I was in Japan last week for a trip in Tokyo, and of course, I took the opportunity to visit several bookshops and buy Japanese books.
(This post is long, scroll down to see the list!)
Reading Challenge #2
Last year, I set myself a first reading challenge: read all the 13 books I had bought in Japan (in December 2017) before the end of 2018. This meant reading roughly one book per month. This challenge was a success, it got me into the habit of reading Japanese genre fiction regularly and helped me improve my reading pace.
This year (2019), I start a similar challenge: read all the 23 books I bought in Japan before December, 31st.
As we are already in March, this means reading 2 to 3 novels per month. I think that it is doable, given that I bought mainly detective and mystery novels, a genre that I am used to reading and is not too challenging for me.
How I chose my books
Usually, I buy my books in Korean bookshops (some have a Japanese corner) or on Amazon. The flagship of Korean bookshop Kyobo does have a good selection of Japanese books, but of course, it cannot compare with bookshops in Japan. This is why I took advantage of my being in Tokyo to purchase books from authors I didn’t know or never saw in Korean bookshops.
Generally speaking, these were my criteria:
- I mainly bought detective and mystery novels because I love it and they are easier to read than literary fiction.
- I focused on authors I didn’t know and books I never saw in Korea.
- I like reading series, and when I found an interesting series, I have tried to buy the first volume.
Most of the books I have bought come from the new release sections. Thanks to Kazen’s video on Japanese bunko paperback, I now know that the promotional wrapping band around Japanese books is called a “obi”. The obi greatly influences me when I purchase new books, I think that I entirely rely on what is written on it, and I cannot resist their catchy promotional phrases!
Authors I already knew
As I said, I mainly chose authors I never read, but I could not resist buying some authors I knew:
I have only read one book by Gaku YAKUMARU (薬丸岳), but I liked it. It was 『誓約』 and I have finished it just before going to Japan. It was a page-turner, easy to read and exactly the kind of books I enjoy reading in Japanese. I bought『ガーディアン』 without hesitation. It is a school mystery, which I like, and the last pocket release by Gaku YAKUMARU.
During my 2018 Reading challenge, I have read Kazumasa HAYAMI (早見和真)’s best-seller 『イノセント・デイズ』, which was one of my favourites but also one of the most difficult to read. 『小説王』was advertised in all the bookshops I went to, and the obi says that there is now a drama version. I wonder if 『小説王』will be as difficult as 『イノセント・デイズ』, but if it is, it is a good way to find out if I have made progress since last year!
- 『ガーディアン』by Gaku YAKUMARU (薬丸岳), published by 講談社文庫.
- 『小説王』by Kazumasa HAYAMI (早見和真), published by 小学館文庫.
Starting new series!
It is not always easy to know if a book belongs to a series, and I find even harder to know in which order one should read the books of a series. Most of them do not have numbers, which certainly means that they can be read in no particular order. However, I always like to start with the first one, even if it is not the best one. Even if each novel has an independent story, I like to see how the protagonist evolves.
Sometimes I did manage to buy the first volume, but sometimes not. I could have systematically checked on Wikipedia, but I didn’t want to spend the whole day in the bookshop either!
Series 刑事犬養隼人, featuring detective Hayato INUKAI (犬養隼人) by Shichiri NAKAYAMA (中山七里). The first four books of this series were displayed in one of the bookshops I went to (I think it was Sanseido). I bought the first two volumes. They look like classic thrillers, with murders and a police investigation.
I could not resist buying a third book by Shichiri NAKAYAMA, though it does not belong to this series: 『追憶の夜想曲』. It is a legal thriller (法定ミステリ), a genre that I like and would like to read more in Japanese. I think that it might be a little challenging if court related words appear, but it is fine to have more difficult books on my list.
What I didn’t realise when I bought this book, is that it also belongs to a series, the 御子柴礼司シリーズ featuring lawyer Reiji MIKOSHIBA, and it is the second volume. I would have preferred to read the first one first, but I guess it does not matter. If I like 『追憶の夜想曲』, I will definitely add the other books of the series to my reading list!
- 『切り裂きジャックの告白』(Confession of Jack the Ripper) by Shichiri NAKAYAMA (中山七里), published by 角川文庫.
- 『七色の毒』(Poison of the Seven Colors) by Shichiri NAKAYAMA (中山七里), published by 角川文庫.
- 『追憶の夜想曲』by Shichiri NAKAYAMA (中山七里), published by 講談社文庫.
Series “その可能性はすでに考えた”, featuring detective Jo UEORO (上苙丞) by Magi INOUE (井上真偽). I liked the title of the series, the cover of the two books and let myself be influenced by the obi. I think that these two books might have a different tone than the others.
- 『その可能性はすでに考えた』(I’ve considered all the possibility) by Magi INOUE (井上真偽), published by 講談社文庫.
- 『聖女の毒杯 – その可能性はすでに考えた』(I’ve considered all the possibility) by Magi INOUE (井上真偽), published by 講談社文庫.
Series メゾン・ド・ポリス, featuring a bunch of retired detectives, by Miaki KATO (加藤実秋). Apparently there are three volumes in this series, and I have bought the first one, which is a collection of short stories. There is a drama adaptation too. It really looks unique and interesting, I cannot wait to start it!
Series 佐方貞人, featuring lawyer Sadato SAKATA (佐方貞人) by Yuko YUZUKI (柚月裕子). The book I bought is the second book of the series… Here again I am expecting a legal thriller.
- 『メソン・ド・ポリス – 退職刑事のシェアハウス』by Miaki KATO (加藤実秋), published by 角川文庫.
