Intermediate Japanese Book Club (Currently reading: コーヒーが冷めないうちに)

I get that it was a joke, but I think it expresses the intent of the previous label very well. Also, it gets the “it’s painful” / “it might not end well” aspect much better across than “All the Effort” which sounds like, “yay, go for it”, “all-in” or something. Therefore I’d like to stick with it :slight_smile:

If there are no vetoes, I’ll use it in my first book proposal later in the day, and then we can all try out how this new poll wording feels.

9 Likes

聖☆おにいさん – Saint Young Men

Summary

Japanese

目覚めた人・ブッダ、神の子・イエス。世紀末を無事に越えた二人は、東京・立川でアパートをシェアし、下界でバカンスを過ごしていた。近所のおばちゃんのように細かいお金を気にするブッダ。衝動買いが多いイエス。そんな“最聖”コンビの立川デイズ。“笑い”でも世界を救う! 聖人in立川。ブッダとイエスのぬくぬくコメディ。

English

Buddha and Jesus live together in a shared flat in modern Tokyo and experience lots of funny and weird situations in their daily lives.

Availability

amazon.com
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

I started reading it about 6 months ago and liked the funny situations they bump into.
But I found it a bit hard to understand back then, so I figured it might be better suited for the Intermediate club than for the Beginner club. (But maybe that’s just me…)

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • We don’t read that many manga in the Intermediate Book Club.
  • It’s not too long (134 pages, 9 episodes) and should be a quick read.
  • The humour might be a refreshing alternation after all those “serious” books.
  • There are currently 17 volumes available (not sure whether there will be more to come?) plus an anime and a movie with real actors. (Ok, maybe this is a con after all?)

Cons

  • It is about (making fun of) religion and so it might hurt somebody’s feelings?

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One


Additional Pages

Pages 12-13:

Pages 22-23:

Pages: 32-33:

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know (please click this if you’re not voting seriously)

0 voters

5 Likes

We haven’t read any yet, actually. They never get picked :sob:

5 Likes

博士の愛した数式 - The Professor’s Beloved Equation

Summary

Japanese

「ぼくの記憶は80分しかもたない」博士の背広の袖には、そう書かれた古びたメモが留められていた―記憶力を失った博士にとって、私は常に“新しい”家政婦。博士は“初対面”の私に、靴のサイズや誕生日を尋ねた。数字が博士の言葉だった。やがて私の10歳の息子が加わり、ぎこちない日々は驚きと歓びに満ちたものに変わった。あまりに悲しく暖かい、奇跡の愛の物語。第1回本屋大賞受賞。

English

The narrator’s housekeeping agency dispatches her to the house of the Professor, a former mathematician who can remember new memories for only 80 minutes. She is more than a little frustrated to find that he loves only mathematics and shows no interest whatsoever in anything or anyone else. One day, upon learning that she has a 10-year-old son waiting home alone until late at night every day, the Professor flies into a rage and tells the narrator to have her son come to his home directly from school from that day on. The next day, her son comes and the Professor nicknames him “Root”. From then on, their days begin to be filled with warmth.

Availability

amazon.com
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

I became aware of the author Ogawa Yoko (小川洋子) through this article, and independently one or two people recommended this particular book to me. So I thought it might be a nice pick for the book club.

The English translation of the book is called “The Housekeeper and the Professor”. It was also turned into a movie by the name “The Professor’s Beloved Equation.”

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • NOT a highschoolers’ book :wink:
  • Sounds like a heartwarming story to me
  • The book won the Yomiuri Prize (Booksellers’ Award), the author won the Akutagawa Prize

Cons

  • Might scare off people who are not a fan of mathematics? (although I don’t know how much mathematics actually appears in the book)

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One

(these are ebook pages, so the real pages should be smaller, I guess)


Additional Pages


(sorry, here the Bookwalker preview ends…)

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

5 Likes

I hope all the math appears in the book. :laughing: I’ve been meaning to learn a bunch of math terms in Japanese.

