin and/or mysterious weirdo, the stupider the better
  4. set up a bunch of running gags
  5. Make everyone fight over the macguffin and/or against the weirdo, in a convoluted battle based on the stated theme stretched to the absolute extreme, triggering running gags and relationship dynamic shifts as often and as zanily as possible

It makes for a pretty fun time!

Amid the zaniness though, I actually do like how the Ramna/Akane relationship grows with at least some amount of subtlety, as they very slowly seem to be realizing they’re into each other after all.

I especially liked Volume 9, both because it pushed that in a bigger way than past volumes (and finally gave Nabiki more of something to do in the process), but also it’s got one of the best weirdo side characters yet – this guy:

Conversely, I didn’t like 10 quite as much because the new character in that (パンスト太郎) calls Ranma おかま a lot, which isn’t my favorite…

This is from back in the first volume, but I genuinely think about it a lot. It’s just a character reacting to another character’s haircut, but I think Rumiko Takahashi draws it perfectly to make a funny reaction out of it:

And this is a page from volume 10 I just thought was funny on its own:

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The slice of life parts definitely drag on, especially when you have to go through them a second time, or more…
In Japanese the sandwiches are called タツタサンド, and I thought タツタ was just the name of the shop, but looking it up now, it must be from 竜田揚げ which is a “dish of fish or meat flavoured with soy sauce, mirin, etc., coated with starch and then deep-fried​”. They do mention a deep frier whenever Takeshi is making them. As for kick the can, it was disappointing that they never really explain who actually kicked the can :confused: But there are theories floating around the internet.

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Amazon Japan just raised the base shipping price to the U.S. by another 300 yen. I was already considering ordering from CD Japan for my next order (in a week or two) because I was tired of Amazon packaging my books poorly and them getting damaged. This is just another reason to try another service.

Has anyone used CD Japan? If so, do they individually wrap each book to minimize damage?

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I’ve ordered from them before several times and I didn’t have any problem with damaged books, though I don’t remember if they were wrapped separately. My next shipment will probably arrive in a couple of days, last time has been in 2017, so some things might have changed.

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Finished はめふら 2. Immediately saw the series on sale, but will probably refrain myself, since it’s not something I want to read long term. Light, goodhearted fun, but the situations are getting a bit repetitive.

I’m still in the middle of Misfit of Demon School, which I’m not really feeling. It’s bad for my stats though to drop it, since I’m already 40% in :smile:. Maybe I’ll push through.

Also keeping up with No Longer Human of the ABC.

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I’m back from the dead !?

With studying full time, working part time and family issues on top of it I sadly had to drop all the books I was reading (and most other things). I tried to at least keep up with WK but that had to go too.
I finally got back to WK a few days ago and when I got 30% instead of the usual +90% I got scared I had forgotten everything :fearful: But it’s slowly getting better.

Kinda sad to see my stats are still at 1/10 and 0/24. I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up at this point of the year, but I’m hoping now that I’m finally done with university I’ll be able to go back to reading. I’m excited to get back into it and hoping I can at least finish the year knowing a bit more Japanese than I did in 2020!

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Let me know how it looks once it arrives then! :slight_smile:

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I’ve been ordering from CDJapan for years (mostly manga). Typically they have these bubble wrap bag things and, depending on how many books you buy, they’ll insert two 3- or 4-volume high stacks in each then tape the opening. The box is also padded with a thick brown paper between the bag stacks and other empty spaces so it’s pretty secure. I haven’t had a bad experience with them yet. I can’t say anything about their packaging for non-books, though.

They also offer coupons almost every month. I usually wait for those then buy in bulk :books:

Alright, back to lurking~

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How can I get those? Are they just on the site somewhere? Or do I need to sign up for a distribution list or something?

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They’ll advertise on their site, social media, etc. but there are email list only coupons they send once in awhile.

