Book review: 『予知夢』 by Keigo Higashino


Title: 『予知夢』 (よちむ)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野 圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
270 pages

This collection of five short stories is the second book in the Galileo series. The short stories were first published between 1998 and 2000 in the magazine オール読物 (よみもの).


This second book in the Galileo series is slightly different from the first one, 『探偵ガリレオ』. In my review of this first volume, I said that physics-related explanations were present in each story, and that they never really managed to trigger my interest nor to really convince me.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the stories in 『予知夢』 have taken a different direction. The scientific elements are dramatically reduced. Instead of presenting us with a problem that is apparently impossible and explain it with science, the short stories in 『予知夢』 present us with apparently supernatural phenomenons and explain them with logic, rationalism and deductions.

I found this book extremely addictive, I have read one short story a day, completely putting aside my other books. I love the theme of supernatural elements, and how it is explained in a rational way. I also start getting used to and liking the character of Yukawa, whom I did not particularly like in the first book. Overall, going through all these short stories allowed me to feel closer to the duo of protagonists.

If you want to read the Galileo series but are not particularly excited about physics and science, you could skip the first book and start the series with 『予知夢』 . In any case, 『予知夢』 is a book that I recommend, especially if you prefer reading short stories in Japanese instead of diving into a whole novel.

Inhae reads the news: July 2020

This month’s topics are:

  • Tokyo court rejects a damage lawsuit by a victim of the Eugenic Protection Law
  • Yuriko Koike re-elected as Governor of Tokyo
  • Coronavirus cases in US military bases in Okinawa

Topic 1: Tokyo court rejects a damage lawsuit by a victim of the Eugenic Protection Law

I first learned about the Eugenic Protection Law in Japan two years ago, when I was working on the news for my blog. I was very shocked to learn that 1- there had been such a law in Japan, 2- it was revoked only in 1996 (!) and 3- that victims were just beginning to get compensations.

Established in 1948, the Eugenic Protection Law’s purpose was to prevent the birth of “inferior descendants”. Around 25,000 persons thought to have “hereditary” diseases that could lead to the birth of “inferior” children have been sterilised. Among them, around 16,500 people never gave their consent. Some were forcibly sterilised, others were deceived into having the surgery (many were in their teens when it happened). Several victims have said that they had only learned afterwards what had been done to them.

Among the victims, many were physically or cognitively disabled, suffered from mental or chronic illness or were considered to have behaviour problems. Most of the forced sterilizations were performed on inmates of institutions for disabled persons, psychiatric hospitals or welfare institutions for children.

Groups of victims are asking for apologies and several victims have filed a lawsuit against the government for compensation and apologies.

Last year, the Diet voted a new law that grants a compensation of 3.2 million yen for each surviving victim and Abe has said that “the government sincerely reflects on and deeply apologizes”. However, advocates for victims say that a one-time payment of 3.2 million yen is not enough compared to the gravity of what has been done. Furthermore, not all victims are eligible for the payment as few documents remain to identify them, some do not want their relatives to know, some might not know about the new legislation at all. Only 621 victims are eligible for now.

On June 30th, the Tokyo district court rejected a 30 million yen damage suit filed by a 77-year-old man who was sterilised at the age of 14 when he was in a welfare institution for children. The man was sterilized in 1957 and filed his lawsuit in 2018. The court referred to the 20-year statute of limitations on demands for damages under the Civil Code to rule against the payment.

Not surprisingly, this is a topic that only made the editorials of the left-wing newspapers:

Mainichi: 強制不妊手術で判決 被害者の実情見ていない
Tokyo: 強制不妊判決 血の通った救済を急げ
Asahi: 強制不妊手術 「違憲」の重みと失望と

Useful vocabulary:

優生保護法ゆうせいほごほうEugenic Protection Law.
Established in 1948, this law allowed the operation of people to prevent the birth of “inferior” children. The law was revoked in 1996, this is why it is mostly referred to as 旧優生保護法.
The forced sterilizations are referred to as 強制不妊手術 (きょうせい~)
I also found the word 損害賠償 (そんがい~) for “damages”.
A demand for compensation is a 賠償請求 (~せいきゅう). In our case, the demand was “rejected” 棄却 (ききゃく).
The Court said that the “right to ask for compensation” 賠償請求権 has “expired” 消滅 (しょうめつ).
補償ほしょうCompensations, indemnity.
東京地裁とうきょうちさいTokyo District Court.
The complete name is 東京地方裁判所(とうきょうちほうさいばんしょ).
提訴ていそBring a case before a court. File an action.
In our case, the victim filed his lawsuit in 2018.
原告げんこくA plaintiff.
One of the major concerns during such lawsuits is whether or not the Court will rule on whether the Eurgenic Protection Law was unconstitutional or not. I think that most lawsuits are filled on the basis that this law was unconstitutional, given that the Constitution guarantees the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law.
侵害しんがいInfringement, violation.
The expression 人権侵害 (じんけん~) means, “a violation of human rights”.
除斥期間じょせききかんStatute of limitations.
The statute of limitations or prescriptive period sets the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated.
In Japan, there is a 20-year statute of limitations on demands for damages.
In this case, the Court did not rule on the unconstitutionality of the Eurgenic Protection Law, contrary to a previous case where the Sendai District court had qualified the former law as unconstitutional 憲法違反 (けんぽういはん).
A hereditary disease.
A part of the victims suffered from Hansen’s disease (leprosy) which was thought at the time to be hereditary.
厚生省こうせいしょうMinistry of Health and Welfare.
Founded in 1938, the ministry has since been integrated, together with the Ministry of Labour, into the present Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 厚生労働省 (こうせいろうどうしょう).
This is why the former “Ministry of Health and Welfare” is often referred to as 旧厚生省.
母体保護法ぼたいほごほうMother’s Body Protection Law.
In 1996, the Eugenic Protection Law changed into the Mother’s Body Protection Law.

All three newspapers strongly condemn the Court ruling.

Even if the statute of limitations has expired, the responsibility of the state remains, says Mainichi:


But forcing sterilisation on people is a violation of human rights according to our national policy. Time may have passed by, but the State’s responsibility does not disappear. Setting a time limit for the demand for compensation goes against the relief of victims.

Tokyo blames the government for waiting until 1996 to revoke the law:


Leaving things as they are for so long must be called a crime.

Asahi also criticises the government for its inaction:


The government and the Diet, who did not take any measures to reduce discrimination and to compensate the victims, think that revoking the law has been enough to exempt themselves from responsibility.

While the court said that the plaintiff could have filed a lawsuit in 1996, when the law was revoked, it was not easy for the victims to stand out when the issue was so little known and discrimination still strong. The court’s ruling is all the more ironic given that the government itself has waited until 2019 to make public apologies and provide compensations for the victims.

