Currently Reading: 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』by En MIKAMI

I know that I should not be starting a new book right now, but this is what happened:

The Drama

I started watching the drama 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』and I liked it very much. Then I learnt that the drama was an adaptation of a light novel by author En MIKAMI (三上延). Some days later, I found this very novel in a bookshop, piled up on a table. The reason why the bookshop made a pile with a novel published 7 years ago (2011) is because there is now a film adaptation of this story. It was released in Japan on November, 1st.

The film

If you like solving mysteries in second-hand bookstores, you have the choice between reading the light novel, watching the drama or watching the film. It would be interesting to make a comparison of the three, but I am not sure if I want to watch the movie. I think that I will read the book first and certainly watch the drama afterwards. Having read the book before, I should be able to understand the drama better. My listening level is much much lower than my reading level!

The book

The book

En MIKAMI’s series has its own website and is published by メディアワークス文庫 which belongs, if I am not mistaken, to Kadokawa and specialises in light novels.

There are currently 7 tomes in the 『ビブリア』series. There is a new tome published in September this year, but the book is not presented as the tome 8… It might be a special volume? There are also spin-offs, so I guess that the series is very popular.

The tsubasa collection has a green cover

If you want to read this book with full furigana, the first three tomes have been published in the Tsubasa collection of Kadokawa! This version also has some illustrations inside. You can read the first pages here.

The first tome (the one I am reading) has 4 stories. I can already tell that the two first stories correspond to the first and second episodes of the drama. While each story seems to have a plot of its own and looks like a detached short story, I think that the book must be read like a novel, without skipping or changing the order of the stories in it. 

The story

Daisuke GORA is 23 years-old. He has graduated from university but is still unemployed. One day, after his grand-mother’s death, he goes to the ビブリア古書堂 to have an expertise concerning the name “Natsume Soseki” found handwritten in one of his grand-mother’s books. This triggers his first step in the world of old and used books and the stories around them. The owner of the ビブリア古書堂, Shioriko SHINOKAWA, is a young girl who knows everything about books and could talk about them for hours but is highly unfit for any other social intercourse. 

And together, they will solve mysteries related to old books. As Shioriko says: “人の手を渡った古い本には、中身だけではなく本そのものにも物語がある.” En MIKAMI invites us to discover the mysterious tales surrounding these second-hand books and their former owners.

Drama vs light novel

If we compare the first episode and the first story of the novel, the plot is very similar. With some changes of setting, the drama stays close to the story. What is very different however, is the depiction of the two main characters. In the novel, Daisuke is a young boy who immediately feels attracted to the mysterious Shioriko. In the drama, Daisuke is older and while he is impressed by Shioriko’s knowledge of books and capacities of deduction, he does not seem to form any fascination to her.

I personally prefer the characters shown in the drama as those depicted in the book. The actors Ayame GORIKI and AKIRA fit their role very well.
 I also liked that the drama contains a lot of humour and does not take itself too seriously. Last but not least, I found that actually seeing the books that the characters are talking about is a plus. This is especially true for the first episode where the mystery lies in the signatures found in the book. 

All in all, I may have a preference for the drama but I still prefer to read a book than watching a drama, so… to me the book wins in the end!

Anyway, this adds a title to the pile of books I want to finish before the 31st! 

If you are interested in the film, here is the trailer:

Currently Reading: 『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA

『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA (米澤穂信)

『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA (米澤穂信) is the last novel on my reading challenge list of 2018, and I want to read it before the end of the year.

It took me two weeks to go through the first pages, though. I knew that to finish this book before December, 31st, I had to start it in November. This is the reason why one of my goal for the month was to start and ideally, read half of this book. 

I started 『リカーシブル』at least 5 times during the past two weeks, and could not get into it. I was even thinking of giving it up altogether. But I think that these repetitive failures were due to my state of mind at the time rather than to the novel itself. These past two weeks, I haven’t worked much for my Japanese and starting a new novel felt like a daunting task. 

What helped me overcome this state is this post by Ten Thousand Hours that gives great tips to start reading books in Japanese. Even after reading several novels, I still feel apprehension whenever I start a new one, and I am easily discouraged. This is what happened with Yonezawa’s novel, and I made the mistake of giving up after a few pages instead of reading enough to get used to the author’s style, the characters and the setting.

Once I did that however, I could not put down the book anymore. It took me two weeks to read the first 10 pages, and 3 days to read the next 100. This book is great! The story is typically the type of mystery in which I get engrossed very quickly. 

