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Book review: 『殺人犯はそこにいる』 by Kiyoshi Shimizu

Introduction

Title: 『殺人犯はそこにいる』 (さつじんはんはそこにいる) – 隠蔽された北関東連続幼女誘拐殺人事件
Author: Kiyoshi SHIMIZU (清水潔)
Published by 新潮文庫
509 pages

This book is about the North Kanto Serial Young Girl Kidnapping and Murder Case (北関東連続幼女誘拐殺人事件), a serial kidnapping and murder of very young girls between 1976 and 1996. A man named Toshikazu Sugaya (菅家 利和) was arrested in 1991 and convicted for the murder of one of the victims.

Journalist Kiyoshi Shimizu started investigating the Sugaya case in 2007. He helped to prove Sugaya’s innocence, who has been released in 2009. In this book, Kiyoshi Shimizu tells about his four-year long battle to prove a man’s innocence and find the real culprit.

Short Review

This book is a fascinating and horrifying read about a wrongful conviction and the incredible work made by journalist Shimizu to uncover the truth and bring the public’s attention to the case. The book is quite long however, and I found that the narrative flow that made the first half so engrossing tended to lose its strength in the second half, making for a more strenuous read. Still, a great book that I highly recommend if you are interested in this topic.

Long Review

For the most part, I really loved this book and found that it was an excellent work of investigative journalism. Our author is neither a policeman, nor a lawyer, yet he investigated one of the murders, the Ashikaga murder (足利事件), much more thoroughly than the officials of the time ever did. The result is an engrossing true crime report of one of Japan’s most infamous examples of wrongful conviction.

The whole story is both horrifying and frustrating. Even though Sugaya has been released eventually, he still spent 17 years in prison. When evidence of justice miscarriage came to light, little has been done to settle things right, and the investigation was never reopened, leaving the families of victims in considerable despair.

This book, however, is mainly focused on the Ashikaga murder, and does not talk much about the four other kidnappings. This seems obvious if you know the details of the case and the role that the author has played in it, but I knew nothing at all when I started reading this book. This is why I was a little surprised by the content of the book in regard to the subtitle: 隠蔽された北関東連続幼女誘拐殺人事件. In fact, I think that the subtitle is here to underline the importance of treating the five cases as a serial kidnapping and murder case rather than to reflect the content of the book.

So for the most part, the book focuses on one case, and most of the investigative work was to prove Sugaya’s innocence. This was to me the best part of the book. The first half was really engrossing, it read like a work of fiction. The author tells us how he uncovered, one by one, all the intentional imprecisions, mistakes and concealment of facts that were made during the police investigation of the case. Reading about what the officials of the time said and did was truly enraging, and it is hard to believe that all of this really happened.

When it came to finding the real murderer and the aftermath of Sugaya’s release, I found that the book tended to lose the narrative flow that made its first half so addictive. Maybe it is just me, but I found it harder to follow the narration or to place the events in their chronological order. It sometimes felt like the author was jumping from one thing to another. I also found that the author had a tendency to quote a lot rather than paraphrasing or explaining what people had said, which I found sometimes annoying, especially for official reports.

A great part of the process to prove Sugaya’s innocence was DNA testing. While the results and the conclusions were horrifying to read, I also found that the explanations concerning how the testing works were too difficult for me to understand in Japanese. These made for a strenuous read at some points.

Towards the end of the book, a whole chapter is devoted to a totally different case: Michitoshi Kuma (久間 三千年) who has been arrested in 1994 in the Iizuka case (飯塚事件), sentenced to death in 1999 and executed in 2008. The investigation contains obviously false testimony and tampered DNA evidence. I had read about this case before in 『誰も知らない死刑の舞台裏』, but Kiyoshi Shimizu explains things in much more detail and the parallels he makes with the Ashikaga case are interesting.

Overall, I loved this book and it is a must read if you are interested in wrongful convictions and miscarriage of justice in general. However, for a book of that length, I also found that some important parts were missing. The book is mainly about the author’s own investigation and participation in the coverage of the case. I sometimes found that it lacked a more global view on the case. For example, I wish that the author had talked more about the work made by Sugaya’s lawyers and supporters. Similarly, the parts about identifying the real culprit felt strangely light and short (and as far as I am concerned, unconvincing) compared to the rest of the book.

