Inhae reads the news: January 2020

Welcome to a new article in my series “Inhae reads the news (in Japanese)”. I am still trying to figure out the best way to make this series interesting and useful…

Until now, I used to choose several topics and write about them, using what I read in the Mainichi Shimbun. The problem is that it took me a lot of time to write this kind of posts. From now on, I will study only editorials, but I will try to compare several newspapers. For example, I will choose a certain date and see what newspapers from different political wings have written on that day, or I will choose a topic and see what they say about it.

I will mainly use the national newspapers the Mainichi Shimbun (left), the Asahi Shimbun (left) and the Yomiuri Shimbun (conservative), but I might occasionally look at other sources too like the Sankei Shimbun (right) and the Tokyo Shimbun (left).

NOTE: I am just a Japanese learner trying to read the news in Japanese. Reading news articles and understanding Japan politics are still very challenging tasks to me. I hope that writing this kind of posts will help me to improve my Japanese, my English and my understanding of political and social issues in Japan. Keep in mind that there might be mistakes in my translations and my understanding of the social and political issues I am talking about. To me, this post is a kind of personal digital notebook, but I do hope that it can also be useful for Japanese learners who want to start reading the news in Japanese, so I try giving as much vocabulary as I can for studied parts. I also try to keep my translations as close as possible from the original. I know that I am not good at translating, but as I said, I am writing this series to improve my language skills!

January 1st: First editorial of the year

First, let’s look at the editorials published on January 1st:

Mainichi: 拓論’20 民主政治の再構築 あきらめない心が必要だ
Asahi: 2020年代の世界 「人類普遍」を手放さずに
Yomiuri: 平和と繁栄をどう引き継ぐか…「変革」に挑む気概を失うまい

Mainichi: 拓論’20 民主政治の再構築 あきらめない心が必要だ

For the New Year, Mainichi’s editorial warns against the rise of populism in the world and says that Japan should not give up rebuilding democratic values. It also criticises Abe for not listening to the opposition and even treating the opposition as the “enemy”:


  • 自民党総裁・じみんとうそうさい: President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
  • 返り咲く・かえりざく: take up one’s old position as… (politics). Abe was President of the LDP from 2006 to 2007 and return to this position in 2012.
  • 国政選挙・こくせいせんきょ: national election
  • 連勝・れんしょう: consecutive victories
  • 耳を傾ける・みみをかたむける: listen to, give careful attention to
  • 際立つ・きわだつ: be prominent, be outstanding, stand out

Prime Minister Abe, who returned to his position as President of the LDP in 2012, is enjoying 6 consecutive victories in the national elections, but far from listening to the opinion of the opposition, his way of treating [the opposition] as the enemy stands out.


  • 支持基盤・しじきばん: one’s support base (in an electorate)
  • 獲得する・かくとく: acquire, obtain
  • 潮流・ちょうりゅう: tendency, trend, current

And his method to obtain a strong support base is following the trend of populism.

The article concludes that we should resist our tendency to give up on democratic values.

Asahi: 2020年代の世界 「人類普遍」を手放さずに

Asahi starts 2020 with similar concerns. The article opens with the sustainable development goals (SDG), and says that these are universal goals. The article is worried to see nationalism rising and democratic values criticised and weakened. They also mention that in a draft for a constitutional revision, the LDP had suppressed the term “universal principle of mankind” (人類普遍の原理) from the preamble.

Like Mainichi, they look at Abe’s government and utter a similar critic: the ruling party avoids public debate, criticises the media, puts pressure on free speech, and discriminates minorities:


  • 論戦・ろんせん: debate, verbal battle, controversy
  • 避ける・さける: avoid
  • 権力分立・けんりょくぶんりつ: the separation of powers
  • ないがしろにする: ignore, treat … as though they didn’t exist
  • 威圧・いあつ: coerce, overpower

[The ruling party] absolutely avoids debates in the Diet and ignores the separation of powers. It coerces freedom of speech and freedom of the press by criticising the media again and again. It does not hesitate to treat aggressively and in a discriminating manner the minorities and those who criticise [the government].