The protagonist, Haruka, has just arrived with her little brother and her mother to a new town: the family is moving to the mother’s native place. Haruka is starting middle school in a new environment, and her main preoccupation is to find her place in the classroom’s invisible hierarchy and make friends. I still don’t know which direction the novel will take, but some accidents happen, and Haruka’s little brother starts saying weird things… 

The novel is told in the first person, it is not hard to read and has a lot of dialogues. I don’t know why it took me so much time to get into it. 

I am enjoying this book so much that it would have been a shame if I had given it up!

Currently reading: 『探偵倶楽部』by Keigo HIGASHINO

I still have three books to read this year to complete my 2018 reading challenge and 『探偵倶楽部』(たんていくらぶ) is one of them. It is a collection of five short stories, featuring the mysterious “Membership Detective Club”. I already read the first two short stories and I plan to read the third one in November.

The membership detective club is a detective agency composed of only two persons: an unnamed detective and his assistant. They work for wealthy and selected persons. The interesting feature of this book is that little is known about this detective, not even his name (as far as the first two short stories are concerned.) The stories seem to focus more on the staging of the murder and the events afterwards. As a reader, we follow the characters involved in it, but at the same time, we never quite know who did it, which makes things very exciting.

I read the first short story at the very beginning of the year, but I found it rather difficult at the time. The writing was not especially challenging, but there was a lot of characters introduced at the same time, and it was vital to understand their relationships and position inside the family. This I found daunting at the time and had to re-read the first pages at least three times.

Soon after, I started reading the second short story but eventually gave up, as you have to deal with 12 characters and again, remember their position in the family. I thought that this book was too complicated and put it back on my shelf. No wonder that I have pushed back the time to pick it up again!

But I did read the second short story this month (the one I had given up) and I found it quite easy to read. I cannot even understand what put me off last time. Yes, it is daunting to remember the name of 12 characters, but it only requires to go back to the critical pages from time to time to verify a name.

This proves that I have made some progress in reading this year! I think that, at the beginning of the year, everything was harder for me, and the many names added to the overall confusion. Now, I certainly feel more confident and I don’t need to struggle to understand the story (at least, when it comes to Keigo HIGASHINO) so I can put my effort into remembering the names.

It is very encouraging to have a tangible proof of my progress. I keep stumbling across novels that I still find too difficult for me, and this makes me feel that I don’t progress at all. But the truth is that I did get better and that, maybe as a direct result, I tend to pick more challenging books.

While I am not reading a lot lately, I think that I can manage to read another short story this month. In any case, I love this book, and I am confident that I will finish it before the end of the year.

Currently Reading: 『手紙』by Keigo HIGASHINO

I will stick to my resolution to always be reading a book by Keigo HIGASHINO. I found that reading several books at the same time in Japanese is the best way to avoid loss of interest or discouragement.

『手紙』, 東野圭吾, 文春文庫

I am so sure that I will love any book by Higashino that I just pick them randomly and never read the summary on the back cover. But I am surprised by『手紙』. It is hard to tell where the story will lead us, and I suspect the book to be more a social portrait than a crime novel. I already noticed that Higashino gives a social dimension to some of his books, and I would not be surprised if 『手紙』fell in this category.

The book is divided into 6 chapters, and I have only read the first one. To me, this book is like a focus on what is usually dismissed in crime stories: the daily life and hardship of the persons involved. Usually, a novel would concentrate on the plot, the investigation, and while it lets us glimpse at the suffering of the actors involved, especially the ones surrounding the victims, it rarely bothers to show us how, say, the brother of the murderer adjusts to his new condition and goes on with this life.

I think that this is what 『手紙』will do, though the novel might still change direction. In any case, it is a little different from what I expected, but I enjoy reading it all the more.

Currently reading: 『こころ』by 夏目漱石

I have always considered that reading Soseki in Japanese would be one of the greatest achievement of this whole Japanese journey. Since I heard from a Japanese that reading Soseki was hard for Japanese too, I thought I would keep it for “when I am fluent” or something like that.


『こころ』by 夏目漱石, Kadokawa

What made me buy 『こころ』the other day was this particular cover that I found very beautiful. Somehow, it is gratifying to buy one of the masterpieces of world literature with a cover that has an attractive pattern for only 360 yen.

I started it, thinking I would give up soon, but it was unexpectedly accessible. I think that the real challenge lies in vocabulary but after some work on it, there remains no real difficulty. Soseki uses relatively plain and simple sentences. Looking up words is enough to understand most of the sentences and it happens very seldom that I should still be puzzled by the meaning of a paragraph after having cleared my way with the dictionary.