For Tokyo, the court’s ruling is おかしい.


The plaintiff has received the operation when he was underage and without knowing what would be done to him. The damage he received still has repercussions today. This is how we must think. Hasn’t this discriminatory state policy continued for too long?

Mainichi and Asahi deplore that the court did not pronounce the law as being unconstitutional contrary to the Sendai district court who had done so last year. For Mainichi, things are moving backwards.

Mainichi also points out that this law has strengthened discrimination:


There’s no doubt that the Eugenic Protection Law contributed to the discrimination against disabled persons.

All newspapers call the government to actively look for the victims and contact them while maintaining their anonymity. Many victims don’t want to come out publicly:

Asahi: 旧法が「不良な子孫」の出生防止をうたっていたため、今も多くの人が名乗り出られずにいる

The former law clearly stated that its aim was to prevent the birth of “inferior descendants”. As a result, a lot of people are still unable to come out and reveal their identity, even today.

And Tokyo ends its editorial with


This country who stigmatised a part of the population as “inferior” must assume the responsibility [for what it did].

Topic 2: Yuriko Koike re-elected as Governor of Tokyo

Yuriko Koike has been re-elected Tokyo governor on Sunday 5th. Her crushing victory (3.6 milions votes) shows that the public trusts her to continue dealing with the coronavirus.

Yomiuri: 小池知事再選 首都の活力維持に課題は多い
Sankei: 小池都知事が再選 感染防止が最優先課題だ
Mainichi: 都知事選で小池氏再選 地に足着けて問題解決を
Asahi: 小池氏再選 求められる説明と実践
Tokyo: 小池都知事が再選 新しい社会への一歩を

Useful vocabulary

小池 百合子こいけ
Yuriko Koike.
Governor of Tokyo since 2016.
Tokyo gubernatorial election.
The election took place on July 5th to choose the Governor of Tokyo. Yuriko Koike was re-elected by a large margin
施策しさくmeasure, policy
都政とせいthe Tokyo Prefectural Government
政党せいとうpolitical party
無党派層むとうはindepedent voters, voters without party affiliation.
Also found: 無党派層 (むとうはそう).
Yuriko Koiko run as an independent candidate for the Tokyo governorship. She was a former member of the Liberal Democratic Party but left it in 2017.

Obviously, Koike’s most pressing agenda is to deal with the coronavirus and prepare for the second vague to come.

Yomiuri: 小池氏が最優先で取り組むべきなのは、感染症対策の強化だ。

What Koike must tackle in priority is the strengthening of the anti-coronavirus measures.

Asahi: 直面する最大のテーマは、言うまでもなくコロナ対策だ。

Needless to say that the most important topic Korike has to confront are the anti-coronavirus measures.

Sankei also states the urgency to deal with the coronavirus. It might be just me, but the way it is written looks like the journal is not happy with Koike’s victory.


There is no time to bask in the aftermath of Koike’s victory. With more than 100 new infection cases per day in the city, we are facing the real threat of a new vague of infections.

Sankei also criticises Koike for not achieving her goals during her last term as Governor of Tokyo. The “seven zeros” in the extract refers to Koike’s plan to deal with socio-economic problems faced by residents of Tokyo, such as overwork culture, crowded rush-hour trains or electric poles. Out of the seven goals, Koike only managed to reduce the number of euthanised dogs and cats as well as to reduce the number of children waiting to be admitted in day care centers.


During the previous gubernational election, Koike has pledged to reach the “seven zeros”, which included reducing to zero the number of children on the waiting list [for day care centers] and the number of persons who have to give up their work in order to take care [of family members]. She scarcely managed to fulfill her pledge. We won’t tolerate the same thing to happen again.

There must be a better way to translate 同じ轍を踏むことは許されない but my English is not good enough here. Same for 掲げる. To me it looks like the article wants to underline the gap between the ambitious pledge and the poor results, so they used the verb 掲げる (parade a slogan, raise up a flag, hold up an ideal) instead of just 公約する. (?)

Interestingly, the majority of articles I read in English say that she managed to reduce the number of children on the waiting list, making it two goals achieved out of seven. However, it seems that Japanese newspapers do not consider that she reached her goal on the topic of children.

This is what is suggested by Sankei in the paragraph quoted above, and it is also what Mainichi said in a previous editorial (2020/06/13) about Koike:


In her pledge, four years ago, she promised to deal with seven problems such as the number of children on the waiting list [for day care centers] and the number of persons who have to give up their job to take care of relatives. These were the “seven zeros”. However, she only managed to bring the number of euthanised pets to zero.

Coming back to our articles, Yomiuri and Sankei are both worried about the economy and whether or not firms will have to close:

Yomiuri: 中小企業や事業者への支援もためらってはならない。

We cannot hang back on financial support for entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises.

Sankei: 再び都民の社会経済活動に自粛が求められるのか。休業要請はどうなるのか。

Will the citizens be ask to refrain from social and economic activities once more? Will there be a demand for business suspension?

Generally speaking, the newspapers ask for more explanations about the upcoming concrete measures against the coronavirus.

Mainichi is also asking for more clarifications about the next steps to stop the virus, especially concerning the construction of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Koike talked about:


Koike pledged to build a Tokyo version of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but she didn’t give a concrete image of this new center. Now that she mentioned the project, we would like to receive explanations rapidly.

Similarly, Asahi also finds that the explanations about the CDC were insufficient:


During the elections, Koike pledged to build a Tokyo version of the American CDC. We know that it would be a liaison base for cooperation between medical institutions and municipalities but we don’t know any detail yet.

And both newspapers are worried about whether or not there will be a confinement:

Mainichi: 今後、外出制限や営業自粛を求める可能性についてどう考えているのか。説明すべきだ。

How is Koike’s position about potential restrictions on business and outdoor activities? She must give explanations.

Asahi: 今後被害が拡大した時、何を、どこまでやる用意があるのか。ここでも丁寧な説明が必要だ。

How much are we prepared to face a new vague of victims? This is also something that needs to be explained thoroughly.

Topic 3: Coronavirus cases in US military bases in Okinawa

Several cases of coronavirus have been reported early July at two US Marines bases in Okinawa (Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and Camp Hansen). Marines and their families have been placed on lockdown, but the prefecture is worried about a potential spread of the virus to the city.