The article ends by citing the SDG, calling for action against poverty and to protect the environment.

Yomiuri: 平和と繁栄をどう引き継ぐか…「変革」に挑む気概を失うまい

The article shows how well Japan is doing since the war, reaching a rare period of “peace” and “prosperity”. The article goes on saying that the Abe government has brought stability and that there is no populism or political/social divisions in Japan: 


  • 分断・ぶんだん: dividing, splitting
  • 蔓延・まんえん: speading, diffusion

Under the long government of Prime Minister Abe, politics have been stabilised. And we cannot see the spread of populism or the deep social and political divisions that a lot of other countries are afflicted with.

The articles then talk about the United States and China before developing on the need for technological innovation.

I find very interesting to read that Mainichi and Asahi on one side and Yomiuri on the other have very different approaches for the New Year. Both Mainichi and Asahi start by talking about global issues and make pessimist but realistic observations: populism and nationalism are growing, democratic values are being threatened. Only after that do they turn their eyes to the situation in Japan. On the contrary, Yomiuri starts with Japan and adopts a very optimist tone. While Mainichi’s and Asahi’s call for the new decade is to hold on universal values, democracy and sustainable goals, Yomiuri wants to continue the peace and prosperity that Japan is enjoying…

Particularly interesting is what they write about Shinzo Abe and his government. Mainichi and Asahi criticise Abe for not listening to the opposition, putting pressure on free speech and discriminating minorities. Yomiuri says that there are no social or political divisions since Abe is in power… well, maybe it’s just two different ways of saying the same thing!

January 13th: Coming of Age Day

Now let’s see what these three newspapers published on Coming of Age Day 成人の日:

Mainichi: 新大学入試の検討会議 まずは制度破綻の検証を
Asahi: 成人の日に 社会は動く、動かせる
Yomiuri: 成人の日 挑戦する気持ちを忘れずに

Mainichi: 新大学入試の検討会議 まずは制度破綻の検証を

Mainichi is the only paper that did not explicitly write about the Coming of Age Day, but it chose a topic that concerns young people directly: the “New University Entrance Exam”.

The title refers to a conference between members on the Ministry of Education to discuss the New University Entrance Exam. The article says that first, we need to identify why the system collapsed. The government has been working for a long time on the reform of the university entrance exam, but it had to postpone two major changes recently: the introduction of a private English test, and the introduction of essay questions for Japanese and Mathematics.

As far as English is concerned, the new system was supposed to help students build the four skills (speaking, reading, listening and writing). Speaking is especially important for Japanese companies that want to compete internationally. But the Ministry of Education had to postpone the reform concerning the way English is tested in the University entrance exam because it would have created disparities and inequalities among test takers.


  • 改革・かいかく: reform
  • 主導・しゅどう: the initiative, the lead

But isn’t the fundamental reason [for the postponement] the fact that the reform has been started by the initiative of the political and business worlds and carried on without carefully listening to the voices of the persons concerned in universities and high schools?

Mainichi also says that the government should listen more to actors in the education fields, and find ways to implement changes in high school programs too, to help students prepare for the new exam.

Asahi: 成人の日に 社会は動く、動かせる

Asahi states that young Japanese do not believe that they can have an impact on society:


  • 割合・わりあい: proportion, rate

The proportion of young people who think “I can change my country and the society” is lower in Japan than in other countries.

The journalist wants to tell the Coming of Age participants that they can change the society by voicing their opinion. They give the example of the New University Entrance Exam, where high school students raised their voice and influenced public opinion, which forced the government to review its policy.

But then, the article adds that adults should change the way they treat students. Instead of establishing strict rules inside the school, they should let the students decide for themselves. If they cannot even express themselves at school, no wonder that they don’t believe they can change the society:


  • 身近な・みぢかな: near oneself, close to one
  • 反映・はんえい: reflect

How many schools are there that let the students think about the necessity and meaning of the rules and let them decide the rules [by themselves]. There’s no way that they can think things such as “I can change my country and the society”, if they cannot even express their thoughts at school or in the classroom and cannot have the experience of what results [their decisions/choices] brought.