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I finished reading 本陣殺人事件!
This is my first book by 横溝正史, an author venerable and prolific enough to have a prestigious mystery novel prize named after him, and the debut novel of 金田一耕助 one of the most prominent Japanese literary 名探偵.
Well, technically this is a collection of three stories: 本陣殺人事件, 車井戸はなぜ軋る, and 黒猫亭事件. With 名探偵 it seems like publishers publish stories all over the place instead of treating them like a series, and I bought this copy when I still wasn’t sure if I’d want to read all of them (whereas now I might have tried to go for a complete case files or the like) – but they are all early stories.

Thanks to a heap of historical and culturally specific vocabulary, it’s probably the most difficult book (and the longest) I’ve read so far (which isn’t necessarily saying a gigantic amount), and also one of my favorite!

what I thought of 本陣殺人事件

To me the overwhelming strength of Yokomizo’s writing shown in these novels is the attention to detail in the set-up. The whole first half of the title story is just stepping through the details of the crime, the days leading up to it, the social climate of the village in which it occurred, and the members of the family involved and their histories and personalities. But Yokomizo manages to make what’s basically long uninterrupted exposition feel gripping, by artfully transitioning from one topic to another (i.e. starting with Yokomizo himself visiting the estate where it happened, then transitioning to talk about the first sign of something unusual, etc.) while seeding as he goes details that will be picked up later – for example, you hear in brief that a couple was murdered and ghostly koto music was heard long before the night is described in more detail, so you’re rewarded for paying attention and the full scope of the situation slowly fills in in front of your eyes.
It’s a really cool feeling!

And amazing too is the feeling (that Yokomizo sells wonderfully) that you could genuinely take a train to that village, that you too could walk among those same buildings and feel in your bones how even know the effects of the crime echoed down through the decades, that you could chat with an old-timer and get their hazy recollections of how it all went down.
That feeling of specificity of place (even as the towns are only ever named by an initial and also, obviously, don’t really exist) is constructed through that attention to detail, but also through tying the crime and the characters within it directly to the specific era, year, and region of Japan. The murder in 車井戸はなぜ軋る, for example, couldn’t have happened in any year except 1946, and an even better example is the very title of 本陣殺人事件. It’s not the name of the estate or the family where the murder happened, but rather it’s a reference to how they earned their nobility and power in the area: in the Edo period, (this is a rough recollected summary) to limit regional power in the post-sengoku era, feudal lords had to travel to the capital at Edo on a certain regular basis, and a 本陣 was an inn specifically designed to cater to them in these travels. So this family earned nobility as a waypoint in the middle of nowhere for more powerful families to get back and forth, producing a prestige and class set apart from others in this village, but fading in the post-restoration era and not really quite standing on its own the way big city prestige and nobility might.
This then deeply ties into the murder, as it could only have happened in that context because the motive is specifically tied into that prestige dynamic, and because an important coincidence would not have happened if the house wasn’t right in the middle of the main thoroughfare of the area.

I think that’s super cool! And at it’s best produces that sense of a mystery novel that works both as a thriller and as some kind of literary commentary on the times.
It also makes for a ton of vocabulary to learn, as basically zero details aren’t specific to Japan and the times in some way. It’s the kind of book where 屏風 is said like three hundred times, and not just any 屏風, but an ornate 屏風 featuring a particular episode in the life of folklore character 葛の葉. Another word I expected to encounter not nearly so often is 欄間 and yet it’s always crucial to notice the light trickling in from the 欄間, or to clamber up and spot a grisly murder inside through it because the 雨戸 or what-have-you is shut fast.

On the flipside though, I didn’t find the conclusions quite as fascinating as the set-ups. They’re good, don’t get me wrong! But it did make me kind of hunger for the literature where like, the meticulous description of rival families’ lineages and fortunes would lead to like, equally deep and trenchant literary arcs, and not like, a murder with a bit of a twist.