Sankei: 在日米軍とコロナ 信頼壊す行為は許されぬ
Tokyo: 米軍基地の感染 政府はもっと危機感を

Useful vocabulary

United States Forces Japan (USFJ)
The USFJ’s mission is to help in Japan’s defense and maintain regional peace and security. Its status is defined by the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement (1960).
US military base.
The majority (62%) of the US military bases are situated in Okinawa (half of the 54,000 American troops in Japan are based in Okinawa). Okinawa’s feeling towards the presence of US military on their island is complex, some appreciating the mutual security treaty, some wishing the reduction of the number of military bases in Okinawa. Several incidents also repeatedly create tensions between the population and the military presence.
U.S. – Japan Status of Forces Agreement, SOFA.
Signed in 1960 between the US and Japan, the agreement defines the status of the USFJ. This agreement provides special status for American service members. For example most U.S. military members are exempted from Japanese visa and passport laws and if a military member commits a crime while in official duty, the American system has jurisdiction. This has been a recurrent source of conflict when violent crimes such as murder and rape have been committed by military members.
玉城 デニーたまき デニーDenny Tamaki.
Governor of Okinawa Prefecture since 2018. Denny Tamaki is opposed to the US military presence on Okinawa and calls for a reduction in American troop strength on the island.
Governor is the highest ranking executive of a prefecture. 

Independence Day.
On July 4, military members have celebrated Independence Day on beaches and bars and restaurants of downtown areas, getting in contact with local residents. Health authorities have tried to trace people who may have interacted with military personnel.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (MCAS Futenma)
US Marine Corps base in Okinawa. MCAS Futenma has been a US military airbase since the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Around 3000 Marines are posted at Futenma today.
キャンプ・ハンセンキャンプ・ハンセンCamp Hansen.
US Marine Corps base in Okinawa, with a garrison of around 6,000 Marines.
City located in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Comparing Sankei and Tokyo’s editorials, it seems to me that Sankei is mostly blaming the US military while Tokyo is urging the government to take action.

Both newspapers underline that US military personnel are not systematically tested for the coronavirus when they enter the country. Sankei says:

Sankei: 今年4月、政府は米国を入国拒否の対象にした。ただし、米軍関係者は日米地位協定に基づき入国を認めている。検疫に当たる在日米軍は発熱などの症状がある人にだけPCR検査をしていた。

In April this year, the government added the United States to the entry ban list. However, US military personnel are permitted to enter the country in accordance to the U.S. – Japan Status of Forces Agreement. Military personnel undergo a [14-day] quarantine, but only the persons who have symptoms like fever undergo a PCR testing.

Sankei focuses a lot on the the Iwakuni incident. A family of three arrived to Tokyo’s Haneda and were tested for coronavirus on arrival. However, they left the hotel where they were supposed to stay in quarantine, and they boarded a domestic flight to join the military base in Iwakuni without waiting for the results of the test (which turned out to be positive).

What seems to annoy the most Sankei is that the family lied and said they would use a rental car to go to Iwakuni, when in fact they boarded a domestic flight. This seems to bother them so much that they mention it twice in the same article:


The three Americans related to the US military base in Iwakuni were tested positive to coronavirus. After entering the country through Haneda airport, they entered the city of Iwakuni on board the civilian aircraft they swore not to take.



The persons related to the US military reported to go to to Iwakuni using a rental car and to avoid public transportation. But in fact, they boarded a civilian aircraft.

It looks like, for Sankei, the family’s lying about the flight is even worse than their having boarded it, or their breaking Japan’s quarantine procedures. This seems confirmed by:


False statements and insufficient measures when entering the country hurt the trust that has been built over the years and impair the dissuasive power of the alliance.

It took me a while to understand the meaning of 水際. I guess that “border control measures” could have been a correct option too, but I hope that I am not mistaken.

On the contrary to Sankei, Tokyo only briefly mentions this case towards the end of the article.

I could not find a lot of mentions about this incident in international online articles. When the incident was mentioned, the fact that the family lied about the rental car was usually omitted. On the contrary, it was easy to find articles about it published by Japanese newspapers with titles like “Trio tied to U.S. military lied about Japan travel plans, then tested positive for COVID-19” (The Japan Times) or “Three people with virus flouted quarantine, flew to Iwakuni base” (The Asahi Shimbun).

While Sankei seems to be blaming the US military, Tokyo insists more on the necessity, for the Japanese government, to impose more regulations on the military.

Tokyo does mention flaws in the preventive measures inside the military bases like the incapacity to trace the comings and goings of people infected or the frequent vehicules entering and going out of the bases supposedly under lockdown.

However, rather than blaming the US military for the lack of rigorous and systematic measures, Tokyo supports Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki when he asked for a revision of the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement.

On the 15th, Denny Tamaki met with Defense Minister Taro Kono and asked for more restrictions on the US military:


Governor Denny Tamaki met with Defense Minister Taro Kono on the 15th. He requested the halt of transfers of American troops to Okinawa and information reports concerning the activities and whereabouts of infected personnel. Denny Tamaki also called for a revision of the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement in order to apply the national law to the quarantine procedure of military personnel.

And Tokyo comments:


It is obvious that the privileges granted to the USFJ by the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement is spreading confusion. The governor’s requests are justified.

It is also interesting to note how the two newspapers end their articles, both using the same word 急務 but not with the same subject:

Sankei is asking for an action on the part of the US military:


It is urgent necessity that the US military should reflect seriously on their conduct and improve their preventive measures.

Tokyo is asking for the government’s response:


The action of the government is an urgent necessity.


That’s it for July! I was not very motivated by the topics I have studied this month, apart from the first one, which is by far the most interesting.

I wish you a happy month of August!

Book review: 『探偵ガリレオ』 by Keigo Higashino


Title: 『探偵ガリレオ』 (たんていがりれお)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野 圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
330 pages

This book is a collection of 5 short stories all initially published for the magazine オール讀物 between 1996 and 1998. This book is also the first installment in the Galileo series, but even though several books of the series are translated in English, this opening title has not been translated.


Reading Keigo Higashino after quite a long time really feels good. I am always amazed at how good his short stories are. Even in a reduced number of pages you get all the thrill of a good crime novel.

The short stories of 『探偵ガリレオ』 all follow a similar pattern with detective Kusanagi investigating a murder case and asking for his friend’s advice, the physician Yukawa, whom Kusanagi’s chief calls Galileo.

All the stories and cases have a scientific element to them, usually related to how the murder was committed but not exclusively. This element explains the necessity for Kusanagi to seek Yukawa’s advice, and it also distinguishes the Galileo series from Higashino’s other books.

I was a little surprised by the systematic introduction of a scientific explanation in the short stories. The only books I have read from the Galileo series are The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint which are respectively the third and fifth books in the series. I may be remembering wrongly, but I don’t recall these two books as containing much, if any, physics. Either I am mistaken, or there has been a change in the series, from more to less scientific.

To be honest, I am not super interested in the technical or scientific explanations and physics has always been the subject I hated the most at school. Even though they are explained in easy terms (conveniently for the reader, Kusanagi is 理系オンチ), Yukawa’s scientific explanations often left me skeptical, clueless or bored.