Looking up words requires a little devotion, but it is easily managed with my electronic dictionary. What usually discourages me is when I cannot make out a sentence even though I know the meaning of each word. Sometimes, it comes from the grammar, sometimes the sentence is too long or too intricated, sometimes it refers to something I don’t know, etc. Fortunately, I was, for the most part, spared these discouraging moments in 『こころ』.

One thing that I find helpful is the book’s structure. The three parts of the novel are divided into very small chapters of 2 or 3 pages. I read only one chapter at a time and as they are very short, I don’t mind spending some time studying them. What I do is that I try to look up every unknown word, add the relevant ones to Anki, and make sure I understand every sentence of the chapter before closing the book. This is not always possible, but I try to.

Thankfully, the story in 『こころ』suits a slow progression in reading. I am satisfied with reading only one chapter from time to time, the story stays with me between two reading sessions and I try to take note and write down citations that would help me go back into the story, should a long time have elapsed before I open the book again.


This is my experience with Soseki’s Kokoro, I am excited to be able to read it and I finish every chapter with a greater sense of achievement than when I finish a whole book by another author. I am afraid that the book might become more difficult after, but I also know that if I stumble across a difficult part, I can still take a peep at an English translation.

I don’t expect to finish it soon but it would be fantastic if I could finish it next year.

Currently reading: 『日本語びいき』by 清水由美

Once again, I find myself reading several books at the same time! I could not resist this book’s title and cover:


『日本語びいき』by 清水由美, illustrated by ヨシタケシンスケ, 中公文庫

『日本語びいき』 is written by a Japanese teacher who teaches Japanese to foreigners. From what she writes in her forewords, I guess that there was/is a lack of understanding of what a Japanese teacher is and what skills it requires. People tend to think that anyone can teach his or her own language and are not aware of the challenges that lay behind this apparently easy task:



The author wrote this book for Japanese readers, and her point is to show to native speakers the difficulties, the charm, the strangeness even of the language they speak every day. She wants to bring the amazement Japanese learners experience to the native speakers: 「日々自在に操っていらっしゃる母語、日本語に、新鮮な驚きを感じていただければ幸いです。」(p.4)

When I saw this book and understood what it was about, I immediately thought about 海野凪子(うみの・なぎこ)’s work 『日本人の知らない日本語』. The fact that 『日本語びいき』was first published under the title 『日本人の日本語知らず』tend to draw this two books closer. But they are in fact very different. First of all, 『日本語びいき』is an essay, not a manga, even if it does contain some (but very few) illustrations. More importantly, 『日本人の知らない日本語』 depicts various funny or strange experiences the Japanese teacher is confronted to with her foreign students. 『日本びいき』is only about Japanese as a language. I don’t want to say that it is a linguistic book because it is not as specialised as that, but it dissects surprising aspects of the Japanese grammar, looks at the mistakes Japanese people sometimes do, explains patterns native speakers might not be aware of, and so on.

I am very excited about 『日本語びいき』! It might not be as funny as 『日本人の知らない日本語』but I already have had a lot of enlightening moments since I started it (and I am only at the beginning).

I am sure that this book will appeal to a lot of Japanese learners. I will be able to talk more about the contents when I finish it and write my review. See you then!

Currently reading: 『未来のミライ』by 細田守

Some months ago Topple commented on one of my posts to recommend the collection 角川つばさ文庫 (collection “Tsubasa” of the publisher Kadokawa). I have been on the lookout for a book of this collection since then and finally spotted one in a bookshop the other day: 『未来のミライ』by 細田守 (ほそだ・まもる).

The collection

First of all, let’s talk about the collection because I am sure it will interest all Japanese learners!

Tsubame is a collection for children/young readers of the famous publisher Kadokawa. The books have a light green cover and a slightly bigger size than standard books. I don’t know if it is true for all the books in the collection, but mine has some illustrations inside.


The books are classified by levels indicated by one, two or three leaves on the cover. 『未来のミライ』has three leaves which means: “小学上級から”. No matter the level, all books come with full furigana, which is, of course, the best part of this series.

They are also classified into 6 genres:

  • A オリジナル
  • B ベストセラー
  • C ノベライズ
  • D ノンフィクション
  • E 海外の名作
  • F 日本の名作

『未来のミライ』is classified as C, so I guess that it is a novelisation of Mamoru HOSODA’s anime of the same name. I think that Hosoda wrote the novel version himself. You can also buy the novel version in the standard Kadokawa collection, without furigana. If you are interested in buying the Tsubasa collection, don’t forget to look for the green cover!