8 Likes

もやしもん - Tales of Agriculture

Summary

Japanese

菌が見える特殊能力を持つ、もやし(種麹)屋の次男坊、沢木惣右衛門直保。彼は東京の某農大に入学する。農大を舞台に、沢木と研究室その他の仲間達、そして菌が活躍したりしなかったりのキャンパスライフ。大学生活のモラトリアム感と、菌が満載の「もやしもん」。あなたもぜひ、かもされてみてください。カバーや本体表紙もきっちり収録!。

English

The second son of a starter culture business, Soho Sawaki Naoho, has a special ability to see bacteria. He enters a certain agricultural college in Tokyo. Sawaki, the lab and other colleagues, and a campus life with or without fungi, set at Agricultural University. Moyashimon is a moratorium of university life and full of fungi. Please try it yourself.

Availability

amazon.com
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

I got turned on this by the Sake On Air Podcast. One of the hosts recommended this series as it had taught a lot about microbes and fermentation. I watched the Anime and drama and now I am making my way through the Mangas.

The Synopsis above isn’t actually that great, so here is mine.

Sawaki and his friend Kei turn up as first years at Tokyo Agricultural College. Sawaki is the second son of a mould started culture business supplying Koji to, among other businesses, his friend Kei’s family sake brewers. Sawaki has a secret power in that he can both see and talk to microbes as specially the friendly Aspergilus Orizae (koji) from his family home who hitch a ride to university on the miso his family sends. Sawaki and Kei join a seminar group on fermentation lead by professor Itsuki and Grad Student Hasegawa* and the fun ensues.

It’s a fun story with some real science behind it. The friendly Koji pop up in the margins to explain scientific points and there is some interesting stuff about fermentation and food culture interlaced within the text.

*Hasegawa, being framed, is subjected to the usual level of Japanese emanate sexism, in that despite being a scientist she is dressed in a bondage style minidress for the whole series this is explained as her rebelling against her father but it is stupid and thoroughly unsuitable for lab work.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Fun introduction to Fermentation
  • good series if you get into it
  • Anime version is pretty true to the books but doesn’t cover all of it.
  • Some very topical information about the spread of diseases among student populations later on
  • Popular enough to get an anime, a drama and some spin off books about infectious diseases

Cons

  • Usual level of sexism

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



And Some more pages because the first few pages are in 'old guy talk'




Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No Effort At All
  • Minimal Effort
  • Moderate Effort
  • Significant Effort
  • So Much Effort My Head Might Explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

1 Like

I like the concept of Jesus and the Buddha broing down over a couple of cans and there were a good few laughs on the first few pages.

1 Like

Now I am more skilled with my reading and not travelling as much due to the plague, I’m very keen to get back on the book club train and both of these choices look good and I thought I’d throw in one of my own.

2 Likes

This is also addressed. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve read this one, it’s a wonderful book. Also a very difficult one.
Unsurprisingly, the math stuff wasn’t hard to understand, but it contains a fair bit of baseball discussion and for a person who doesn’t know anything about baseball it was a pain.
The book is written in a very literary style language (I mean lots of metaphors, comparisons etc.) and the breadth of author’s vocabulary is amazing (I was constantly looking up words even near the end).
Even though the book is written from the first person perspective, it also has very few dialogues, so first 80 or so pages are just walls upon walls of text.

I am not discouraging people from reading this book, I just want them to be ready to what they are getting into. This book is actually THE BEST piece of Japanese literature I’ve read so far.

10 Likes

Oh! gulp :sweat_smile:
Thanks for the review, I’m sure this is very helpful during the voting!

1 Like

I’ve also read it, and I didn’t think it was too horribly difficult. However, I did kind of let some of the math flow over me, lol, and I know enough about baseball that it didn’t occur to me previously that that could be a stumbling block in this book. I think it’s on the harder end of books I’ve read, but it’s also one I really loved. <3

4 Likes

So, I’m hoping to open the votes when we only have 6 weeks left, leaving only ~10 days for nominations and grading. Could a regular update the title to reflect that we are now looking for nominations?