The main particularity of the Galileo series (or at least, the first book) is the scientific element, so it looks like it does not make much sense for me to read the series. But the thing is that I loved this first book so much that I immediately purchased the second volume after finishing it. Even if you are not that into physics, the short stories remain extremely engrossing. They are worth reading for the investigation only, the scientific part being a plus for readers who like physics.

I still prefer the Kaga series over the Galileo series so far, but I found this first book very addictive!

How to start reading books in Japanese

My main goal when learning foreign languages (not just Japanese) has always been to read books in this language. However, it has often felt like an impossible task and I cannot count the number of books I have started and given up.

With Japanese though, I changed the way I was reading books (or trying to read books) and things became easier surprisingly quickly. Obviously, I did not become able to read books in Japanese overnight, but once I started, I made steady progress. I am far from being an expert, but reading has been my main focus while learning Japanese, and this method worked very well for me.

Obviously, we all have different ways to learn languages, so you might have your own method that works for you. But if you feel that reading books is impossible despite your having learned so many words already or studied for so long, these tips might be helpful.

Introduction: What you need to read books in a foreign language

I think that people tend to overlook the “reading skills” part and focus too much on the “vocabulary and grammar” part. Or they think that one must come before the other, that you first accumulate a certain amount of words and grammatical patterns and then, when this amount is considered enough, jump into reading. This is why people tend to ask questions like “when can I start reading a book in Japanese?” “how many words should I know before I can read this book?” “Is N3 enough to start reading a novel in Japanese?”.

In my opinion, you should stop thinking that you must build your vocabulary before starting reading in Japanese (or any other language). As you can see in my table, I consider the reading skills part to be more important than the amount of words you know. This is why I never know how to answer the question “at which level can I read this book?”. To me, your capacity to read a book does not depend as much on your JLPT level or the number of words you know, as on your reading skills level and how much you read in a foreign language on a regular basis.

As a result, I think that two learners with the same JLPT N3 level who have gone through the exact same textbooks and who have learned the same lists of vocabulary will have a different reading experience depending on whether they are used to reading in a foreign language or not.

Similarly, with my JLPT N1 level, I can read a lot of novels without looking up words, but I cannot understand TV shows. When people make jokes and all laugh and talk at the same time, my brain just turns off. It is the same me with the same amount of known words and the same JLPT N1 certification, but a lot of practice in one field and almost no practice in the other.

Why you should start right away

Reading and listening are not that different!

I believe that reading and listening are not that different when it comes to language acquisition. If you want to improve your listening skills, you should start listening to your target language as soon as possible. Well, I think that reading is the same: you should start reading as soon as possible.

It is common to think that we need more vocabulary to start reading, that we must first go through this or that textbook and know x thousands of words before starting reading. But the day you consider your vocabulary strong enough to start reading a novel in Japanese, your reading skills will be very low (as you have never practised them), and you will have a hard time understanding what you read, in spite of your strong vocabulary.

To go on with my comparison with listening, let’s say that I have learned 6000 words of vocabulary, but I have never listened to any Japanese spoken at natural speed. If I decided to start listening now, I would not be able to understand what I hear. I would not be able, for example, to recognise the words that I have learned, I would not be used to the pronunciation and intonation of Japanese, the pace of the speaker would be too fast, and so on. Obviously, what I should have done is to start listening to Japanese while building my vocabulary instead of waiting until I know enough words to start listening to non-textbook Japanese.

And what would be your advice to someone telling you “I’ll start listening to real Japanese when I get N2”? Obviously, you will tell this person to start listening to real Japanese right now, even if they don’t understand it.

Don’t wait until you know enough words!

I think that it is the same with reading. Your reading skills will improve independently from your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, and the sooner you start the better. Even if you know a good amount of vocabulary, if you have never trained your reading skill, you will have difficulties recognising the words you know if they appear in a different context, understanding long sentences will also be challenging and you might end up knowing all the words in a sentence but still not understand what the whole sentence means. It will also be difficult to understand paragraphs that contain unknown words, something that you should definitely train yourself to do if you want to read books. You will feel frustrated whenever you encounter a sentence full of unknown words and grammar. Finally, you will also feel tired of reading very soon and your reading pace will be slow.

If reading books in Japanese is one of your language goals, then you should start training your reading skills as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you know “enough” words!

I would even go as far as to recommend having a native resource with you from day one. Manga are certainly one of the best resources for beginners, but whatever you choose, it must also be something you like, something you are happy to carry with you or have on your desk (my personal choice was One Piece, I was mainly looking at the pictures, but felt super excited and motivated anytime I could recognise a word or understand a short sentence. It was certainly not the best choice with all the slang and piracy-related words, but flipping through the pages made me happy and motivated.). I know that buying a book in Japanese when you are just learning the alphabets might sound premature, but once again, you would not find it strange if a complete beginner was listening to a podcast in Japanese to get used to Japanese sounds.

Use your book to practise reading hiragana if you are a complete beginner, peek into it from time to time and try to recognise the kanji you know, underline the grammatical patterns you learnt, look at the sentences, their length, how punctuation is used. If your book has furigana, you can even use it to read out loud and practise hiragana. Obviously, you won’t be able to read it, but don’t forget that you are using this resource to help you improve, it is not as much a goal in itself as a way to achieve a good level of reading.

Let’s compare it with listening once more. Let’s say that you start listening to Japanese podcasts or radio or anime from day one. You don’t really expect to understand what you hear, you do it to train your listening skills, and maybe, because you love the sounds of Japanese. If, however, you can recognise a word from time to time, it feels like a great achievement. It is the same with a book. Use it to train your reading skills and feed your passion for Japanese. Personally, looking at Japanese books makes me happy and makes me want to make more efforts to improve my level.

Summary: your capacity to read a book in a foreign language does not depend entirely on how many words/grammar points you know. If reading a book feels like a struggle, in many cases, this might just mean that you need to improve your reading skill, not your vocabulary. If you give up reading your book, you deprive yourself of the very practice you need in order to improve. Obviously, you still need to work on your vocabulary and grammar in parallel, but don’t give up practising reading, even if it feels like you don’t understand half of what you read.

How to read books at an intermediate level

How not to read a book

I feel like a lot of language learners want to understand everything in a novel, or feel that they must understand everything to keep reading. Now imagine that I want to listen to Japanese, I am watching this film and if I don’t understand something, I pause the film, replay the scene over and over again and won’t move on until I understand 100% of what is said. It does not look like I am ever going to finish the film and it does not look very efficient either. It is certainly much better to watch the entire film, and after that watch another one and so on.

Similarly, I don’t think that starting a book, looking up every word and trying to understand everything is the best way to improve your reading. Don’t get me wrong though, I do think that doing this is an excellent exercise, one that you should be doing from time to time that will greatly help you increase your vocabulary and reading skills. But it is an additional exercise, it is not how you should be reading in general. This is “studying Japanese”, not “reading in Japanese”.