You certainly have heard or seen pictures of the film by director Mamoru HOSODA. Hosoda also directed famous anime films like Wolf Children or The Boy and the Beast (both available in the Tsubasa collection). I haven’t seen 『未来のミライ』yet, it was released in Japan this Summer, and I think that it will be released later in the year in Europe and the United States.

The story is about a 4-year-old boy who has to deal with a newly born sister and two busy parents who are too occupied to answer his caprice anymore. Then, supernatural and fantasy-like elements appear, and our young protagonist meets his little sister Mirai, coming from the future. This is the trailer:

To be honest, I chose this book because it was the only one available in this collection, but I don’t feel particularly drawn to the film, and the story does not appeal to me.

As a result, I have some difficulty getting into the story, I find it to be too childish, even for children. After all, the protagonist is a 4-year-old boy… I can perceive that the story is nice for a film, but I tend to have higher expectations when I have a book in hand. While it might be entertaining and funny in an anime, I don’t like having to go through a lot of clichés when reading (for example the father having a hard time managing domestic tasks when the mother goes back to work after the birth of the baby.)

I think that I have been unlucky in my choice (which was not really a choice) of the book. I am sure that other stories would have been more suitable for me. If you are interested in the collection, have a look at their website, they have a lot of titles.


I will be able to tell you more about this particular book in my review when I finish it. For now, I can say that reading with furigana is extremely enjoyable. It is easier to look up words, you can read aloud without frustration or even use it to study. While the story does not interest me much, reading in Japanese is always a pleasure, so I am quite pleased with this book, and I have to thank once more Topple to have recommended the collection to me!

Currently Reading: 『流星の絆』by 東野圭吾


『流星の絆』by 東野圭吾, 講談社文庫

To me, the best way to start reading again after a long period of trials and errors is to start a novel by Keigo HIGASHINO.

The magic worked this time too, with the novel 『流星の絆』(りゅうせい の きずな). It is a very long novel (617 pages), but I am confident that if you like Higashino’s style, you will like everything, from the shortest short stories to the longest novels.

I felt committed to the story right from the beginning. I don’t know why I sometimes stay indifferent to what happens to the characters and sometimes feel immediately involved in their story. The author’s style maybe… Anyway, the beginning of the novel is completely engrossing, with a murder and a criminal investigation. This is exactly what I needed to start reading in Japanese again. After having made several attempts to start a novel, starting several books and giving up after a few pages, I was happy to feel engrossed in a story and read the first 100 pages without even realising it.

Given the length of the novel, I expect a somewhat complex story with a lot of different settings and intrications, a little like another novel I read and loved by Highashino: 『夢幻花』.

One of my goals for September was to start a novel by Higashino and try to finish it. I think that this novel is too long for me to read it in a month but knowing that I can finish it at all is a pleasing thought. As usual, Higashino’s writing style is Japanese learners friendly!

Currently Reading: 『往復書簡』by 湊かなえ

I was very excited to start a new book by Kanae MINATO! I have read only one book from this author before, but it is clearly one of my favourite books. I was looking forward to reading another story by Kanae MINATO and was full of expectations when I finally opened 『往復書簡』. The fact that it is an epistolary (書簡・しょかん) work added to my excitement (I love epistolary novels, but I don’t read them often.)

My expectations were both entirely fulfilled and confounded. Fulfilled because I felt engrossed in the story right from the beginning and confounded because… it is not a novel! It is a collection of short stories! I realised it only when I reached the end of the “first chapter” (which was, in reality, the first story).

Have you ever started a collection of short stories thinking it was a novel? I can’t remember having such an experience before. I felt so disappointed, haha. I like short stories too, but not as much as a novel. No, in fact, if I can choose between reading a novel and short stories, I will always choose the novel. And if I can choose between a 600 pages novel and a 300 pages novel, I will go for the first. The longer, the better, even if it does not vouch for the quality of the novel. The reason is that it takes some efforts to get familiar with a fictional setting, a bunch of characters, their relationship and so on. Once I have done the effort, I like to know that it will be useful for a long time. Short stories oblige you to get familiar with new characters for only 50-100 pages and then start the whole process from scratch again.

Anyway, there were a lot of hints that should have told me I was not reading a novel. For example, I was puzzled that the story I was reading had nothing, but really nothing, in common with the summary on the cover (which was in fact, a summary of the second story). As I was coming closer to the end of the first “chapter”, the story was obviously reaching its end, and I was waiting for the plot twist, haha!

I overlooked the word 連作・れんさく on the cover… It means “a series of works on the same theme”, and it is exactly what we have here.