Even though I found overall that the second half of the book does not have the strength of the first half, this book is still a fascinating read that I highly recommend it if you are interested in wrongful convictions.

Book review: 『恋する寄生虫』 by Sugaru Miaki

Introduction

Title: 『恋する寄生虫』 (こいするきせいちゅう)
Author: Sugaru MIAKI (三秋縋)
Published by メディアワークス文庫
309 pages

This novel has been adapted into manga by ホタテユウキ which is published by Kadokawa (角川コミックス・エース) and is divided into 3 volumes. A film adaptation is scheduled for 2021.

Quick rating: 😄 then 🤨
Sugaru Miaki really knows how to write gripping stories of love and hopelessness. If the book would have been just that, it would have been perfect to me, but it introduces medical/supernatural elements that I found overly complex and unconvincing.

Review

This is only the second book I read by Sugaru Miaki, but I can already say that he has a very distinctive style and tone. I really love the atmosphere of his novels, even though I find them a little too depressing for a relaxing read.

In the postface of 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』, Miaki said that he likes writing about 落とし穴の中で幸せそうにしている物語, and I think that this applies to this novel as well.

I loved the first half of the novel. Our two protagonists have each their problems that prevent them from having even the most basic form of social life. The description of how they meet, get along with each other and try to overcome their difficulties was really good, and I could have read hundreds of pages of it. I really love how Miaki describes this kind of relationship, and even though this is not my usual read, I enjoyed the first half of the book very much.

However, I did not like the mechanism behind the story. If it were simply the story of two loners who try to help each other, I would have loved the novel until the end. But there is much more to it, with some supernatural elements, and unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. These elements include medical conditions and parasites, and while it gives an interesting and unique flavour to the love story, I also found that it was unnecessarily complex and unconvincing.

In the end, I think that I loved Miaki’s other novel, 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』, because it contains topics like murder and vengeance, so while it was a love story, the novel also lined up with my personal taste in fiction. On the contrary, I am not a fan of SF or magical realism, so 『恋する寄生虫』 was much less engrossing to me.

To sum up, I think that 『恋する寄生虫』 is a great book, and it was simply not for me. I would have loved it if it was simpler and more realistic, because I do enjoy Miaki’s writing very much. All the parts on the parasites thing and how it affects our protagonists left me perplexed and I started losing interest for the story at some point.

Book review: 『密室の鍵貸します』by Tokuya Higashigawa

Introduction

Title: 『密室の鍵貸します』 (みっしつのかぎかします)
Author Tokuya HIGASHIGAWA (東川篤哉)
Published by 光文社文庫
310 pages

This book is Tokuya Higashigawa’s debut novel and the first book in the series 烏賊川市 (Ikagawa), featuring detective Ukai.

Quick rating: 😄
I had a lot of fun reading this book. It manages to maintain a light and humorous tone throughout, while still delivering an engrossing case and a challenging locked room mystery.

Review

『密室の鍵貸します』 is a great howdunnit. If you like locked room murder mysteries, I highly recommend it if you are a fan of the genre as Tokuya Higashigawa explores the locked room possibilities with humour and inventiveness.

And the mystery is a challenging one for the reader as well as for our protagonist Ryuhei and the detective of the series: Morio Ukai.

I was also satisfied with the solution, which is not always the case when authors build complicated murder scenarios. The novel was engrossing all along, with a good pace and enough room for the reader to make their own theories, even though I remained clueless throughout the novel.

The book also contains a lot of humour, and plays with the reader’s expectations. For example, the conventional role of the private detective vs police officer is not what you would expect here. I found it extremely refreshing and I am so thankful to the author for introducing novelty in the genre and break the stereotype of the genius detective.

I have read several light/humorous detective books in Japanese, and this one is by far the best. I will continue the series for sure!