For a long time, this is how I used to read books in a foreign language though. I would start a novel, being super motivated and excited and you can bet that I would have bought a new notebook to go with it. I would look up every single unknown word and write them down in my notebook. Sometimes, I would even look up words I already knew just to check that I got the pronunciation right. I would even write down one or two example sentences to learn the words in context. After looking up a dozen of words and grammatical patterns, I would feel tired but satisfied, until I’d realised that I was still stuck on the first page! Inevitably, I would feel discouraged, but maybe my initial motivation would be strong enough to let me repeat this process several times. But in the end I would always give up, never going past the first ten pages or so of the book.

Not understanding everything is fine!

If I am able to read books in Japanese now, it is because I changed the way I was reading books in a foreign language. My rule of thumb is: as long as you can roughly sum up what happened, move on. You might have read an entire page, and all you can do is sum in one sentence what has happened? Great, you can go to the next page. Even if you missed subtleties, even if you skipped an entire paragraph because it was a description full of unknown kanji, it is okay. The author might have used an entire page to describe the house in which the character enters and all you understood is that your protagonist entered a house. Fine, you understood the main piece of information!

And yes, if you read like that, you might end up understanding only half of the book, you will not truly enjoy the story, and in the end, you might feel that you have no right to even say that you “read” this book. But who cares? If you managed to finish this book, or even if you read 100 pages of it, this is a huge achievement! If you have “read” an entire book, even if you understood half of it or less, you have immensely improved your reading skills. You can now move on to the next book, and I swear that this next one will be easier to read. The third one even more, especially if you stick to the same author, or at least the same genre. Like in everything else, practice makes perfect and the more your read, the easier it gets. Actually, this magic starts working while you are reading your first book. The first page will be the most difficult, the next 20 pages, will be difficult, but after that it will start getting easier and easier. If you have made it to page 100, I think that you won’t have much difficulties finishing the book. The problem is just that we tend to give up before this process kicks off.

If you rely too much on vocabulary and grammar, you will have to wait a long time before feeling that improvement in reading. 200 words more or less will not make any difference in your capacity to understand a novel. Even if you have added 1000 words to your vocabulary, I am not sure that you will feel such a huge difference when you read. If you have been diligently learning 20 new words per week for a year but still cannot feel any improvement when reading a book, it will be very discouraging. Contrary to the amount of words you know, the amount of reading practice that you accumulate starts showing its benefits very quickly.

Your book is your language tool, not your goal.

You also have to accept the idea that there is nothing wrong in not understanding everything in a book. You cannot look up every unknown word in an entire novel. If you do, chances are that you will give up after a few pages. This will only comfort you in the idea that it was too soon, that your level is still too low, that you don’t know enough words to read a book in Japanese. And we go back to this idea that you need to know a certain amount of words before you start reading. Once again, we focus too much on the “vocabulary and grammar” part and forget the “reading skills” part.

On the contrary, if you manage to go through an entire book, no matter how badly you understood it, you will have tremendously improved your reading skills. This includes for example, the capacity to guess the meaning of unknown words or to spot the important words (the ones you should look up) in opposition to all the words you don’t need to look up to understand the core of what happened. You will improve your reading pace, and reading in Japanese will not give a headache anymore. Sentences full of unknown words will not be frustrating or depressing anymore because you are already used to dealing with them. You will also gain confidence because now you know that you can go through an entire book, that you have done it before.

In about everything we do, we cannot be perfect at once, because we need to practise to get better. The first things you do in every field will look like rough drafts. But waiting until we can do things perfectly before doing them is the best way to never be doing anything. Reading in a foreign language is the same, you cannot do perfect on your first book. You will certainly shamefully massacre the first books you read, but that means that you are already making progress and getting better!

Don’t understand? Try another book!

The book is nothing sacred, it is just a tool you can use, you don’t owe anything to it. If you really feel bad about reading a book and missed so much in it, you can always promise it to read it again later. And if your understanding of it is too low to really follow the story, then choose a story you already know, a translated work or a novelisation for example. If you do, skipping difficult parts will not impact on your understanding of the story.

It is also important to try different books. If you really cannot go through this book you bought, blame the book, not you. Try another one. Even if you heard people say that this book was easy, this does not mean that it will be the easiest book for you. To me, Keigo Higashino is one of the easiest authors I have ever read but that might just be because I am used to reading tons of detective books, I love the genre and know its codes well. I also know what kind of vocabulary, what kind of scenes, actions and dialogues I can except. I also love whodunnits and police investigations so much that I am willing to put in the extra effort to read the book until the end. But if you never read crime fiction and don’t particularly like this genre, the book I find easy might be challenging for you.

So once again, don’t be depressed if everyone says this book is easy but you cannot understand it. You just need to find the book that you will find easy, not the one that other people find easy. It might take some time for you to find the good one, and I recommend trying different books if you struggle too much with one. Choose a genre you love or are used to reading in your mother tongue or other languages and choose a story that seems engaging to you. To me, the most difficult books to read are the ones I don’t like. It would be a shame if you gave up reading because the book you chose was too difficult or too boring and it would really be a pity if you ended up thinking that your level is too low because of the wrong book.

Summary: I really think that you should go for quantity over quality to improve your reading. Reading a book in Japanese might be your ultimate language goal, but stop seeing this as a goal for now, see it as a tool, a way to practise and get better. In order to one day be able to read and understand 99% of what you read without dictionary, you have to “sacrifice” books to your practice.

This is how I used to read books before compared to how I started reading books in Japanese:

Looking up words

Once again, I think that there are two activities that you can do with a book: read in Japanese and study Japanese.

If you want to study Japanese and improve your vocabulary, you can select one or two pages (or just a paragraph) in your book and decide to study it until you understand 100% of it. You will certainly look up unknown words, look up unknown grammar, work on difficult sentences to identify grammatical structures, you can even try to translate the whole page, or read out loud to check that you can pronounce all the kanji words.

Looking up words prevents you from improving your reading skills

But what interests me here is reading in Japanese, not studying Japanese. And in order to improve your reading skills, I think that you should not look up words. A good portion of your ability to read in a foreign language will depend on your capacity to guess things you don’t know. Guess the meaning of unknown words, guess the meaning of a sentence with unknown words, put two and two together and fill the blanks. I like to see it as a detective work, you are given some pieces of information and you have to deduce what happened. As long as you are not reading a work of fantasy, filling the blank will not be difficult. Choosing a story that deals with everyday life will make things easier and if you are used to reading a genre of fiction, you are also used to the codes belonging to this genre.

