Intermediate Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: セーラー服と機関銃 // Next: 変な家

あん (Eng: Sweet Bean Paste)



Author: Durian Sukegawa ( [ドリアン助川)
Page count: 195-238 (Amazon, bookwalker and natively all give a different page count…)
Natively: Level 29



誰にも生まれてきた意味がある。 どら焼き店の軒先から始まる、限りなく優しい魂の物語 線路沿いから一本路地を抜けたところにある小さなどら焼き店。 千太郎が日がな一日鉄板に向かう店先に、バイトの求人をみてやってきたのは70歳を過ぎた手の不自由な女性・吉井徳江だった。 徳江のつくる「あん」の旨さに舌をまく千太郎は、彼女を雇い、店は繁盛しはじめるのだが……。 偏見のなかに人生を閉じ込められた徳江、生きる気力を失いかけていた千太郎、ふたりはそれぞれに新しい人生に向かって歩き始める――。 生命の不思議な美しさに息をのむラストシーン、いつまでも胸を去らない魂の物語.


Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.

But everything is about to change.

Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed,
with devastating consequences.

Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Translated into English for the first time, Durian Sukegawa’s beautiful prose is capturing hearts all over the world.


Amazon, Bookwalker, Verasia, CD Japan

Personal Opinion

I read the english version of the book a few years ago and fell in love with it. It’s a delicate story and I really like the interaction between the different characters, as well as the story of Tokue, one of the main characters of the book. It also gives you the insight into themes considered taboo in Japanese society (disease, disability), and I learned a lot from it.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club


  • Relatively short read, so probably not too exhausting
  • Relatively well known (considered an international bestseller). Plus, it has a movie
  • Interesting portrayal of ‘taboo’ themes (crime, disease, disability) but brings overall a positive message
  • Good character portrayal and interactions - specially between the two main characters, an elderly lady and a young man trying to turn his life around


  • Some people may be put off by the (taboo) themes. There is also mention of death.
  • No furigana (apart from lesser known kanji)


First Three Pages of Chapter One

Additional Pages

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