Beginner Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: 夜カフェ

I haven’t read a sample, no, but I’d imagine it would be a bit difficult for the Beginner club too. There is a Tsubasa Bunko version of it as well though, which I assume is easier? There is a sample for that, um… here:

I can give it a read later on today, but you might have a better idea of e.g. how it compares to Kiki.


I’ll check out the sample again to refresh my memory. But it still might be hard for me to compare it to Kiki since I now have all the knowledge I gained by reading Kiki. I’ll try my best to look at it objectively, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to.

For what it’s worth, of the handful of samples I’ve tried reading since finishing Kiki, 絶叫学級 (which has been nominated) was by far the easiest.

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OK, I just had a quick look.
Two immediate thoughts on the start of the first chapter

  1. So. Much. Furigana.
    I know some people hate it, but it does make it a lot easier to look up words you don’t know.
  2. It’s written in first person by a narrator who describes himself as 小学校の四年生 in the second paragraph. So it’s not going to be too complicated… is it?
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@Radish8 @Kyasurin I just finished reading through until the second penguin icon page break. Here are my initial thoughts:

  • It is much easier than the beginning of Kiki, and I think that’s mostly because of the narration. Kiki was narrated by some outside/neutral narrator, so the text was much more detailed and complicated. As Kyasurin said, this book seems to be narrated by the elementary school age kid, so the text is much simpler. I didn’t get to any dialog, so it’s hard to say how that part would compare.
  • It’s more difficult than Aria, but as I said seems easier than Kiki. For additional comparisons, it seems to be about the same difficulty as 絶叫学級 and also much easier than ご注文はうさぎですか.
  • Regarding the kanji and furigana, it looks like it includes more kanji than Kiki, which is good. Trying to parse kana for words that are normally written in kanji was one of the hardest parts about reading Kiki. Also, something random I noticed is that all the kanji have furigana, except for number kanji, which is kind of weird.

I’ve noticed that other places too. Sometimes other most basic kanji as well (probably first grade kanji, sun, moon and similar), sometimes seemingly only the numbers. And you go “yeah sure, numbers are easy, but I’m pretty sure that one has a fairly unusual reading (like いっせん for 1000), so it would still make sense to show it…”

Unusual for early learners perhaps, but I doubt that would be confusing to a native child. If the child knows that 一 is いち and 千 is せん, and presumably also knows the spoken word いっせん, I think they’d be able to extrapolate that 一千 is the same word.

Regardless, I do think it’s weird to only exclude number kanji from using furigana instead of all first grade kanji.

I know, here at least, children learn the symbols for numbers long before letters. I assume children in Japan learn to recognize the number kanji early, so even when all other need furigana they sometimes get excluded for that reason?

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I’ve only read through a couple of paragraphs, but I felt like I was able to get the gist even if I didn’t know 100% of the vocab. It doesn’t seem like it has a lot of long, unwieldy sentences.

It seems like it might be an option for the book club, if you and @kyasurin find it much easier than Kiki. I don’t know whether books are just destined always to be too difficult, but it would be nice to have a couple of options on the table (especially as some people aren’t interested in manga).

My concerns are that Amazon says it’s 368 pages, which seems quite long (maybe there are lots of pictures?!), and that the contents page only seems to break it up into 4 ‘episodes’, which might make creating a reading schedule a bit of a pain. Taking a couple of months per book seems optimal, so if it’s too long that might be a deal-breaker.

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Yeah, I think 368 pages is a deal breaker. 魔女の宅急便 was about 240 pages. 絶叫学級 is 192 pages and 時をかける少女 is 158 pages. Based on page length alone, either of those would probably be a better choice than Penguin Highway.

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Ah yep, that seems way too long then. I wonder how many words the original is in comparison to the Tsubasa Bunko edition…

Wouldn’t it be the same number of words? If you mean pages, it’s 387.

Oooh, I thought tsubasa rewrote stories at an easier level for younger readers. I must have been muddling it up with another publisher :see_no_evil:

Out of curiosity, what’s the difference between editions? Added furigana?

@Radish8 As far as I can tell, the text is exactly the same in both editions.

@Naphthalene From the ebook previews, it looks like the new version has furigana and occasional pictures.


Bringing this up may just complicate matters, but there is a ‘chibi’ spin-off version, Dragon Ball SD - the original manga is basically being rewritten with a cuter art style and simplified language, for younger readers. I just wonder whether anyone happens to be in a position to compare between the two? A version for younger readers does not necessarily equal ‘easier for foreign learners’, so I’m curious.

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Here’s a blog post comparing the two. There are a number of photographs to make your own judgement, but he claims SD is easier to read.

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Have any of the nominations stood out to anyone as the one you really want to read?

I’m personally really interested in 名探偵コナン (Great Detective Conan). It looks super fun. 放浪息子 looks really good too. Of course, I nominated stuff too, but that’s mainly things I’ve been wanting to read for a while. When do you usually do voting? It seems like this round has fewer nominations than were on the old list, so I was just curious.

That’s a good question-- I looked at @Talena’s link and he definitely makes it sound like it’s easier to read. It also sounds pretty condensed-- apparently, “The first SD volume here contains maybe the first three volumes of the original story-wise.”

I’m going to open the voting this weekend and it will stay open for one week.