As a result, if you look up every unknown word, you are not training this capacity at all. Obviously, there will be words that you do need to look up from time to time, but your goal is to identify which word you really need to know to be able to understand the whole scene. This is also a capacity that will improve with practice, the more you read, the easier it will be to spot the problematic word.

Use your brain, not your dictionary

You might think that if you cannot look up words, the whole process will be pointless because you won’t understand enough to keep going. My belief is that we always understand more than we think we do, or rather, we have the capacity to understand, but we are not aware of it or too lazy, and we prefer to rely on the dictionary rather than to make an effort to understand. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like no matter how annoying looking up words can be, it always feels easier than thinking and making deductions. When I became aware of my tendency to never use my brain when reading in Japanese, I also realised that in the majority of cases, when I reached for my dictionary because I did not understand something, I could have understood it if only I had tried to.

Next time you think that you don’t understand a paragraph, instead of opening your dictionary right away (or worse, giving up!), take some time to think about what this paragraph could mean. I bet that you will be surprised by the number of times when you actually understand something you thought you did not understand. Sometimes, we stumble across something that just does not make sense, but come back to it the following day or after a break, and the meaning seems obvious, so much so that it seems incredible we did not get it the first time. So take a break if needed and come back to your book with a clear head.

Let go of perfectionism

I know that if you are a perfectionist, this method might be hard to apply. Personally, I have been the perfectionist type of learner for a long time. Unknown words? Look them all up, learn their pronunciation and different meanings, learn their kanji, read all the example sentences of my dictionary, add them to anki and learn them in both the Japanese to English and the English to Japanese direction. Doing all this is fine if your main goal is to improve your “language knowledge” (as the JLPT puts it), but it is not the most effective when it comes to improving reading or listening.

It took me a long time to be able to let go of perfectionism, but one day I realised that what I wanted the most was to improve my reading as quickly as possible and read challenging books. To achieve my goal, I had to be satisfied with a large amount of passive/incomplete vocabulary.

So yes, today, there is a huge amount of words that I know imperfectly. There are words for which I know the meaning but not the pronunciation. There are words whose meaning I kind of know, that I can recognise if they appear in context, or whose meaning I can guess in context, but I could not give you their exact definition if you gave me just the word alone. I would also perform poorly on a kanji test, I cannot give you the core meaning and pronunciations of a random kanji, but I would certainly know, recognise or guess the meaning of any word containing this kanji if I see it in a whole sentence or paragraph.

If your goal is to improve your listening or reading quickly, then you should be more flexible on how you learn words and accept that there are words you “know” in the context of reading or listening, but that you don’t know perfectly. If you were to master perfectly all the words you encounter, your progress in listening and reading would be very slow. On the other hand, if your goal is to improve your language knowledge, this is totally fine. I just believe that you can choose the area that matters to you and specialise in it.

For a long time, I have thought that knowing a word meant being able to use it in all language fields (speaking, listening, reading and writing). This belief has slowed me down, I think. Taking some time to ask yourself what you want to achieve and what you really want to do with Japanese can save you some precious time, help you make faster progress in your chosen field and avoid discouragement. As my main goal is by far to improve my reading, I don’t care about not being able to use (when writing or speaking) or to recognise (when spoken) all the words I am comfortable with when reading.

Summary: Looking up words and spending time trying to understand everything in a sentence is a great exercise, one that I do often, especially when reading news articles. However, this is not how I think that you should be reading books as a basis. Don’t spend too much time on each page or the whole process will be soon discouraging, just move on when you think you understand just enough to follow the story. If you take notes, I recommend to make a list of characters and write a very short summary of what you have read before closing your book so that it will be easier to start again next time. A post-it on the last page you read with a one-sentence summary will do. This is particularly important if you cannot read every day because not remembering where you left the story can be discouraging, and you might end up not opening your book again. It is also a good idea to set in advance the number of pages you want to read per session and stick to it no matter what.

How to start reading books at a beginner level

In this section, I collected some things you can do with a book even if you are a complete beginner. As I said, I recommend getting used to having reading resources with you from day one. Obviously, you won’t be able to understand it but there is a lot of things you can do to to help you improve your Japanese in general and get used to dealing with native resources. Compared to someone who has gone through a complete set of textbooks before jumping into native resources, you will make faster progress and be much more at ease with Japanese if you have played with native resources alongside studying your textbooks.

I often talk about “books”, but of course, any reading material will do, it can be a blog, a twitter account where you follow only Japanese accounts, a web magazine… You can search for any keyword on the internet, compare the results and print out a page that looks like a good reading practice: not too many kanji, pictures maybe, a lot of space between the lines…

If you go for books, I recommend taking a children’s book with furigana or a manga (most of them have furigana). Children’s books can be great because they are often printed with a large font and have a lot of space between the lines so you can take notes in them, but I recommend choosing a story that deals with everyday life rather than a work of fantasy or fairy tales. You can also choose specialised books on topics that interest you, this can be great because these books will certainly be illustrated and use a vocabulary you are familiar with in your mother tongue.

So here are some ideas to use a book even at a beginner level.

Practise your hiragana and katakana

This seems obvious, but you will learn hiragana and katakana much more easily if you practise them often. We all find katakana more difficult simply because we are less exposed to them. Having a book with you is a good way to practise reading hiragana and katakana.

  • Read the parts written in hiragana and katakana out loud. If you have a book with furigana, you can read everything out loud.

Practise your kanji

Same with kanji, the more you see them, the easier it will be to recognise and remember them.

  • Underline or highlight the kanji you have learned, this will help you to recognise and remember them. Do this process from time to time to check your progress. For example, let’s say we are in January. Go through the first 5 or 10 pages of your book and highlight all the kanji you know. Go through the same pages again in July or December and do the same process using a different colour.

Get familiar with how sentences are structured.

Something that might be difficult when you start reading in Japanese is to know what is what in a sentence. What you can do is look out for particles you have learned and try to identify what is the verb, what is the subject, and so on.

  • Look out for particles and try to find groups of words in a sentence. For example, where would you add a space if Japanese were written with space between words?

Practise your reading

As we saw, reading is not just about knowing but also about guessing and putting things together. This is a skill on its own that you can only train by reading a lot without looking up words.

  • Try to guess the meaning of a sentence, even if you only know two or three words in it. You can write your deductions in a notebook to check them later, once again, you will be able to see your progress.

Look out for recurring words

No matter what book you chose, you will find recurring words. If you are a beginner, you don’t need to look them up, just recognising them is already a huge step. When you see a kanji word, if you are able to tell yourself “oh, I have seen this word before, ah yes, it was in the previous paragraph!”, you are making considerable progress. It is not something that you can appreciate right away, but you are training your brain, which has had nothing whatsoever to do with kanji before, to recognise kanji words. I am not talking about looking up this word and learning it, I am talking about the capability to recognise a kanji and think “I have seen this kanji before”. You are training your brain to do something it never did before, congratulations!