Yomiuri: 成人の日 挑戦する気持ちを忘れずに

The article cites a survey conducted by the government according to which, more than 80% of the 18- to 29/year-olds feel a sense of completion in their actual life (現在の生活に充実感を感じている).

But only 60% of the 13- to 29-year-olds say that they have hopes in the future (将来に希望を持っている). The article then concludes that it must be because a lot of young people are worried about pension benefits, the continuation of the social security system, and how to raise children while working.

The article says that young people are worried because they don’t know how the system of taxes and social security works:


  • 助長する・じょちょう: encourage, promote, contribute

Isn’t their lack of basic knowledge encouraging their anxiety? How about starting with learning the necessary knowledge like how taxes and social security works?

The article ends saying that young people should take challenges, but contrary to Asahi, this article does not ask the young generations to change the society. It is more on a professional and economical level.

It is interesting to compare Asahi and Yomiuri. Asahi encourages the young people to think by themselves, voice their opinion and act in the society. It wants them to believe that they can have a meaningful impact on society. But when they do voice their opinion through surveys, Yomiuri dismisses their answers by saying that they lack basic knowledge. Instead of taking their anxiety into consideration to question the actual system, Yomiuri prefers to say that the problem lies in the people who feel insecure…

January 15th: Cherry Blossom Party

The problem of the Cherry Blossom Party is one of the major scandals of these last months. To sum up very briefly the issue, The Cherry Blossom Party is a public event traditionally held by the Prime Minister in Spring. The party is held to honor and acknowledge people from various sectors who have contributed to the society or made great achievements.

The problem is that, since Abe returned as Prime Minister in 2012, the number of guests has steadily increase. I had read previously in Mainichi that not only were many supporters of Abe invited to the Party, but it was also easy for members of the LDP to copy the invitation and give it to their own supporters. Some of Abe’s speeches during the event were also controversial, showing that he addressed people who supported him. Finally, some guests were also invited to a private dinner party and while it was said that they all paid for it, the price they were asked for was ridiculously low for such an event.

As the Cherry Blossom Party is held on public funds, this became a huge scandal. The event was supposed to honour people who contributed to the society, but it looked like it had become an event to entertain Abe’s supporters.

Another problem is that the lists of guests of the preceding years have been destroyed without following the rules of the Japan public records law (公文書管理法). On January 14th, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gave a press conference, acknowledging that the handling of the documents violated the law on public records.

No wonder that left-wing journals devoted their editorial of the 15th to this issue. It is also no surprise that Yomiuri does not talk about the issue in the editorials, so I have chosen she Tokyo Shimbun instead.

Asahi: 桜を見る会 国民を欺く公文書管理
Mainichi: 「桜を見る会」の名簿 政府説明は破綻している
Tokyo: 「桜」の名簿 違法廃棄の背景に迫れ

Asahi: 桜を見る会 国民を欺く公文書管理

I find that Asahi’s article is the easiest to read. It explains that, according to the law on public records, official documents that are to be kept at least one year should be listed in the public “管理簿” (I don’t know how to translate it). The lists of guests of the Cherry Blossom Party from 2013 to 2017 fall into this category. The documents have been destroyed, but they were never listed in the 管理簿.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gave two contradictory explanations for this mistake, which of course arouse critics from the opposition. As Asahi says, “one cannot readily be convinced [by this explanation]” (にわかには納得できない).

