Book review: 『模倣の殺意』by Sin NAKAMACHI


Title: 『模倣の殺意』(The Plagiarized Fugue)
Author: Sin NAKAMACHI 中町信
Published by 創元推理文庫

Sin NAKAMACHI (1935-2009) was an author of crime fiction. 『模倣の殺意』was first published in 1973 under the title “新人賞殺人事件”. In 2004, 創元推理文庫 brought this mystery novel to the public again and gave it its present title.


An introductory chapter sets the facts: A man called Masao SAKAI dies on July, 7th at 7pm. He was an author of crime fiction. His death by poisoning looks like suicide but two persons are not convinced and will investigate. We follow these two characters, the chapters alternating between one and the other.

Review: Excellent mystery!

I didn’t know Sin NAKAMACHI before, and I bought this book because the obi said “これはすごい!”. I must learn not to let myself be too influenced by such promotional phrases, but in this case, it was true: this book was really good.

Japanese publishers are really good at promoting their books!

First of all, the book is an excellent mystery novel with all the elements you would expect to find in good crime fiction. However, as the obi suggests, Sin NAKAMACHI goes further than just telling a good story. If you want to fully enjoy this novel, you will have to be an active reader and try to solve the case by yourself.

I personally love novels of crime fiction where the reader is invited to participate. The author does not let you read passively and wait for the detective to name the culprit. There are things that are strange, that don’t fit, and no matter how lazy you are, you have to investigate the matter!

As for the language level, I would say that it was very similar to Keigo HIGASHINO. In the genre of crime/mystery fiction, Keigo HIGASHINO is to me the easiest author to read, and『模倣の殺意』had no difficult passages or dialogues, the story was easy to follow, but you have to pay attention to details.

JLPT Journal: Grammar done, starting drills!

I can’t believe that the test of July is in a little more than one month. My real goal is to pass in December, and I am taking the test of July as an exercise. Nonetheless, I cannot help but feeling excited (stressed) for July, and I am focusing on making vocabulary and grammar drills.

So-matome Grammar: DONE!

I have finally finished the So-matome textbook for grammar. I had planned to finish it in May, so I am very glad to say that everything went according to plan.

I am aware that the So-matome textbook is not enough, this is why I will also study with a Korean textbook:

This Korean textbook is very thorough. It has a lot of example sentences, and it has a strategical approach, showing you the grammar in the context of JLPT questions:

1- you see the grammar in a sentence where you have to choose the right grammar, 2- you see the grammar as it appears in the exercise “put in right order these 4 elements, 3- the grammar appears in a longer context, this corresponds to the last grammar exercise where you have a whole text to read.

I still don’t know if I will buy the Shin Kanzen for grammar or not… I remember that the Shin Kanzen was a little overwhelming for me when I took N2. More than once, I felt discouraged when studying with it…

Drills, drills, drills!

In order to get ready for July, I bought this two textbooks of drills by ASK publishing:

I think that making drills is a very good way to review and learn new words. My first impression is that the grammar drills are very close to the So-matome grammar textbook. I cannot say anything definite for vocabulary because I haven’t studied with the So-matome vocabulary book, but I would not be surprised if it were the same.

As a result, I find the vocabulary drills quite difficult, I usually answer at least one third of the questions wrong.

As for grammar, as I said, the drills seem to be very close to the So-matome textbook. This means that if you have gone through the whole So-matome grammar textbook, you will find these drills easy and answer most of the questions right. However, it seems that the drills will not test you on grammar points that are not in the So-matome textbook… I still need to make more drills to see if this first impression is confirmed.

Other things

I am still working with the 日本語単語スピードマスター, and I have reached unit 39. I had to admit that not using Anki was a bad idea… I thought I could learn and review the vocabulary using this book only, and while it did work during the first units, it became overwhelming with time. I have decided to add the words and example sentences to my Anki deck, which is better in the end.

I am still working with the So-matome textbook for kanji, and I must say that I am quite bored with it. I will continue until the end, but I feel that the lessons are not all useful. Sometimes, the textbook introduces words that are too easy, and I feel like I am losing my time. On the contrary, some lessons have difficult kanji, but they are introduced quickly, and I feel that I don’t master them even after I studied the lesson.

I am still reading in Japanese almost everyday, and I also do some JLPT reading practice from time to time. I am also glad to announce that I took the habit of listening to the NHK News every morning. I don’t understand everything but I feel that I am getting slightly better, which is very encouraging.

That’s it for this JLPT update! I hope I will be able to have decent results in July. I will certainly write another JLPT update before the test!

Book review: 『6月31日の同窓会』by Yukiko MARI


Title: 『6月31日の同窓会』
Author: Yukiko MARI (真梨幸子)
Published by 実業之日本社

Yukiko MARI is a prolific author of mystery novels, but this one is the first I read.


The main topic of the book is that former students of the same school receive an invitation for the “6月31日の同窓会” and die soon after.