  • Circle kanji that appear twice in a paragraph or a page. Depending on your level, you can even try to guess their meaning.

Read in parallel

If you can find a book that has been translated (either, from Japanese to your mother tongue, or a foreign book that has been translated into Japanese), read in parallel. I recommend reading one paragraph in the language you are comfortable with, and then look at the same paragraph in Japanese. Try to identify everything that you can relate to the translation. Even if you end up with only one or two words, that’s fine. You can also guess. For example, if a word appears twice in the translated paragraph, look at the Japanese text and look for words that appear twice there too.

  • Use a work in a language you are confortable with to track down words in a Japanese text.

Practise your writing

Even if you have only just got through the alphabets, nothing stops you from writing down an entire book if you want to. This will improve your writing and you will memorise the hiragana more easily. As for kanji, you could either only write the ones you know or simply copy everything, even if you don’t know what it means. I really recommend that you learn the basic rules of stroke order (look at this post by Tofugu for example). With these rules in mind, you should be able to write down most kanji even if you don’t know them. And to be honest, I don’t think that messing up stroke order is the end of the world, you are not making calligraphy after all. You can also just skip the most difficult kanji or write them in hiragana if your edition has furigana.

  • Choose a sentence or paragraph that does not contain to many kanji and write it down. Take this as an opportunity to practise your writing skills too.

Read only the dialogues

If you already know the story of the book you chose, then I recommend to only read the dialogues. Dialogues are often the easiest part to read in novels, you will find something that is closer to spoken Japanese and less intimidating than entire blocks of text.

Of course, you need to know the context or reading the dialogues will not make much sense. You can choose the Japanese version of a book that you have already read in translation or another language. Or read in parallel with a translated work: read everything but the dialogues in your mother tongue or English, and read the dialogues in Japanese. You can even check that your understanding was correct afterwards. Another thing that you can do is to read the novelisation of a film or series you have watched.

  • Choose a novelisation or a book you have read in translation and look at the dialogues. Try to match it with your knowledge of the story.

Summary: Get out of your textbooks from day one. If you stick to what you learn in textbooks only, a lot of things (words, expressions, casual structures…) you find in native ressources will sound unfamiliar. Even if you don’t learn all the words, kanji and expressions you see while doing all the exercises above, you will still get used to seeing them, and when you do learn them later, it will be much easier. You also won’t be unsettled anytime you come across things you never saw in your textbooks.


We all have different ways of learning a language, so I don’t know if this method will work for you, but for me, it was day and night. Compared to the time when I tried to understand everything in the books I read and looked up every word, I made much faster progress in reading by using this method.

Reading in Japanese might be intimidating and, as is often the case, we all want to be well armed and well prepared before jumping into something intimidating… but don’t forget that the best way to get prepared is not only to accumulate knowledge but also experience and a lot of practice.

It was a long post just to say that the best way to get better at reading is to read a lot, but I hope that this post can encourage you to get started, and give you enough motivation and conviction to help you persevere and not give up halfway!

Book review: 『愛がなんだ』by Mitsuyo Kakuta


Title: 『愛がなんだ』(あいがなんだ)
Author: Mitsuyo KAKUTA (角田 光代)
Published by 角川文庫
218 pages

Mitsuyo Kakuta has written an impressive amount of books, including novels, essays, translations and children’s books. She won the Naoki Prize in 2004 for her novel 『対岸の彼女』, translated into English by Wayne P. Lammers under the title Woman on the Other Shore.

『愛がなんだ』was first published in 2003 and adapted into a film in 2019 (director: Rikiya Imaizumi).


Teruko is in love with Mamoru and always makes herself available for him, even if this means cancelling other activities with friends or absent herself from work.

I immediately loved Teruko and felt an immediate sympathy for her. Rather than identifying myself with the protagonist, I felt like a friend of her and really wanted to bump into the story and tell her to stop acting like she was!

I enjoyed the story and I found that the depiction of Teruko was very well done. However, I would have liked the novel better if it had gone into a more profound study of character to understand why Teruko feels and acts like she does. Obviously, the topic of the novel is to ask the question “what is love?”, but I personally don’t think that Teruko’s behaviour has anything to do with “love”, I think it is more something linked to what she is, what she experienced, her childhood, her relationship with her parents, and so on. As it is, I felt a little weary of Teruko’s behaviour in the end because the novel did not explained why she would like act like that.

But the novel remained a pleasant read until the end and at times triggered strong emotions in me (I really ended up hating Mamoru). I enjoyed reading it, but I also suspect that it might not be the best novel by this author. I will try to read the Naoki prize winner 『対岸の彼女』 one of these days.

I plan on watching the movie too, here is the trailer:

Book review: 『駐在日記』 by Yukiya Shoji


Title: 『駐在日記』 (ちゅうざいにっき)
Author: Yukiya SHOJI (小路 幸也)
Published by 中公文庫
253 pages

Yukiya Shoji is a prolific author of fiction who wrote several mystery novels including the series “Tokyo Bandwagon” (東京バンドワゴン).

『駐在日記』 was first published in 2017 and got its first pocket edition this year (2020). There is a second volume entitled 『あの日にかえりたい』(published in 2019), which seems to be the direct following of 『駐在日記』. It is certainly better to read 『駐在日記』 first, as it introduces the characters and the setting.


『駐在日記』 is a short novel divided into four chapters. We follow the young couple Hana and Shuhei as they settle in the small and rural Kijiyama in 1975. Shuhei has been posted here as policeman and the couple moves in the police substation (駐在所). Hana decides to write a journal about their life there. Each chapter is devoted to a different case, but the story follows a chronological order and the book cannot be read as a collection of short stories.

I bought this book because I love mystery novels and I also enjoy reading stories set in the countryside. This book was exactly what I was expecting and I enjoyed reading it. I was not expecting too much in terms of criminal investigation because Kijiyama is a peaceful village, and indeed, this is not a book that you will read for the thrill of tracking a murderer. I found the mysteries in the book a little too obvious and easy to crack, but it was still very pleasant to go through them with Shuhei, Hana and the other inhabitants of Kijiyama.

I loved the setting and the characters even though I did not particularly feel that the story happens in 1975. I don’t know how a Japanese reader would see it, but to me, the novel lacked references or details that would set it in the early 70s. At times, I forgot that the story was taking place 50 years ago.

There is maybe just one thing that I did not like but that did not prevent me from enjoying the book overall. After some time reading, it became evident that everyone in Kijiyama would be nice and good. There is no real bad guy and more generally speaking, the countryside lifestyle is depicted in an idealised way: the villagers help each other, they share what they possess with their neighbours, etc.