Since 2018, the lists of guests are classified as documents that are to be kept less than a year. This allowed officials to destroy them right after the Cherry Blossom Party. What is strange is, of course, that the list of guests of the previous years should be a useful document to prepare the Cherry Blossom Party of the upcoming years, so why be so prompt to destroy it? This is what Asahi writes:


  • 発足・ほっそく: starting, inauguration
  • 膨らむ・ふくらむ: swell out, rise, expand
  • 後援会・こうえんかい: support group, association of supporters
  • 昭恵: Akie, Abe’s wife
  • 推薦・すいせん: recommend, endorse

Since the start of the second Abe government, the [number of] guests at the party kept swelling from year to year, and it includes a great number of acquaintances recommended by Akie Abe and people related to Abe’s support groups. Hasn’t the concern that they did not want this situation to be made public influenced the way the official documents were managed?

Mainichi: 「桜を見る会」の名簿 政府説明は破綻している

Mainichi also sums up the issue concerning the gestion of documents and the contradictory explanations made by Yoshihide Suga. It goes on:


  • 名簿・めいぼ: a name list.
  • 廃棄・はいき: disposal, throwing away
  • 裏付け・うらづけ: a guarantee, proof
  • 弁明・べんめい: explanation, justification
  • 揺らぐ・ゆらぐ: shake

Without any records, we cannot even prove that the lists of guests have been destroyed. When asked about the sudden increase of guests, the government has always refused to give a clear answer, saying that “we don’t know because the lists of guests have already been discarded”. This justification is being shaken from its basis.


  • その場しのぎ・そのばしのぎ: makeshift, stopgap, temporary measure

In the end, wasn’t it an explanation that they used to use as a makeshift to deny any relation with the Prime Minister?

Tokyo:「桜」の名簿 違法廃棄の背景に迫れ

The Tokyo Shimbun similarly sums up the issue and concludes that by changing the way that documents are managed the government made it possible to discard them legally. First the documents had to be kept at least one year and be registered in the 管理簿 (they weren’t, which is illegal). Then, the documents moved to the category “has to be kept less than a year” and these kind of documents do not need to be registered in the 管理簿, (they weren’t, which is legal).


  • 違法な・いほう: illegal, unlawful
  • 合法・ごうほう: legality, accordance with the law
  • 共同通信・きょうどうつうしん: Kyodo News

In other words, we only changed from an “illegal disposal of the lists of guests” to a “legal disposal of the lists of guests”. A public opinion survey conducted by Kyodo News shows that 86,4% of people “don’t think that the Prime Minister gave sufficient explanation on this matter”.

If I understand correctly, Asahi and Tokyo only say that officials have destroyed the documents illegally, and that this attitude only arises suspicion concerning the relation of the guests to Abe and his wife. But Mainichi goes a step farther and suggests that the lists of guests have not been destroyed but secretly kept by officials…? From what I understand, saying “the list has been destroyed” was just a way of avoiding to give concrete answers, but I don’t understand how exactly Mainichi came to that conclusion.

UPDATE: Apparently, documents concerning the parties held from 2011 and 2013, that were said to have been discarded, have been disclosed! On the 22nd, Abe answered questions from the opposition at the Diet and Mainichi, Asahi and Yomiuri’s editorial of the 23th all report about it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to study them, but I did notice differences in how they treat the problem of the Cherry Blossom Party. Of course, this topic is one of the major issues of the moment, and both Asahi and Mainichi’s editorial largely develop on this question. On the contrary, Yomiuri’s editorial only mentions it briefly towards the end of the article, in a very factual manner. If you are interested in reading them, here they are:

Mainichi: 代表質問への首相答弁 肝心な点になぜ答えない
Asahi: 国会代表質問 信頼回復には程遠い
Yomiuri: 代表質問 野党は将来展望を明確に示せ


Comparing several newspapers on the same topic was really fun and interesting! I find it much more interesting to compare what newspapers from different political wings have to say on the same topic, than to make in-depth studies of the same topic from the same newspaper (like I used to).

It is also much easier for me to prepare this kind of posts as I only need to look at the editorials instead of having to read as many articles as possible on a given topic!

Book review: 『犯人のいない殺人の夜』by Keigo Higashino

About the book:

Titre: 『犯人のいない殺人の夜』(はんにんのいないさつじんのよる), Collection of Short Stories 1
Author: Keigo Higashino 東野圭吾
Published by 光文社文庫

This is a collection of short stories that were first published between 1985 and 1988 in different magazines. In other words, these short stories were written by Higashino at the very start (1985) of his career.

