So uhm starting on the 19th aka for me today.
Hope this will go okay. Am trying to use the dictionary as little as possible. Wish me luck and good luck to everyone else reading this summer!
So quick Update: Completely forgot to mention what I will attempt to read. So basically anything I have nearby will be read this summer. I was very lucky and fortunate and got to go to a bookstore where they had loads and loads of japanese books twice now so I got quite the backlog. Currently I am reading 10 分で読める こわい話 1年生。In case I read anything else I update this again or maybe write a different thingy all together don’t know yet. Again good luck everyone and hope you have a great summer!!!
Edit: I am counting playing video games in japanese as having read.
Tiny read yesterday (so tired!), maybe a couple of pages. But I read some more today, and unexpectedly reached the end of the titular story! And…I’m still rather at a loss. I wish we had read it in a book club, there’s so much to speculate on…
Open for very long, very rambling thoughts on the story. Major spoilers for the whole story of course.
The mother-in-law looked surprisingly like her mother-in-law. At the end of the story (and after getting a job), the narrator also resembles her own mother-in-law in the mirror.
Things the narrator perceives that seem to not actually be there: A hikikomori brother-in-law. Lots of children. A middle-aged neighbour with a very young child. A beast unlike any known animal that digs holes.
The grandfather-in-law must be real since there’s a funeral and everything. Yet his strange behaviour is only perceived (if it even happens) by the narrator. In the eyes of everyone else he’s just a regular old man watching TV. So, a grandfather-in-law who only smiles and waves, never speaks, and constantly, even in the pouring rain, even at night, waters the garden.
The voices of cicadas permeate everything. They stop when the neighbour or the brother-in-law make an appearance - signifying a departure from reality? A shift to another point in time? (Although I think the brother-in-law also comments on the cicadas at one point.)
The beast isn’t aggressive after all. It meekly stays in the hole with the narrator, doing nothing at all (and smelling of nothing).
The husband. In the beginning, I got the impression he had a good balanced relationship with his wife, discussing all decisions with her and respecting her opinions. After the move, he’s constantly absent. Even when he’s there, he’s typing on his phone. When he sleeps, he appears dead. Interestingly, his father seems to be also entirely absent.
The neighbour, who may not exist as such, talks about her own life and her move to that place, how there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go without a car, and how a child gave her life purpose.
The brother-in-law, who probably doesn’t exist and it’s unclear whether he ever existed, talks about how he couldn’t bear the pressure to be a productive, children-producing member of society (a very Murata moment, I thought) and just withdrew.
There are red things scattered in the neighbour’s garden. (Oh, and what about the vegetables? Those seemed to be real, they ate them). There are red things in the grass at the riverbank. What are those?
The mother-in-law seemed very together and all-powerful in the beginning. A very dynamic woman that might be likely to get too involved in her son’s marriage. She soon loses much of her power though, and at the end she seems more lost than the narrator herself.
So what was the story about? I feel an obvious answer would be it was about trapped women (hence the holes and why three unrelated women looked alike), or being trapped in general (the neighbour “escaping” with a child (as if), the brother-in-law “escaping” by becoming a hikikomori. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. What about all the (non-existent) children? What about the focus (which I loved) on all the mundane little details, the insects, the flowers (only one in each vase!), the Japanese ginger from the neighbour’s garden (which only felt unpleasantly crunchy to the husband), and so many more. What about the beast? Why did it dig the holes? Why did it get in there itself? The brother-in-law jokes that they should name the beast Asahi. Is the beast supposed to be the narrator’s wild nature, and how it’s constantly getting trapped maybe?
And what about the grandfather-in-law? Why was he always watering? Why did he die after falling in a hole? Why was the mother-in-law so lost and dejected after his death? Was he keeping nature (or the wild side) alive? Why did so many unknown people come to mourn him?
I feel like every little detail had significance, I only wish I could see it.
I’d be very interested in reading @Myria 's and @NicoleIsEnough 's thoughts on the story (or anyone else’s who has read it of course!)
All in all, I loved the story, and the slightly surreal, slightly off feeling that was constantly there in the background. I loved all the vivid descriptions that appealed to all the senses - I felt that I could hear, and feel, and smell what the narrator was describing most of the time. And it was indeed (thanks @Myria ) very close to the kind of “horror” I was looking for. Not horror at all, but something off, something unknown hiding behind normality, only vaguely perceived.
Thanks everyone for your messages on my dog’s adventure, they all meant a lot to me. Yes, it was horrifying beyond belief, and I still can’t stand looking down any kind of height, I just see her in my mind lying there and remember the horror. I still don’t get how any of it happened, how she fell, and how she survived without a scratch. She’s doing well though, or at least as well as can be hoped for an 18-year old dog with mobility issues and probably advanced dementia…)
Rats too? I knew that about cats, never expected it from a dog though. My dog’s upper body is so much wider than her head, I never thought she could squeeze through such a tiny space. Lesson learned.