To conclude, I enjoyed 『駐在日記』 and this is a book I recommend if you like light mystery novels. I don’t think that I will read the second tome 『あの日にかえりたい』, but I am very interested in trying the series Tokyo Bandwagon.

June wrap-up and reading challenge update!

I haven’t read that much in June compared to the previous months, but I still managed to complete my June challenge of 4 books. I read two books of the Galileo series, one children’s book with furigana and one novelisation.


Galileo series 2 and 3: 『予知夢』 and 『容疑者Xの献身』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

I found both books extremely addictive. Contrary to the first book of the series, there were almost no scientific parts in 『予知夢』 and none in 『容疑者Xの献身』, which made the books easier to read and also more interesting to me.

『容疑者Xの献身』 is the first book of contemporary crime fiction that I re-read. I enjoyed it more in Japanese than when I first read it in translation because I knew the characters better: I have already read not only two books, but 10 short stories with Kusanagi and Yukawa. Unfortunately, the first two books of the series are not translated into French (nor English), so readers who read The Devotion of Suspect X meet Kusanagi and Yukawa for the first time.

I will go on with the Galileo series, I already bought the fourth one. Catching up with the series could be a new challenge for 2020!

『日本沈没2020』 by Toshio Yoshitaka (吉高寿男)

This is the novelisation of the anime coming on Netflix on July 9th.

To be honest, part of the reason I bought this book was because I thought it would be easy to read, but it turned out that this book is the most difficult of the four I read this month.

I have read only one novelisation in Japanese before that, and I did not like it. It was the novelisation of the film 『未来のミライ』. To me, all the visual and magical effects of the film being lost, the book was mostly a succession of descriptions that were not easy to read and a little boring.

『日本沈没2020』 is much better to me than 『未来のミライ』, but I do have to come down to the conclusion that I dislike novelisations.

Given that the anime has not been released yet, I cannot say for sure, but I think that this book of 284 pages covers the whole season. As a result, things go on fast with awkward transitions and little time to digest what has just happened. It is also hard to get to know and appreciate new characters.

I don’t know exactly how novelisations work, but it looks like the author just watched the anime and wrote down what was on the screen and was not allowed to add elements that were not explicitly said or showed in the film.

With the constraint of compacting a whole season in less than 300 pages and the impossibility to add things that were not on screen (introspection, inner thoughts, memories… anything that could make the reader feel closer to the characters), the novelisation ends up being a format that I find a little awkward. The lack of introspection particularly bothers me.

As for the Japanese level, it is not as easy as I thought it would be, but I think that part of the difficulty I experience comes from the compactness of the book. I really find that some scenes are described too briefly. I also find that it gets worse towards the end of the book, there are some scenes that I could not visualise well, but I don’t know if it comes from my Japanese level only, or if they were not described in enough details.

This being said, this book could be a good study material if you are watching the anime on Netflix and want to practice reading in Japanese. I would not recommend it as a novel for beginners, but definitely could be interesting to read in parallel with the series.

『おれがあいつであいつがおれで』by Hisashi Yamanaka (山中恒)

When I saw the cover and title of this book, I really thought it was inspired by the film 君の名は. But on closer look, I realised that Hisashi Yamanaka wrote this book in 1979! It is now published by Kadokawa and while I bought the Tsubasa version to read with furigana, you can also buy the standard bunko version too (which is better if you want to look smart in the metro). The text is the same in both editions, but you will not have the furigana in the bunko version. This being said, there are only very few kanji words in this book and most of them are easy ones. You can read the first pages of the book on both links.

This book is extremely funny, and I kept smiling while reading it. If you liked the part of 『君の名は』were both characters have to adjust to their new life and kept making mistakes, you will certainly enjoy this book too, because it is just that. The parts on the language (talking like a girl vs a boy) are particularly funny and interesting for Japanese learners.

I really recommend 『おれがあいつであいつがおれで』to Japanese learners looking for an easy read. If you struggle with kanji when reading books, you will find that this book only has very few kanji and most of them are very common words that you want to learn anyway. If you buy the version with furigana, this will make looking up words easier.

Currently reading

There is only one book that I started in June and did not finish:

『架空OL日記1』 by Bakarythm

Bakarythm is the stage name of the comedian Hidetomo Masuno. This book is the fake diary of an OL that was published on a dedicated blog, which you can read directly. I bought the book because I prefer to read on paper.

I haven’t watched the film, and I don’t think that I will read the second volume either, but I still kind of enjoy reading the blog entries.

It is a nice read if you are looking for something short to read while commuting for example. Each blog entry is usually just about a page long, so you can easily insert some Japanese reading in your daily routine.

I don’t find it particularly difficult to read, but there are some words, expressions or references here and there that I don’t understand. However, I don’t like this book enough to want to dedicate too much time to it, so when I don’t understand something, I just go on reading.

Reading challenge update!

It’s time for a half-year check of my reading challenge for 2020. Instead of setting a quantitative goal of books to read this year, I had designed several small challenges to encourage me to read wider and go out of my comfort zone. Let’s see how far I got in each section…

Read more nonfiction

My first challenge is to read 5 books of nonfiction this year. I have only read two books out of 5 so far:

I loved both books, and I think that I would have read them both even without my reading challenge in mind.

I also read two nonfiction books for young readers, they belong to the collection Chikuma Primer Shinsho. I have decided to not include them in my challenge though, to encourage me to read three more nonfiction books this year. Reading nonfiction was also (supposed to be) a way for me to tackle challenging books. However, the two books that I have read were not particularly challenging in terms of Japanese level and vocabulary.

I did buy a book on death penalty, but I haven’t started it yet… Let’s make it my reading challenge for July!

Catch up with the Kaga series

My goal for 2020 is to read the two remaining titles of the Kaga series, but not only have I made no progress at all in this direction, I have also started the Galileo series instead…

Read winners of literary awards

I still haven’t found the courage to tackle a literary prize winner… I already decided on one title though, it will be 『蛍川・泥の河』 by Teru Miyamoto. Let’s add this to my July challenge!

Open up to new genres.

I have already completed this challenge, and I could even add more books to this list.

I am already satisfied with how wider I have read during these past 6 months. Compared to the years when I mainly read crime fiction, I will certainly end up with more books that I disliked in 2020. I guess that this is inevitable when you try to read things that you don’t usually read. From this list there are two books that I loved, one book that I liked, one that I did not like, and one that I disliked a lot.

Read Haruki Murakami in Japanese

Also completed! Even though I did not really enjoy reading 『ノルウェイの森』, I am very glad to finally have read Murakami in Japanese. I was also shocked by how easy this book was to read in Japanese.

Reading challenge for July:

So this is what I will be mainly reading in July, though I’m sure I will add one or two other books later!