Review: Liked it, but expected more…

First of all, the setting was very appealing to me: when it comes to genre fiction, I like mysteries and murders, but most of all, I like mysterious murders. This book seemed to be exactly that: June, 31st?? People receive an invitation and die mysteriously soon after that??

On one hand, I was happy with this book, I read it relatively quickly, it has a good mystery, and I also liked how many things are connected with the past, and how complex the relationship between students of the same class can be. The part “secrets of the past/complex human relationship” was good and this is what I really enjoyed in the book.

On the other hand, I was a little disappointed by the lack of investigation and suspense. With such a setting, I was expecting something more gripping. I would say that there is no real suspense, and that I sometimes felt frustrated with the characters’ attitude and passivity.

There are a lot of characters in this novel and a lot of different times. I highly recommend that you take notes while reading, to put everything in chronological order and see how events are linked with each other.

Overall, it was not difficult to read, a little more difficult than Keigo HIGASHINO but still okay to me, but it was hard to tell and recall who is who and who did what and when. Maybe there were too many main characters for the size of the novel, with the consequence that I didn’t feel that I know well each of them. When a character was mentioned after a while, I had to check my notes because I didn’t remember exactly their role in the story. So if you read this book, you should take notes!

To conclude, the novel was good, but I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. I certainly had too high expectations!

These days…

You know these days when you have a lot of time (the whole day or the whole afternoon, or several hours) to study your language but end up doing nothing?

There are so many things that you want to do (or need to do) that you don’t know where to start. If you decide to do something first, you end up thinking that this other thing is more important and switch to it. Then you realise that you should definitely do something else and switch again.

There are also the things you don’t want to do and avoid doing by spending your time in other more pleasant but not so useful activities. And of course, instead of actually doing things, you search the internet for tips on how to do them.

In the end, you feel frustrated because you did spend the whole day “studying” your language, but you didn’t do anything really.

I guess this happens to all of us. It happens to me all the time! But my life does not depend on my Japanese level, I’m learning Japanese as a hobby, and I do enjoy spending my day with Japanese even if I am not actively studying it!

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel that you haven’t been productive, we don’t need to be productive all the time, we don’t need to be progressing all the time, and we don’t need to check boxes on our to-do list all the time!

Book Review: 『おはなし・ねこあつめ』by Haruka SHIOTSUKI


Title: 『おはなし・ねこあつめ』
Author: Haruka SHIOTSUKI (汐月遥)
Published by 集英社みらい文庫

This book of 196 pages contains 8 short stories featuring the cats and universe of the mobile game Neko Atsume by Hit-Point.

The book has full furigana and is written for children (小学中級から). Every other spread contains some coloured, super cute illustrations. The stories can be read independently from one another and it is not necessary to play the game to understand them.


The game Neko Atsume is a mobile game on iOS and Android where the player can put cat food and cat toys in his house and yard and wait for cats to come and play around. The idea is that you don’t own the cats and don’t have control over who comes or when, they are free to come and go as they please. You can take pictures of them and collect them in an album.

The stories in 『おはなし・ねこあつめ』features some of the numerous cats who appear in the game, keeping their name and personality. They play in the yard, meet friends or go for a little adventures in the surroundings.

Review: Super cute, easy to read!

For children (but still interesting)

First of all, these stories are written for young children, and you should not except too much from the plot. I read on Amazon several reviews saying that adults can enjoy the stories too. Personally, I would not go as far as saying that adults can read and enjoy this book, it depends on what kind of adult you are, I guess. Let’s say that if you like Neko Atsume or if you like stories featuring cute cats doing cute things, you will like this book (I did).

The stories are very nice stories for children. They talk about friendship, discoveries and adventure. When I read this book, I was in the mode “ok, I’m an adult reading stories for children because I’m learning Japanese”, but I must also admit that I found some stories very touching and interesting (the 6th one in particular is my favourite).

The author really managed to create new stories while keeping the atmosphere of the game. The owner of the yard (who is also the player and the reader) is sometimes mentioned but never appears in the stories. While you don’t need to know or play the game to read the book, the two go along well.

Easy to read

This book is very easy to read, which is not the case of all the books for children (I personally often find books for children rather difficult to read!).

First of all, it has full furigana so you can easily look up unknown words. Some kanji words are written in hiragana instead so if you are struggling with kanji, you will find this book easier to read. To me, it was, on the contrary, a good exercise that forced me to read a lot of hiragana and not rely on kanji.

Of course, books for children can feature grammar and vocabulary that learners only study later, but to me, this book was surprisingly fitting the level of intermediate students. At times, it almost felt as if the book was written for Japanese learners instead than Japanese children.

Some descriptive parts can be more difficult to read, but I think that this book can be a good choice if you want to start reading in Japanese but don’t feel like tackling a whole novel for adults.

As for me, I have read this book at a time when reading in Japanese had become less enjoyable to me. I guess that the other novel I am reading at the moment is a little challenging, and I have spent several days without opening it. Reading『おはなし・ねこあつめ』felt like a breath of fresh air, and remotivated me to read in Japanese!