January wrap up

January was all about detective series! First of all, I started the Kogoro Akechi series as part of my reading challenge for 2021. I also continued two of my favourite series: the Ikagawa series and the Galileo series.

Kogoro Akechi Book I: 『D坂の殺人事件|幽霊|黒手組|心理試験|屋根裏の散歩者』 by Edogawa Rampo

We follow the adventures of private detective Kogoro Akechi in 5 short stories that take place in the early 20s. First a connoisseur of crime, Akechi soon becomes a “detective amateur” and finally, a “famous detective”.

As a fan of classic detective novel, this book has been a fantastic read for me. I have already posted my book review, so I will mainly talk about the language level of the book and the things that I found difficult.

I had never Edogawa Rampo in Japanese before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought that the book would be more difficult than contemporary detective novels. It was surprisingly easy to read. I am not saying that it is an easy book to read in Japanese, but if you are used to reading contemporary mystery novels, the language level of this one does not differ much.

This being said, some passages were a little difficult, especially long sentences. This one, for example, was not the easiest:

やしきのまわりに高いコンクリート塀をめぐらしたのも、その塀の上にガラスの破片を植えつけたのも、門長屋を殆どただの様な屋賃で巡査の一家に貸したのも、屈竟くっきょうな二人の書生を置いたのも、夜分は勿論、昼間でも、止むを得ない用事の外はなるべく外出しないことにしていたのも、若し外出する場合には必ず書生を伴う様にしていたのも、それもこれも皆ただ一人の辻堂が怖いからであった。(幽霊)

This is the kind of sentence that I need to read twice, because the meaning of the whole sentence becomes clear in the last proposition: it describes all the measures taken by our character to protect himself from his enemy. At first read, I found it quite difficult, but when I re-read it, I realised that I could understand it without trouble.

This is interesting because it shows that vocabulary is not always the problem when you don’t understand something. When I did not know what we were talking about, I could not make sense of the sentence. But once I read the last portion and understood what it was all about – and re-read the whole sentence -, it all became clear and easy.

Apart from that, the most difficult parts of the whole book were descriptions of rooms:

部屋は一間切りの六畳で、奥の方は、右一間は幅の狭い縁側をへだてて、二坪許りの庭と便所があり、庭の向うは板塀になっている。――夏のことで、開けぱなしだから、すっかり、見通しなのだ、――左半間は開き戸で、その奥に二畳敷程の板の間があり裏口に接して狭い流し場が見え、そこの腰高障子は閉っている。向って右側は、四枚の襖が閉っていて、中は二階への階段と物入場になっているらしい。ごくありふれた安長屋の間取だ。(D坂の殺人事件)

I tried to draw a plan of this room, but I am still not sure I got it right. This is the kind of description that you don’t really need to bother with, as long as you understand that we are talking about a ごくありふれた安長屋の間取. But I do want to understand everything in Kogoro Akechi, so I did spend a lot of time studying this passage and looking up picture of 長屋 online to see what a typical one would look like.

In the same short story, there is also a passage about the wood panels on the shoji:

私はふと店と奥の間との境に閉めてある障子の格子戸がピッシャリ閉るのを見つけた。――その障子は、専門家の方では無窓むそうと称するもので、普通、紙をはるべき中央の部分が、こまかい縦の二重の格子になっていて、それが開閉出来るのだ――ハテ変なこともあるものだ。(D坂の殺人事件)

The description is clear enough, but looking at pictures online also helped me understand how the wood panels work and how the whole thing looks like. (I copy-pasted these extracts from Aozora where むそう is written 無窓. In my book however, it was written 無双.)

Finally, here is another description that includes knowledge of traditional Japanese architecture:

彼の部屋には、――それは二階にあったのですが――安っぽいとこの傍に、一間の押入がついていて、その内部は、鴨居かもいと敷居との丁度中程に、押入れ一杯の巌丈がんじょうな棚があって、上下二段に分れているのです。(屋根裏の散歩者)

This description is funny, because if you ask me to imagine a closet in a Japanese room, this is exactly how I would picture it, but somehow this description seems very precise.