I’ve previously read a collection of early 明智小五郎 stories by 江戸川乱歩, and the two 名探偵 form an obvious point of comparison!
The characters themselves, I honestly don’t distinguish in my head really at all year. 金田一 has a stutter when he’s excited and shaggy hair he touches a lot, and he’s a private detective while 明智 is an amateur who solves crimes via psychology – but like… at this point in my head they’re both affable unassuming detectives who love to talk about mystery novels and have a self-insert author friend they tell about crimes.
It doesn’t help that 金田一 is portrayed like this:
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and the picture on the 明智 collection I’ve read looks like this:
image

I’m sure they’ll be more differentiated in future novels, as in these intros they tend not to do that much, but for now I guess the way to tell them apart is that:
Akechi is the detective listed in volume 2 of Case Closed:
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Kindaichi is the detective listed in volume 6 of Case Closed, and also he has a hat:
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Aside from all that though, the two authors’ styles are honestly really interestingly different!
Ranpo excels at ghastly, horror-tinged detail, eccentric characters, and clever twists, and sets things around Tokyo (after all, it’s in his name)
Yokomizo excels at meticulous detail, long social histories, and thorough explanation, and tends to set things in 岡山 and the surrounding region.

In fact – one of these stories, 黒猫亭事件, I didn’t like as much of the others, because it was a story set in the area surrounding Tokyo, featuring horror-tinged details and eccentric characters! It felt like something Ranpo would have done better - and in retrospect, there’s stories in the Ranpo collection I think Yokomizo would have done a lot better too!

Of course, both authors are incredibly prolific across decades, so it will be interesting to see if these first impressions of mine about them hold true for much longer. I’ll certainly be reading more at some point! In the later stories, 獄門島 is referenced multiple times here, so that seems to be the next one to read, and I’m excited to see it’s actually a full-length long novel with chapter breaks. I’ve read weirdly few of those so far! It always turns out to be isolated short stories and novellas…

One thing I’ll also do is watch the movie version of the Honjin Murders! I’m really curious if I pictured the climax correctly. I’ll talk about that in the Extensive Listening thread when I do watch it!


Today I also finished something that I enjoyed a lot in a completely different way: オールカラー 楽しく覚える! 都道府県

This is a non-fiction book meant for Japanese kids to help them get to know the 47 都道府県 (prefectures and whatnot) that make up Japan.
The way I read it was some time ago (a year? half a year?) I entered each of the 都道府県 into my anki deck, and as they came up as new cards, I read that section of the book and entered in some basic information about it to put a bit of detail to the name. Recently I got a little anxious to finish it up so I could import more cards to my deck without worrying about slowing down the ratio of new prefectures even further, so I set my anki deck to order by date added and finished off the ten or so remaining prefectures today.

While I certainly did not retain all the (many) different regional crafts, wildlife, and heritage sites described, and the book did get a little repetitive as time went on, overall I thought this was a really fun way to learn some geography, and I’d recommend doing something like this to anyone reading novels in the language. Stuff like Yokomizo living in 岡山 in the stories in 本陣殺人事件 meant so much more to me as grounding details than they would have if I had no idea of the top of my head where that was.
Before I didn’t even know, for example, that there was a region called 中国 and not just a country.

I guess the next thing to do would be to apply the same method to the historical 藩… but I think I’ll let those creep in naturally first for a while!

If you want an impromptu quiz, here's the order they turned up for me

Green → Purple → Blue → Red → Yellow

I don’t think I’d do great at recalling these this way! I think I could safely get halfish now, but the others would be hard to come up with and it would take a while.
But if confronted with the name of the prefecture I think I’d do okay at ballparking it.

I rolled for the next thing to read, and it came up with No.6!
Funny, I just mentioned in another thread I had a copy of that sitting around from when it was a book club pick… it’s one where my reading level has probably leap-frogged from where it was when I bought it, so I’m hoping it will go quickly!

Also, I’m not counting this towards any goals, but I read the free oneshot by the Chainsaw Man author that’s the talk of the town today. I saw someone mention it on Twitter, saw it trending, and a friend recommended it. It’s an emotional 143 page story about making manga.
It’s really good! More evidence suggesting I should read Chainsaw Man…

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