Intermediate Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: Spy x Family・Next: TUGUMI

This is maybe my favorite Japanese book and I really want you all to read it! It’s really short, too – maybe half the length of the books we usually read here (~60,000 characters).

There’s a bit of dialect here, but it’s not too hard to figure out. Maybe takes a few pages to get used to it, but I think Shimada deliberately wrote it in a way that it’s not too hard to parse. I personally found it a lot easier than the old guy from ヨコハマ買い出し紀行, for example.


Thanks for the clarification! Now all we can do is entrust this matter to the next poll :wink:

Speaking of which, I will start the next poll some time this week (Wednesday, I guess) so if y’all could have a look at the nominations and rate them if you haven’t done so already, that would be amazing!


You make it sound like its a funny story. But except for one part in the first 3 pages (the one where he probes into his “creation”) I found the (edit: start of the) story rather tragic than funny…

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Ah, I have no idea actually! I just tried to translate the Japanese summary. Sorry if that’s misleading in any case. What would be a good summary from your point of view? (a spoiler-free one, of course)


Nah you made no mistake. Its just that the start is pretty bleak. But that is to be expected if we talk hiroshima shusshin in the 1950s i suppose.


It’s Poll Time!!!

Have a look at the List of Proposed Books section in the first post for details on each book. Every book has a difficulty associated with it (based on book club members voting, thus subjective) out of 5, where 1 means “no effort at all” and 5 means “impossible, even with everyone’s help”. The difficulty is annotated in the poll in square brackets after the book’s name.

Do not rely solely on difficulty when making a choice. Please have a look at nomination posts if you haven’t already.

Expected reading pace: We aim to read books at ~15 pages per week (that number might vary a bit throughout, depending on the book’s breaks and chapters). For manga, depending on difficulty and chapter length, we will probably read one to several chapters per week. The pick’s exact reading schedule will be negotiated before the book club kicks off.

Short book rule: If the first place ist taken by a book that will take us 6 weeks or less to read, we will read the book in second place directly after it, without running a poll in between. I haven’t checked in detail, but I’d assume that this basically applies in case one of the manga wins the poll.

Start of Book Club: We will start the next book on April 2nd (after a one-week break).

Poll duration: I will close the poll within a week (and most likely before that), whenever it looks like voting has dried up. You can choose up to 5 options .

  • ifの悲劇 [2.62]
  • きらきらひかる [2.67]
  • 日本人の知らない日本語 (Manga) [2.4]
  • 山と食欲と私 (Manga) [2.5]
  • くま クマ 熊 ベアー [2.36]
  • 天気の子 [2.64]
  • ガイコツ書店員本田さん (Manga) [2.45]
  • リング [2.67]
  • City (Manga) [2.56]
  • TUGUMI [2]
  • Just Because! [2.17]
  • 笑顔のたえない職場です。(Manga) [2.83]
  • 穴 [2]
  • 人質の朗読会 [2.43]
  • 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん [2.5]

0 voters


Struggling to limit my choices to 5 this time around, which is great because it means there’s so much I’d be excited to read! Anybody have any strong opinions or recommendations?


There’s a 50% off deal on some Kindle books. It ends tomorrow, unfortunately. But it seems the current #1 pick is discounted (only 275 yen!). リング is also discounted (295 yen).


Amazon lists this as ‘book 2 of 8’. Do you or @KazeTachinu happen to know what’s the deal with book 1?

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Amazon might be wrong? It appears to be the first in the series on Bookwalker, although there are no numbers as such.

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Yeah, that’s what I was wondering. Because ‘the second book’ sure seems to be the ‘main’ book. So I wonder if it’s more like a spin-off sort of thing than a series per se.

Reading a bit on Wikipedia, it seems it was first published by a different publisher and under a different name (maybe that’s book 1 according to Amazon?), then revised and published as it is now. Probably due to its success lots more books were added later.


It’s definitely the first book Shimada wrote and by far the most famous one. He has written more about other parts of his life later, but 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん came first and is supposed to be read standalone.

The one that Amazon lists as #1 was written much later. It’s in fact about his relationship to Takeshi Kitano, dealing mostly with his life as a manzai comedian and how he felt after his short burst of overwhelming fame came to an abrupt end.

Short summary of the Amazon chronology:
1: Relationship with Takeshi Kitano, showbiz life and thereafter.
2: The main book – elementary and middle school years at his grandma’s place in Saga
3: Loose collection of anecdotes about his grandma
4: How he eloped with his future wife and trained to become a manzai comedian in Osaka
5: His relationship with his mother before, during and after がばいばあちゃん
6: Moving back to Saga prefecture in his 50s/60s(?)
7-8: Saw these for the first time. More anecdotes? A compilation? Not sure, the books themselves seem to be much longer.

So yeah, it’s pretty random.

There’s actually one more book about Shimada’s high school years when he wanted to become a professional baseball player. It’s by another publisher, so it’s not in the Amazon list and not available digitally.

When I read 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん I actually didn’t even know Shimada was a famous comedian in Japan.

@omk3 The book was first self-published and sold hand-to-hand at events before being picked up by a publisher. The original title is the title Takeshi Kitano decided for Shimada, but Shimada later changed it because he thought it sounded to complicated.


Thanks everybody who took part in the voting! This time we had 40 participants, which is a huge number for this club! (In the 13 polls before this one, we only reached/exceeded that number 3 times).

I’m happy to announce that 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん is the winner! :tada:
I guess @KazeTachinu is as curious as I am to hear what y’all think about it. I will set up the home thread soon, and we can start discussing the reading schedule in there.


As this is a very short book and it’s been a while since I read it, I think I’ll just read along! :>


Meanwhile, my nomination doing just about as well as they usually do…


For our list of proposals, sadly we had to say goodbye to ifの悲劇 :cry:

きらきらひかる, 山と食欲と私, City, and くま クマ 熊 ベアー remain on the list of books with low interest. If they get low interest in the next poll as well, we need to say goodbye to them as well.

TUGUMI, ガイコツ書店員本田さん, 笑顔のたえない職場です。, and Just Because! entered the list of books with low interest, while 天気の子 (which came in second place!) and リング (which came in fourth place) are now back in the game and got removed from the list of low interest books.

Due to the removal of two books from the list of proposals (one due to low interest, one because it got picked) we now have 13 proposals, which means there are a few slots waiting for your proposals! If you happen to come across a book that you think might be interesting for the other book club members as well, please feel free to nominate it in this thread.


I know that feeling! Was hoping one of them would get at least 20% :person_shrugging:

But 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん looks interesting, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.


I really want to read 笑顔のたえない職場です but I feel like this will never get picked… haha


Sweet! I’m looking forward to something funny. I managed to find a copy for sale in my country on EBay, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, try that. Saves a ton on shipping and customs!