There are three volumes of short stories published by Kobunsha: 『犯人のいない殺人の夜』, 『怪しい人びと』and 『あの頃の誰か』.


Not only did I love these short stories, but I was also glad to read some of Higashino’s first writings. All the short stories are entertaining, easy to read, suspenseful, and Keigo Higashino always manages to surprise his reader at the end, even in a 40 pages short story.

That being said, I don’t consider this collection to be the best I have read. I prefered 『嘘をもうひとつだけ』or 『探偵倶楽部』which are also collections of short stories. In these two books we follow the same detectives throughout the stories: Kyoichiro Kaga in the first one and the Membership Detective Club in the second one.

But I really enjoyed reading 『犯人のいない殺人の夜』. I need to read more books by Keigo Higashino to confirm this, but I think that I particularly like his writings from the 1980s and 1990s. While I found some of the short stories better than others, I also found that they all had this particular style that I love so much in Keigo Higashino’s books.

I read this book very fast and could not put it down once I started a short story. If you like short murder mysteries,『犯人のいない殺人の夜』is a good choice!

Plans for 2020

Now that I have passed the JLPT N1 (July 2019) and even took the test of December (still waiting for the results), how shall I continue to study in order to improve my reading skills and be able to read more difficult and challenging books?

My main goal in learning Japanese has never changed: I want to read all kinds of books in Japanese. Taking the JLPT (especially N2 and N1) has helped me considerably to progress towards that goal, mainly because the JLPT forced me to learn new words regularly, to learn new grammar and to read difficult texts.

And this is exactly what I shall continue to do if I want to keep improving my reading. Vocabulary is especially important, so I will focus on learning new words regularly in 2020.

So here are some of my plans for 2020:

Enjoy Japanese: read crime fiction

First of all, I will continue to read crime fiction and just enjoy it. I usually don’t need to look up words to read authors like Keigo Higashino, so I will just read for pleasure and don’t think of studying or improving my reading skills.

Build vocabulary #1: Difficult books

In order to complete my reading challenge for 2020, I will need to read more widely and to try new genres, to read nonfiction and even to read literary award winners. I will certainly come across a lot of unknown words and my goal is to add to Anki the words that I have looked up in my dictionary while reading.

This will certainly be the most challenging thing I do in 2020. I can read mystery novels, but as soon as I step out of my comfort zone, I really struggle. I start looking up words and feel discouraged when I realise that the next paragraph contains as many unknown words as what I have just been through. It is hard to force myself to 1) look up words and 2) add them to Anki and learn them. I am always tempted to just keep on reading because I can understand the general meaning anyway.

Build vocabulary #2: Use JLPT textbooks

I still have a Korean textbook for the JLPT N1 that I haven’t finished. I will certainly use it to add words to my regular Anki deck.

Build vocabulary #3: Read the news

I will continue to read the news in Japanese, but I will also try to learn new words through it. It is so convenient to read the news on my phone where I have access to any word’s meaning through the built-in dictionary, that I never really bothered to learn new words from the news. When looking up words is so quick, easy and convenient, it is sometimes hard to feel the urge to actually remember the words.

I have started a new Anki deck only for the words that I found in news articles. I know it’s best to keep everything in one place, but starting a new project from scratch has always been a motivation booster for me. I am also adding the names of politicians, their position inside the government or words on current issues like 国際観光産業振興議員連盟 and I don’t want them in my regular Anki.

Take the JLPT N1 in December 2020?

I know that this might sound very bizarre, but I am thinking of retaking the JLPT N1 in December 2020. The thing is that I sometimes need external motivation to get things done. I think that I will wait until the Summer of 2020 and decide then whether I register for the test of not. If I have learned vocabulary regularly as planned, I won’t take the test. But if I find that I have done nothing at all, maybe I will.