This being said I loved the first story. I will wait until I have read all the short stories and write my review, but I can already say that the first story was very engrossing!

But I was so happy to read an epistolary novel, it was so promising, I loved the characters, the plot, the mystery and I was prepared to stay with them for more than 300 pages. All this disappointment because of false expectations! Next time, I will scrutinise every millimetre of the cover, read thoroughly the summary, analyse the table of contents, flip through the pages and even X-ray the book before starting!

I don’t know what I should do now… Shall I start the next story or take a break, read another novel, and come back to 『往復書簡』later?

Currently Reading - 『往復書簡』by 湊かなえ2.jpg

Currently Reading: 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」by 加藤陽子

I have finally given up reading 「朝鮮開国と日清戦争」by Soki WATANABE because the more I read, the more difficult the book becomes. I was unlucky in my choice when I picked a History book, I should have bought a popular book written for a large public. Watanabe’s book was maybe too specialised for me.

As I don’t renounce reading History books in Japanese, I picked another one: 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」by 加藤陽子 (かとう・ようこ).

Yoko KATO is a professor at Tokyo University. Her field is the period spanning from the Russo-Japanese War to the Pacific War, but her speciality is centred on Japan’s diplomatic relations and military actions of the 30’s.

Her book is divided into 5 chapters:

  • Prologue: Let’s reflect upon Japan Modern History
  • Chapter 1: First Sino-Japanese War
  • Chapter 2: Russo-Japanese War
  • Chapter 3: World War I
  • Chapter 4: The Mukden Incident and the Second Sino-Japanese War
  • Chapter 5: Pacific war

The point of this book is to reflect upon Japan Modern History through the wars of this period.

Why this book is easy to read?

This book seems much easier to read than Watanabe’s book. I am still in the prologue and haven’t got into the heart of the discussion yet, but the beginning is so easy that I cannot imagine the level will change dramatically after.

First of all, this book is not a book written by Yoko KATO. It is the transcription of a class she gave for 5 days to around 20 middle and high-school students. Yoko KATO teaches at the university, but she gave this special lecture to younger students in 2007. The 5 chapters correspond to the 5 days of the lecture (each chapter begins with Kato greeting the students).

This has two consequences:

  • First, the book is originally not a written work, and the style is, consequently, much easier. I must add that this lecture sometimes takes the form of the workshop, with Kato asking for the students’ participation by asking them questions. This kind of interaction makes the book easier to read for me.
  • Kato’s public is heterogeneous, spanning from the first year of middle school to the second year of high-school. As a result, Kato does not expect all the students to share the same knowledge or have studied the same things.

You can feel that Kato is a professor and not just a historian. She has a very pedagogic approach, and I think that her addressing younger students than usual makes her careful to stay clear and explain everything in a simple way.

I will give three examples characteristic of Kato’s pedagogic approach:

  1. When citing what a commandant of the time said, Kato explains it afterwards with simple words. I find citations to be very hard to understand for they often use a very formal or even outdated style. Kato first cites what the army was saying about the second Sino-Japanese War: “今次事変は戦争に非ずして報償なり。” and explains it just after saying “今、日本が行っていることは戦争ではなくて、報償なのだ。” which is much easier to understand.
  2. The word “報償・ほうしょう” means “compensation”, “remuneration”, but I was guessing that in our context, it meant something like “punitive action” or “punitive expedition”. Just when I was formulating these thoughts, a student asked Kato what 報償 means! She explains it in very simple terms: “相手国が条約に違反したなど、悪いことをした場合、その不法行為をやめさせるため、今度は自らの側が実力行使していいですよ、との考え方です。”.
  3. When the student asked what 報償 means, he said that he never heard of it before. Kato replies: “無理もないです。今生きている人間でこの言葉を聞いたことのある人はほとんどいないはず”. Similarly, she later talks of “討匪戦・とうひせん” and asks the students if they can guess the kanji. She then adds that the people who can are people who lived before the war: “討匪戦という字はすぐに浮かびますか。これもすぐに浮かぶ人は、戦前に生きていた人間だけでしょうね。” It makes one comfortable with not knowing certain things.


I hope, I really hope, that the book will be accessible to me and will not become difficult all of a sudden. I enjoy it very much for now. It covers the part of Japan History that interests me the most, and I like the author’s style.

While I was claiming victory every time I finished a paragraph (or even sometimes, a sentence!) of Soki WATANABE’s book, I have read the first pages of 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」without problem. I hope I can finish it, even if it will certainly take me some time to read the 484 pages of the book!