I also needed to get used to some unexpected words. For example “corpse” was always 死骸 (しがい) instead of 遺体 (いたい), a suspect was a 嫌疑者 (けんぎしゃ) instead of a 容疑者 (ようぎしゃ).

The excerpts I quoted are the ones that I found difficult, but overall, the book was not a difficult read. I also hope that the time I spent looking up words and getting familiar with this kind of descriptions will be useful for the rest of the series, given that I plan on reading 11 more books.

All the stories are available for free on Aozora, if you are interested in reading them!

Ikagawa city series Book II: 『密室に向かって撃て!』by Tokuya Higashigawa

We meet our protagonist Ryuhei again, from the first book of the series, and private detective Ukai. They find themselves in the middle of an unconventional “locked-room” (so to speak) mystery… Many characters from book I reappear in this story, and humour is more present than ever.

In terms of Japanese level, I must say that I found this second book slightly more difficult than the first one, but it might be just me…

There are a lot of comical effects in this book, and it is always rewarding to understand humour in a foreign language, though I would not be surprised if I had missed puns or funny references.

Personally, there are passages that I found very funny, but others that I found more annoying than anything, and I wished that the story would focus more on the case rather than going from one comical scene to the other.

Galileo series book V: 『聖女の救済』 by Keigo Higashino

When Yoshitaka Mashiba is found dead at home, detective Kusanagi and his assistant Kaoru Utsumi each follow their lead, but in this murder case, knowing how the crime was executed can lead to the murderer… as usual, professor Yukawa will add his expertise to the investigation.

I found this book quite easy to read (the easiest of the three already mentioned here) and very engrossing. Starting this year, I am keeping track of my readings, so I know that I read it over a period of 7 days, and that it took me 7 days to read, meaning that I read it every single day. This means that I have read an average of 60 pages a day. To me, this is the definition of a page-turner, especially in Japanese where I don’t usually read more than 40/50 pages a day.

『インプット大全』 by Shion Kabasawa

Following the best-seller 『アウトプット大全』, the “Input” volume focuses on how to make the most of what we read, listen to, watch etc. From filtering information to using output to boost our memory, this book gives great tips to actually make good use of all the information we have access to.

This book is so agreeable to read and has such a great layout. Almost each chapter is two pages long, with illustrations to sum up the main idea of each chapter. It makes it so easy to read and flip through if you need to find some information later.

I do think that this book is great for language learners. You will find a lot of recurring vocabulary related to productivity, so looking up words is rewarding as you will certainly encounter these words later in the book. The short chapters are perfect for a study session and again, the illustrations greatly help with comprehension. Key sentences are highlighted in blue, and each chapter is devoted to a precise topic, clearly defined by its title. Finally, reading this book is a good way to boost your motivation to study, take notes and learn things, and a lot of tips that are given for general self-improvement can be more specifically applied to language learning.

That’s it for January! I have decided to re-focus more on detective novels and mysteries in 2021, and I had a great reading start in the year 🙂

Book review: 『D坂の殺人事件…』 by Edogawa Rampo

Introduction

I bought the complete Kogoro Akechi series (12 books in total) and my reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book per month. I will publish the review of each book at the end of the corresponding month instead of following my usual blog schedule for book reviews.

The collection is called 明智小五郎事件簿 (あけちこごろうじけんぼ) and is published by 集英社文庫.

The art on the cover is by artist Konomi Kita (喜多木ノ実)

We start with the first book of the series, which is a collection of short stories. It contains:

  • 「D坂の殺人事件」 (Dざかのさつじんじけん)
  • 「幽霊」 (ゆうれい)
  • 「黒手組」 (くろてぐみ)
  • 「心理試験」 (しんりしけん)
  • 「屋根裏の散歩者」 (やねうらのさんぽしゃ)

Quick rating: 🥰
Fans of classic detective novels are bound to love these short stories, as they feature intriguing cases and reflexions on crime and techniques of investigation.

Review

「この世の中の隅々から、何か秘密な出来事、奇怪な事件を見つけ出しては、それを解いて行くのが僕の道楽なんです。」

Kogoro Akechi

This is my first time reading Kogoro Akechi, and I only knew that Edogawa Rampo was an admirer of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and that Kogoro Akechi was inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Apart from that, I didn’t know what to expect.