In any case, I can see at least two advantages of re-taking the JLPT N1, or even take it once a year.

If you say “my goal for this test is to get a better score than last year”, you will have a well defined and concrete goal to work towards throughout the year. It can be the external motivation that forces you to study regularly, especially if you have made a public commitment to improve your score and to publish your results.

Taking the JLPT every year can also be a good way to evaluate your progress and level from year to year. The JLPT scoring system is designed in such a way that any improvement in your score is meaningful. You don’t get a better score because this year’s test was easier or because you got lucky and was tested on the words you had learned. You get a better score because you were able to answer the questions that other test takers did not answer.

About my blog

I will certainly continue to post about the JLPT from time to time, but I won’t continue to post in my “JLPT journal” section once a month. I think of creating a new series to replace it, maybe a “reading journal” where I write about the books or passages that make me struggle 🤔


Having no study plan and no textbook to finish before a certain date really feels good! But I know that it might also mean that I won’t be studying at all in 2020… There is nothing wrong with that after all, but I keep thinking of all these books that I want to read but cannot because they are too difficult!

Book review: 『父からの手紙』by Kenji KOSUGI

About the book

Title: 『父からの手紙』(ちちからのてがみ)
Author: Kenji KOSUGI 小杉健治
Published by 光文社文庫
428 pages

Kenji KOSUGI is a prolific author of mystery novels. 『父からの手紙』was first published in 2003.


We follow two main protagonists: Mamiko, a young woman whose father left the house and disappeared when she was a teenager and Keiichi, a young man who just got out of prison. They both start a quest to understand the past.


『父からの手紙』is a good mystery novel with an engaging plot and a good balance between mystery and family drama. The importance given to the family and how broken bounds can affect members of the family, especially children, was an interesting topic of the book. It also made it very sad at times.

The end surprised me, and even though I didn’t end up in tears as the obi predicted that I would, I found that the story has a strong emotional impact.

I found that the novel got better the more I read. The beginning is relatively slow, but this feeling might be due to the summary I read on the back cover. I strongly recommend that you do not read the summary because it reveals a key event that only happens very late in the novel. As a result, the beginning felt slow because I already knew what would happen and was just waiting for it.

There are two things, however, that I did not like in the novel. The first thing is that there are a lot of repetitions throughout the book. The chapters alternate between the story of Mamiko and Keiichi, and I found that each time we met a character again, we had to go through all the thoughts and interrogations they had had during the preceding chapter.

Another thing that I found frustrating is the way the novel holds back information from the reader, especially in the story of Keiichi. It takes a lot of chapters before we learn about his past, and why he went to prison. I think that an author can create two types of mystery: 1) things that both the character and the reader do not know, 2) things that the character knows but not the reader. I find that using this second type of mystery is frustrating for the reader, creates distance between the reader and the character and is not a real mystery as far as the plot is concerned.

Partly because the summary on the back cover had spoiled the first half of Mamiko’s story and partly because of the frustrating holding of information in the first half of Keiichi story, it took me some time to get into the story. But once the two characters started investigating the past, the novel became unputdownable. In spite of the things that I didn’t like, I still enjoyed reading this book and recommend it if you like family mysteries.

Reading challenge for 2020!

Happy New Year!!

It’s finally this exciting time of the year when we can set our new resolutions and goals. I don’t have concrete language goals for 2020, but I do have a reading challenge!

My reading challenge for 2018 and 2019 has simply been a list of titles that I wanted to read during the year. I had a list of 13 books in 2018 and 23 books in 2019.

I wanted to do something a little more exciting and also more flexible for 2020. Instead of having a list of titles, I will have several small reading challenges to complete! I am very excited about this.

Read more non-fiction

I have been wanting to read more non-fiction in Japanese for a long time, but I have never got down to doing it. The problem is that I never took the time to make a proper search to look for topics that interest me. I sometimes look at the list of best-selling books, but they are often self-development and business, which is not what interests me the most.