3 Likes

Since you asked for it so nicely… :wink:

Note: This nomination was moved to the Advanced Book Club because it turned out to be more difficult than I had foreseen.

乳と卵 - Breasts and Eggs

Summary

Japanese

娘の緑子を連れて大阪から上京してきた姉でホステスの巻子。巻子は豊胸手術を受けることに取りつかれている。緑子は言葉を発することを拒否し、ノートに言葉を書き連ねる。夏の三日間に展開される哀切なドラマは、身体と言葉の狂おしい交錯としての表現を極める。日本文学の風景を一夜にして変えてしまった傑作。

English

Breasts & Eggs paints a portrait of contemporary womanhood in Japan and recounts the intimate journeys of three women as they confront oppressive mores and their own uncertainties on the road to finding peace and futures they can truly call their own.

It tells the story of three women: the thirty-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Makiko has traveled to Tokyo in search of an affordable breast enhancement procedure. She is accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with growing up. Her silence proves a catalyst for each woman to confront her fears and frustrations.

On another hot summer’s day ten years later, Natsu, on a journey back to her native city, struggles with her own indeterminate identity as she confronts anxieties about growing old alone and childless.
(from this review of an English version)

Availability

amazon.co.jp
BookWalker

Personal Opinion

I became aware of the author through this Japan Times article about the most important Japan-related books of the 2010’s, and it turns out that she is quite the celebrated author right now. Therefore I would love to read something written by her.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • The book won the Akutagawa Prize in 2008
  • I like the subject of criticism towards society and its norms
  • Very short (only 133 pages), so it’s a quick read
  • There are at least 2 English translations available, called “Breasts and Eggs” (one of which interestingly translates Osaka-ben to Manchester dialect).

Cons

  • Kawakami’s writing often employs Osaka-ben
  • She also incorporates experimental and poetic language into her short stories and novels, citing Lydia Davis and James Joyce as literary influences
  • (I actually don’t think these are con’s, it might just make the book harder to read, so I listed them here.)

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages



6 Likes

I know I’m not in this book club buuut Wow, I honestly didn’t think I’d see this book mentioned anywhere, ahaha. My professor recommended this book to me several years (because I did a presentation in class on math), and I don’t really know what the scale is for “intermediate”, but I’ll be the third person to say it’s a good pick :slightly_smiling_face:

3 Likes

For the current proposals list, which books are you planning to remove because of consistent unpopularity? Like I said before, please remove Ame&Yuki; it was never that popular anyways and now I’ve read it on my own. Also, what about Hyakunin Isshu? As we are kinda planning to read this separately (are we, though? :eyes:) we can also exclude it from the nominations, I guess… ?

1 Like

I already removed unpopular books from the list according to the rules we discussed a few months ago.

Roger that.

Right, that was also my plan. However, I’m currently drowning in book clubs (and work) so I’m not doing anything to set it up, and nothing seems to be happening. I do hope we set up something, though. I leave it up to @Belthazar to decide if we should remove it or not, but I’d leave it there as long as we do not have any solid plan to read it independently.

1 Like

Oh, I see! (I had expected Ame&Yuki to be due to be removed due to unpopularity, but this seems to have been a misperception then.)

Fair enough :slight_smile: As this project was kinda slow to take off, I left my already-purchased book in storage for the duration of my travels around Japan. Therefore I’m also not eager to push it now. (If it happens, it happens, and that’s also fine with me, but I won’t be the one to make it happen.)

2 Likes

Yep, it cleared the bar, I just checked :ok_hand:

Same here. I do hope it happens, but I won’t be the change I want to see this time :stuck_out_tongue:

2 Likes

It’s basically a case of noone did anything because noone did anything. :stuck_out_tongue:

But hey, if it can manage to actually win the next round of voting…

3 Likes