In the edition I bought, the stories are classified in order of occurrence rather than order of publication (though I don’t know if they differ much). Each story is dated, sometimes approximatively, based on the information gathered in the stories. For example, we know that the first one happens in “September 1920” while the last one of the book is dated “Spring 1923 (or 1922?)”.

In the first story, Kogoro Akechi is around 25 years-old and is not presented as a private detective. He is simply introduced as a 遊民 who has a great passion for and an immense knowledge of everything related to crime. Then he becomes a 素人探偵 in 『幽霊』 and even a 探偵の名人 in 『黒手組』 In 『心理試験』 we see him collaborating with the police. We don’t know however, how he managed to establish himself as a trusty detective.

Similarly to Sherlock Holmes, we have a first-person narrator who tells us the adventures of Akechi. Strangely though, he only appears in 『D坂の殺人事件』 (where he talks of Akechi as someone he met not long ago) and in 『黒手組』 (where he talks of Akechi as being a close friend). The other stories are told using the third person. In either case, the narrator often speaks directly to the reader, making us actively participating in the story.

There is a lot to love in these stories and if you are a fan of classic detective novels, you are bound to love the series.

First, I love Kogoro Akechi himself. He does not appear that much in the stories, sometimes only making a brief appearance towards the end for the final revelation, but he does have opinions on crime and investigation that place him as a unique figure in the world of fictional detectives.

We know that he believes the perfect crime possible, does not attach much importance to concrete proofs, thinks that witnesses are unreliable, warns against the danger of psychological tests, and only cares about the truth, not about punishment or retaliation. I find this last point particularly interesting, we’ll see how this develops in the next stories.

But Kogoro Akechi’s particular talent is the art of making people talk. He is able to extract information from people simply through conversation. His skill is described as 不思議な話術 and 巧みな話術 and people who experienced it say that Akechi made them talk as if he had used some magic.

I also loved how the stories incorporate reflections about crime and investigation. There are several references to German-American psychologist Hugo Münsterberg and a good place is given to psychology in several stories.

The stories are written for fans of detective novels and Edogawa Rampo mentions a lot of other famous works of fiction, including works by Junichiro Tanizaki, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Gaston Leroux. This technique not only makes his characters feel more real (as they mention works of fiction as works of fiction), but it also creates some kind of complicity with the reader: we all have read the same books. The reader is also expected to know the codes of the detective genre:

さて読者諸君、探偵小説というものの性質に通暁せられる諸君は、お話は決してこれきりで終らぬことを百も御承知であろう。(p.131)

There are some nice hints at Sherlock Holmes. Not only are some adventures mentioned, but the same technics are sometimes used. For example, in 『心理試験』 the protagonist uses the same trick used by Holmes in A Scandal in Bohemia.

And of course, what would be a detective story without a good murder case? I found that all stories were very addictive. Once I started one, it was hard to put the book down. I loved every one of the short stories, but 『黒手組』 and 『心理試験』 were clearly my favourite, with clever and exciting outcomes.

『黒手組』 has a clever story, but what I loved the most is the coded message in it. This is the first time that I read a coded message in Japanese, so as a Japanese learner, this was very exciting. I could not, of course, crack the code by myself, but once the mechanism was explained, I was able to translate it, which felt very rewarding.

『心理試験』 is all about psychological test (based on free association of words) applied to criminology. Again, this was very interesting to read in Japanese and the story was really good.

Overall, the language level was surprisingly similar to any random contemporary mystery novel I am used to reading. I felt very relieved as I expected something much more difficult given that the stories were written and take place in the 20s, during the Taisho era.

The most difficult parts were descriptions of interiors. I had to look up words or, more often, use Google image to see what words like 鴨居 (かもい) and 敷居 (しきい) refers to. I also had to get used to seeing rooms measured in ken (間), and other details that made descriptions a little bit hard to understand at first read.