Isn’t that the absolute truth! There was a stray cat that visited the garden, we had been casually feeding her for ages. After she gave birth in the garden for the third time or so, we decided it was about time we formally adopted her and the kittens. Nothing changed really apart from them getting names and vet visits. Yet they suddenly became a source of constant worry. Somehow she stopped being just a casual acquaintance and became our child, our responsibility. Sigh. And there’s always something to worry about. There’s no way to protect outdoor cats from cars and such, after all, you can’t stop them going anywhere or doing anything they set their mind to…
Our cats are outdoor cats and we always celebrate a “no-abscess summer” when they manage to get through to the fall without any major fights. One in particular often gets into scrapes and because the wounds are usually on his face, the vet has speculated that he’s the aggressor. (The other is a coward and gets bites on his butt. We prefer his approach.) Our next cats might have to be indoor cats, but they do seem so much happier when they get to work off their energy outside…
Today I was able to read 12 pages of よつばと！ before reaching my quota of 10 new words/expressions. However, I came across a couple of things that stumped me. For example, the following:
seems to mean “don’t take your hands off!” in this context (Yotsuba is swinging on a swing and Ena is horrified about how high she is going). But Yotsuba doesn’t show any intention of letting go of the swing until Ena says this. Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong? What verb is “なしちゃ” in this case?
くるくる: whirling around, spinning
反動 (はんどう): recoil, kick
動く (うごく): to move, to swing, to operate
空き家 (あきや): vacant house
いいとこ: the right moment
途中 (とちゅう): on the way, en route
お嬢ちゃん (おじょうちゃん): young lady (honorific kanji)
迎える (むかえる): to go out to meet
Still reading Bunny Senpai but getting the hang of speed reading a little in Japanese. About 60% of the way done and should finish in time to read Tumugi for Intermediate book club. I read 2 parts today and should be on chapter 4* by tomorrow. (Each chapter is broken into parts I guess)
I don’t know if English books count as part of the challenge but I finished Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe over the weekend and currently working through the Hobbit.
I’m glad you enjoyed the first story! (Recommending stuff always makes me anxious) First I was under the impression that you were looking for real scary horror, which is why I was hesitant to recommend 穴 at first, but after realizing you were looking for horror with that omnipresent ominous feeling throughout, I thought 穴 might actually fit quite well, and I’m glad it did! I posted a small review on Natively already, but I have to say I might have liked the second story the most. I’m interested to see what you think of it!
First story talk
I still don’t really know what the story was trying to tell me… everyone was just so weird. It was interesting, but I somehow always seem to wish for short stories to go on for longer, I need more information and more resolution! My theory is simply that her boredom made her interpret things to an extreme degree. (Not a very fleshed out theory, haha. I’ve just been enjoying the ride.)
I agree that it was written so well, I could especially feel her boredom in the beginning! The insane struggle of being stuck somewhere and having nothing to do… And all the other feelings. She didn’t even need to spell them out, they came across so well. When she watched the grandfather in the garden, for example.
Or the one time when she went to pay a bill for her mother-in-law, and the money wasn’t enough… I could feel the awkwardness and the inner struggle!
And the author managed to describe everything in a way that it all felt just slightly off. It was so well executed. But there were still so many things left unresolved, as @NicoleIsEnough mentioned before. The red bugs, her getting bitten by one, everyone being so pale… So many details that you think may become relevant later, but then they’re never mentioned again.
I also got insane Murata vibes from the brother-in-law, but I really liked what he was saying. I can’t really recall any details, but I think I went „I feel you, bro“. At least that’s the vague feeling that remained from that conversation. (Now I hope he didn’t say any horrible things xD)
I did like the ending, but it left me very puzzled. I guess she gets a job and thus manages to get out of the (metaphorical) hole she fell into when she moved to the 田舎. And thus there’s no need anymore for her to make up her own world in her mind.
Good point, I’ll do that later today. I thought of writing there actually, but it’s not really a review, just rambling thoughts, and that challenge is also about many books. It gets far fewer posts though, so as you say, it won’t get lost.
I’ll also reply to @Myria there. Lots to think about!
I’m very much looking forward to the second story!
Ha, funny enough, I started reading this series recently too! You’re well ahead of me though. I’ve only been reading one of the little chapter breaks a day, so I only just reached section 2 of the second chapter.
Read chapter 3, and it ended so soon. I forgot that chapter 2 was unusually long for this book, so I forgot that future chapters should be easier to finish in one night. It makes me more confident I can read this before the offshoot club starts on volume 2.
Still like Aiko-san (aunt) so much. She’s a super smart person. Recognizing that it is so much more valuable to do things yourself. Even if it feels like a lot to put on Hanabi. Well, I’ll see tomorrow how it goes.
And also about yesterday. So for context, I go to bed around 1 am every night. But yesterday at 10 pm, I was nodding off while sitting up. So I gave up and went to bed, not reading any Japanese. I’ve been so tired for maybe a week now, which is why I wasn’t too surprised that it finally came to that.
I need to take better care of my sleep. Because if it doesn’t clear up with better sleep, I might have to look into other causes for the tiredness, and I’d rather just be sleep depraved. I’m hoping I’ve just neglected my sleep so much my body is like ENOUGH. (This is not the first time this has happened… Me not the sharpest knife in the drawer.)
Watch me be up waaay too late tonight, like the idiot I so often am about matters like this. Promise I will do my best not to be like that.
Today I read chapter 87 of Yotsuba. Lots of cuteness and fun to see her interacting with her grandmother.
Right now my bookclubs all start their new week on a Friday, so I read all of my bookclub stuff first and then spend the rest of the week reading Yotsuba. Now that I only have 2 volumes and 3 chapters left I really need to start thinking about what to fill my non-bookclub days with…