I will certainly spend some time browsing titles on Amazon! I am interested in books on workplace/work culture and social problems in general. I also want to tackle more difficult topics like death penalty in Japan. I would also very much like to read a book on the Pacific War written by a Japanese author. It will certainly be extremely challenging, but if I focus on that in 2020, it might be possible. Finally, I would like to read a book on South Korea and the relationship between the two countries.

These are just some ideas that I have now, and I may change my mind in the course of the year. In any case: 5 nonfiction books in 2020!

Go on with the Kaga series!

The Detective Kaga series by Keigo HIGASHINO has a special place in my heart. First of all, I love the series and I love Detective Kyoichiro KAGA, I think that he might be my favourite fictional detective of all time. Secondly, the first novel I read in Japanese is the first book of the series, so to me, these books are not only great detective novels, but they are also deeply connected to my learning Japanese journey.

I have read the first 8 books of Detective Kaga’s investigations. It is now time to catch up with the series and read the two remaining titles.

Read literary fiction!

Another one of my long-time goals: read more literary fiction. I guess that by “literary fiction” I mean books that don’t focus on the plot only, have complex and realistic characters, eventually deal with moral or social issues and are “well written”…? It is convenient to use the term “literary fiction” though it is sometimes difficult to say whether a book falls in this category or not, and many books of genre fiction have these characteristics too.

I was wondering how I would pick my books when I thought it would be nice to read winners of literary awards. I will certainly choose among the recent winners of the Akutagawa Prize. I have read 『コンビニ人間』by Sayaka MURATA (村田沙耶香), and though it was difficult to read, it was not impossible either. On the other hand, I have also tried to read Naoki MATAYOSHI’s (又吉 直樹) 『火花』and this was just way too difficult…

Open up to new genres!

I also intend to read more genre fiction in 2021 and want to discover other genres that are not crime or detective fiction. (I will obviously continue to read crime fiction, but I don’t need to include that in my challenge.)

I am thinking particularly of romance and historical fiction, though the latter might be too difficult to read in Japanese… I might also try some speculative fiction if I find something interesting.

Read Haruki MURAKAMI in Japanese

This is something that I want to do for a long time: determine whether I like Haruki MURAKAMI or not by reading his books in Japanese. I have read one or two books by Haruki MURAKAMI in their French translation, and to be honest, I never understood what made his books so special. It is not that I disliked them entirely, I remember that I found some short stories very interesting, but I could not see why he was so popular.

Now that I can read in Japanese, I want to try to read his texts directly, and maybe understand why so many readers love his books. I am not at all blaming the French translation, but I think that reading in translation did have an impact on my reading experience. For example, I have read one or two books by Keigo HIGASHINO in their French translation before learning Japanese, and while I found them interesting and very different to the detective/crime fiction I was used to reading, I haven’t become the avid reader of Higashino I am now.


Every year I tell myself that I want to read more of this and that but rarely get down to doing it. I guess that my goals are always too vague, and I tend to forget them as the year goes on.

I am sure that setting smaller and more concrete goals with numbers and boxes will help me to complete them. I will update the cards (add titles and check those boxes) as I progress and incorporate them into my book reviews whenever I finish a book that was part of a challenge.

I also thought of other challenges like “finish this book” or “read the books I purchased and never read”, but I thought that this would feel like chores, and I wanted to keep my reading challenges for 2020 exciting and fun. So I picked only things that I want to do, not that I feel that I have to do.

There is a book though, that I really would like to finish next year:

This book is 500 pages long and I have reached page 149, this means that I am nearing the end of the chapter 日清戦争. I read it very slowly, checking facts and names on Wikipedia, looking up words, taking notes… This is my extra challenge for 2020, but I won’t be distressed if I cannot complete it.

Do you have a reading challenge for 2020 (Japanese or other)? I know a lot of people set themselves a number of books they want to read during the year. My secret goal is to read 30 books in Japanese in 2020, but it might be unrealistic, especially if I tackle challenging books 😅 What is yours?

I wish you the best for 2020!