The Great Passage by Miura Shion

TGPI first read Miura Shion’s The Great Passage ((舟を編む, Fune wo Amu) back in 2020, right after I watched the film version, but reading it meant I skipped a lot of it. Unfortunately, this is what I tend to do when I read a book for the first time. It takes me several reads before a book is truly read. So, if I read a book just once there’ll be a lot of it that I’ll miss. Anyway, I recently decided to listen to the audiobook on Scribd. Audiobooks force me to pay attention to every word although I sometimes zone out. When this happens I usually rewind the narration. Somehow, I am more likely to do this than reread a paragraph.

Audiobooks aren’t always the answer if the narrator decides to put on hammy accents or simply if their voice grates on my nerves. Thankfully, Brian Nishii, the narrator of The Great Passage audiobook (published by Brilliance Audio), is close to perfect. His surname suggests he’s Japanese and so his pronunciations of the characters’ and other proper names, and also Japanese phrases, doesn’t sound awkward or forced. Plus, he has a pleasant, likeable voice.

jff-great-passage-twitch-thumb-630xauto-43969The story is about a group of lexicographers at a publishing house, called Gembu, and their latest project, ‘The Great Passage’. At the start of the book, the editor, Akari Kohei announces that he has to leave to care for his sick wife. The director of the department, Professor Matsumoto, says that he will never find another editor as good and devoted to dictionary making as Akari is. This makes Akari determined to find a replacement before he leaves. It seems like an impossible task given that you come to realise that it would take as it becomes evident that it takes a rare type of person to live up to Akari and Professor Matsumoto’s exacting standards. To add to the challenge, Akari has to make his selection from the existing employees of the publishing house: Although a large company, most of the staff view making dictionaries as boring and a waste of time.Read More »

A New Comfort Read

www3It took me a while as I’ve been busy with editing deadlines, but I finally finished reading Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa.

I loved it and I’m glad I was ‘forced’ to take my time with it.

The book is about Sentaro, a middle-aged man, who works at a dorayaki shop and is pretty tired of his job and his life. Once upon a time he thought he might be a writer, but then he ended up in jail and in debt, and now he simply goes through the motions, making and selling dorayaki in the day and getting drunk in the evenings.

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Book Review: A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto

a quiet placeWhile away on a business trip, Tsuneo Asai, a section chief in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, learns that his wife, Eiko, has died suddenly back in Tokyo. It transpires that Eiko suffered a fatal heart attack while walking up a hilly street in a part of the city that Asai is certain would have been unfamiliar to her.

Why was Eiko there in the first place? Apart from knowing no one there, Eiko had a weak heart and would have surely avoided walking up the rather steep hill.

When Asai pays a courtesy call to the woman who tried to help Eiko and in whose cosmetics store his wife died in, he notices a love hotel on the street and begins to question what he think he knows about his wife’s life, and what he’s been told about her death.Read More »

Puss in the Woods

2089205694_0f3a2030c2_zOriginally published in The Star in 2009

I LOVE cats, but even if you’re not partial to flesh-blood-and-fur felines, you may find it hard to resist the charms of Dayan.

He is the creation of Japanese author/illustrator Akiko Ikeda and is the main character in four books translated and published by Dark Horse (best known as a publisher of comics). If you look at Ikeda’s website ( it seems that there are more books, including picture books and novels, featuring the cat and his friends. However, they’re in Japanese. The four titles thus far available in English are a little larger than Ladybird books, with the same hard covers, and fully-illustrated with the most charming and interesting watercolours.

Dayan has grey and red-gold stripes, a white stomach and four white feet. He has huge slanted amber eyes – and in fact, Ikeda’s characters are all notable for their large lustrous eyes.

Dayan lives in Wachifield, an imaginary world dominated by woodland and streams, and populated by the usual forest creatures like rabbits, frogs, foxes, otters and squirrels. There is an alligator though – his rather incongruous presence isn’t explained, and that’s one of the things I like about the way Ikeda writes. She doesn’t overtell the story – there’s no exposition at all, and characters and events appear in the books without introduction, but as if Ikeda is telling stories of creatures the reader already knows well. If you want every detail provided for you, then you may not like Ikeda’s style, but I find it very fresh and light. The reader is free to be a co-creator with Ikeda – he may suppose and imagine whatever he wishes when contemplating the world of Wachifield.

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