Finally, I will say that I love the edition I chose. I really appreciate the effort made to order the stories chronologically. They also added notes to explain details that are specific to the Taisho era and that would not necessarily make sense for contemporary readers.

I will start book II as soon as tomorrow!

If you are interested in reading the series, it is available on Aozora!

Book review: 『泣くな研修医』 by Yujiro Nakayama

Introduction

Title: 『泣くな研修医』 (なくなけんしゅうい)
Author: Yujiro NAKAYAMA (中山祐次郎)
Published by 幻冬舎文庫
301 pages.

Yujiro Nakayama is a surgeon who has written several books of medical nonfiction. 『泣くな研修医』 is his first novel. It is followed by 『逃げるな新人外科医』.

Quick rating: 🥰
This is a novel that is engrossing from beginning to end, lets us learn a lot about the medical world, has emotional parts and an extremely relatable protagonist.

Review

This is one of my favourite books read in 2020. I found it impossible to put down and was engrossed in it from beginning to end.

We follow Ryuji Amenori during his first year as a medical intern in Tokyo. Coming from the countryside, Ryuji has to get used to living in the capital and, most of all, find his place in the hospital and learn his job.

Following Ryuji in his daily tasks was fascinating, we learn a lot about how a hospital works and how difficult the job is. I particularly liked the realistic and sincere tone of the novel, as it does not show a heroic vision of the medical team that would do anything to save lives. On the contrary, Ryuji’s internship brings its lot of harsh realities.

The books also shows the difficulty of diagnosis through several cases of patients who come with vague symptoms such as stomach ache. Experience, rather than intellectual knowledge is key, and Ryuji learns the hard way that the years he spent studying medicine have not made him a doctor yet. Even something as simple as drawing a blood sample covers him with sweat.

As a result, it is very easy to identify with Ryuji even if you are not in the medical field. Being inexperienced in your job, making mistakes, not knowing how to interact with your superiors… this is all very relatable.

The only weaker point in the novel was maybe the part involving Ryuji’s personal life. As long as the novel stays focused on the hospital and medical procedures, it is excellent and engrossing, but the character of Ryuji, his family and his traumatic past could have been more developed in my opinion.

This being said, the novel stays a fantastic read. It was fascinating to dive into medical procedures and to follow Ryuji as he gets familiar with the medical jargon. I was also emotionally involved in the fate of Ryuji’s patients and the happy or tragic outcome of their stories.

To conclude, I really loved this book and did not want it to end. I heartily recommend it, even if you are not usually a reader of medical fiction. I will definitely include 『逃げるな新人外科医』 in my next order of Japanese books.

Book review: 『嫌われる勇気』 by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

Introduction

Title: 『嫌われる勇気』 (きらわれるゆうき)
Authors: Ichiro KISHIMI (岸見一郎) and Fumitake KOGA (古賀史健)
Published by ダイヤモンド社
294 pages

This book is a huge best-seller in Japan, and I bought it mainly out of curiosity. Ichiro Kishimi is a philosopher who has researched, translated, written or given lectures about Alfred Adler at numerous occasions. Fumitake Koga is an author who has been greatly inspired by Adlerian psychology and has had several conversations with Kishimi on Adler’s theories.

Review

First of all, let me say that I was very surprised by this book, I did not expect it to be so good and have such solid content. I am not a big reader of self-help books, and while I do enjoy reading about productivity from time to time, I usually stay away from psychology. I thought that 『嫌われる勇気』 would be a collection of superficial thoughts about accepting oneself and how to find happiness, so I was very surprised by the depth of the book.

I didn’t know much about the psychology of Alfred Adler before and to be honest, this is not a topic that interests me. I remember studying a little bit of Freud at school, but it was not for me. After reading the book, I did try to read what I could find on Internet about Adler’s theories, but I found it annoying and just could not find any interest in what I was reading. So why was 『嫌われる勇気』 so engrossing?

The only answer I can find is that the authors did a remarkably good job at synthetizing and relaying Adler psychology in a way that is accessible and feels extremely concrete. What you read are not psychological concepts, but rather concrete examples of how this works, and how you can change the way you see things in order to free yourself from restraining beliefs.