- 『検事の本懐』(The Public Prosecutor’s Desire) by Yuko YUZUKI (柚月裕子), published by 角川文庫.
Other mystery novels and thrillers
I don’t know what to expect with these two books by Shin NAKAMACHI (中町信). Though they have a similar title, I don’t think that they are part of a series, but I may be mistaken. It is the obi that caught my eyes and made me buy them. I mean, how can you resist?
I think that it is the first time I see such a thing, but both books have a list of characters on the inside cover! This is so great!!
- 模倣の殺意 (The Plagiarized Fugue 1973, 2004) by Shin NAKAMACHI (中町信), published by 創元推理文庫.
- 『天啓の殺意』(The Apocalyptic Fugue 1982, 2005) by Shin NAKAMACHI (中町信), published by 創元推理文庫.
『父からの手紙』by Kenji KOSUGI (小杉健治) is a sentimental mystery and I thought it might be similar to some of Kanae MINATO’s books, a suspenseful mystery which also contains a deep analysis of family relationships. In 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』by Yasumi KOBAYASHI (小林泰三), a man suffers from anterograde amnesia and cannot recall anything that occurred after a certain event, the only thing he can trust is his notebook. 『ケモノの城』by Tetsuya HONDA (誉田哲也) looks like a classic page-turner thriller. 『盤上に死を描く』(The Killing Diagram) by Neko INOUE (井上ねこ) involves a serial murder with a puzzle-like mystery, exactly the kind of books I like! Finally 『6月31日の同窓会』by Yukiko MARI (真梨幸子) is certainly the book I am the most anticipating: former students of the same school die after receiving an invitation for an alumni meeting taking place on June 31st.
A special mention for 『首折りの男のための協奏曲』by Kotaro ISAKA (伊坂幸太郎). I have never read this author, but he was recommended to me by Anteateralert in the comments of my blog (thank you!), and I have recently read a review of another book by Kotaro ISAKA on selftaughtjapanese.com, the review mentioned that Kotaro ISAKA’s writing style was a little similar to Keigo HIGASHINO!
- 『父からの手紙』by Kenji KOSUGI (小杉健治), published by 光文社文庫.
- 『殺人鬼にまつわる備忘録』by Yasumi KOBAYASHI (小林泰三), published by 幻冬舎文庫.
- 『ケモノの城』by Tetsuya HONDA (誉田哲也), published by 双葉文庫.
- 『盤上に死を描く』(The Killing Diagram) by Neko INOUE (井上ねこ), published by 宝島社文庫.
- 『6月31日の同窓会』(June 31st Reunion) by Yukiko MARI (真梨幸子), published by 実業之日本社.
- 『首折りの男のための協奏曲』(a concerto) by Kotaro ISAKA (伊坂幸太郎), published by 新潮文庫.
I have mainly bought genre fiction because I will be busy studying for the JLPT until December, and I didn’t want to read challenging books (sometimes it means spending several months reading the same book!). I did choose these three titles, which are not mystery novels:
『わたし、定時で帰ります。』by Kaeruko AKENO (朱野帰子) is a book I saw on Amazon some time ago and wanted to read. I like reading novels about Japanese professional world and this title really appealed to me. A rapid flip through showed me that the novel is mainly composed of dialogues, so I hope that it will be easy to read.
The two books by Yo IKENAGA (池永陽) have so beautiful covers that they immediately caught my eye. The two books seem to be about people who struggle with their life and cannot seem to find happiness. 『下町やぶさか診療所』is about a doctor and the patients who come to him, 『コンビニ・ララバイ』is about the owner of a convenience store and the clients of the store. I could not decide which one to pick, so I ended up buying both.
- 『わたし、定時で帰ります。』by Kaeruko AKENO (朱野帰子), published by 新潮文庫.
- 『下町やぶさか診療所』by Yo IKENAGA (池永陽), published by 集英社文庫.
- 『コンビニ・ララバイ』by Yo IKENAGA (池永陽), published by 集英社文庫.
Easy to read?
I wanted to buy light novels, but I could not find detective novels that appealed to me (for example, I didn’t want to read stories that happen in London). I also did not have the time to make a thorough search, so I gave up the idea. It is hard for me to tell if a book will be easy to read. I would say that most mystery novels are relatively easy, though there are exceptions. I bought these books thinking they might be easier, but I may be mistaken.
It is not written anywhere but I think that 『赤レンガの御定番』by Shoko MIKI (三木笙子) is a light novel. I bought it because it happens during Meiji, and it is adverstised as a 明治浪漫ミステリー.
Yugo AOSAKI (青崎有吾)’s books were displayed in Tsutaya where the author signed his books. I bought his new release 『ノッキングオン・オックドドア』and 『図書館の殺人』because I cannot resist a book with such a title! It is part of a series, and it is the 4th book. For once, I didn’t care because I don’t think that I will want to read the whole series, and this particular title attracted me more than the others.
- 『赤レンガの御定番』by Shoko MIKI (三木笙子), published by 講談社タイガ.
- 『ノッキングオン・オックドドア』(Knockin’ on Locked Door) by Yugo AOSAKI (青崎有吾), published by 徳間文庫.
- 『図書館の殺人』(The Red Letter Mystery) by Yugo AOSAKI (青崎有吾), published by 創元推理文庫 (the publisher with the characters’ list on the inside cover!)
So that’s it! 23 books! I hope that I can read them all this year while preparing for the JLPT. I have mostly chosen books that I think I can read without struggling, and I see them more like a material for entertainment rather than for studying Japanese. If I pass the JLPT N1 in December, and if I have spent the whole year reading genre fiction, I will certainly be prepared to tackle more challenging literary fiction or non fiction in 2020!