The book adopts the form of a conversation between a sceptical young man and a philosopher. I was afraid that the conversation would simply be the philosopher talking and talking with occasional interjections by the sceptical interlocutor, but there is an excellent balance between the two fictional characters.

Overall, I am impressed by how the book manages to have such a deep content and to be so easy to read and so accessible. I do feel that I need to re-read it to get the most out of it, or that I should have taken notes along the way. I feel that this is not the book that will “change your life” after reading, but a book that requires some work on your part, if you really want to apply it to your life. Personally, as I said, this is not my usual type of read, and I am not very interested in psychology, so while I found this to be a good book, I don’t think that I am ready for a second read.

Overall, I loved reading this book, and I found that a lot of its content was interesting and worth thinking about. However, I am not that interested in applying it to myself, so this book did not “change my life”, but I did learn a lot about Adlerian psychology.

English translation: The book has been translated into English under the title The Courage to be Disliked, but I could not find the name of the translator(s) anywhere on the Internet. I downloaded the sample on my Kindle, but no translators there either. They mention the name of some agencies, but I don’t know if they are related to translation or not. Very frustrating…

Audiobook: There is an audio version of the book available on audiobook.jp.

Book review: 『岩田さん』ed. by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun

Introduction

Title: 『岩田さん』(いわたさん)
Edited by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞)
Published by ほぼ日ブックス
219 pages

This book is a collection of interviews and talks between Shigesato Itoi and Satoru Iwata. There are also extracts from the series 「社長が訊く」 from the Nintendo website.

Review

I bought this book partly because I was curious to learn more about Satoru Iwata, partly because I admire Shigesato Itoi very much, and partly because of the unanimous praise this book has received since its publication in 2019.

Most chapters are interviews with Satoru Iwata, and they read very easily. There are parts on Iwata’s experience at HAL Laboratory, first as a developer and then as president, when the company was in financial chaos. I found these parts most fascinating.

Also inspiring is Satoru Iwata’s vision of management and leadership, the importance he gives to communication with employees, and how he sees talent and value in others and is always willing to learn from them.

いまのわたしは逆に、ひとりひとりがみんな違う強みを持っている、ということを前提にして、その、ひとりひとりの、人との違いを、きちんとわかりたいって思うんです。それがわかってつき合えたら、いまよりもっと可能性が開けるって、いつも思ってますね。(p.63)

Other parts are of course more focused on Iwata’s contribution and role at Nintendo. His vision and hopes for the game industry were enlightening too. Things that seem obvious today were not some years ago, and introducing gaming consoles in everyone’s house actually required work and creativity. While it seemed natural for me to reach for the Switch controller when I want to relax, television has been the default choice for years. It was funny to learn that Iwata wanted to call controllers リモコン, to encourage people to reach for them as easily as they would reach for the TV remote control.

そういう時代に、わたしたちが目指すものは、もっと日常的に触れてもらえるテレビゲーム機です。ゲームで毎日遊ぶ、というよりも、日常にゲーム機が溶け込んでいるような姿が理想です。(141)

The book also contains chapters at the end where Shigeru Miyamoto and Shigesato Itoi talk about Satoru Iwata, how they met, how they worked together…

Even if you are not particularly interested in the game industry in general or Nintendo in particular, this book is still a great read. It is not only about leadership and gaming, it is about creativity and pursuing one’s vision, team work and communication. Even I who never reads books by or about CEOs found this one engrossing.

I will end this review on an inspiring quote:

「人が嫌がるかもしれないことや、人が疲れて続けられないようなことを、延々と続けられる人」、それが「天才」だとわたしは思うんです。考えるのをやめないこととか、とにかく延々と突き詰めていくこと。(…) 自分が苦労だと思わずに続けられることで、価値があることを見つけることができた人は、それだけでとてもしあわせだと思います。(p.136)

(These words by Satoru Iwata echo a quote by Shigesato Itoi that I have on my blog’s homepage almost since its creation and that have been my motto for my Japanese learning journey: “The more effort you put into something, the happier it will make you”.)