Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

What connects us through time and space is at the heart of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It connects the story of a young Japanese girl told through her diary and a Japanese-American novelist reading that diary on the isolated Cortes Island of British Columbia. 

Both are outsiders - the girl who wrote the diary spent her formative years in the States so she's culturally more American than Japanese. The novelist is from the big city and living on a remote island. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper

There is probably no Japanese concept more mentioned and less understood than wabi sabi.

It seems that any exploration of Japanese aesthetics has the term thrown around — sometimes correctly, and other times wildly inaccurately. It’s often imperfectly defined as the Japanese art of imperfection. But it is so much more.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Drinking Japan: A Guide to Japan's Best Drinks and Drinking Establishments by Chris Bunting

Though a few years old now Drinking Japan: A Guide to Japan's Best Drinks and Drinking Establishments is a hand dandy guide to alcoholic beverages in Japan. 

More than just a guide to sake bars, whisky bars, and great craft brewers, it's a great introduction to Japan's native and adopted alcohols and their history. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family's Journey Through the Belly of Japan by Michael Booth

When I first came across Super Sushi Ramen Express I was genuinely excited. I was looking for an interesting expose of food across the Japan. While I got a hint of that, it was a bit too superficial a journey.

There are some aspects that were great - the visit to the kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, konbu harvesting in Hokkaido, and the creation of healthy salt.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Little Exile by Jeanette Arakawa

I’ve always known the broad story of Japanese internment during the Second World War, both at home in Canada and next door in the United States.

The Little Exile by Jeanette Arakawa brings this tragic time to life through a unique novel that carries a lot of reality in its pages.

The Little Exile traces aftermath of this shift from normal child to prisoner through various camps and ultimately a return to freedom. It’s an illuminating glimpse inside a stolen life.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tokyo: A View of the City by Donald Richie

It's common to get nostalgic. It seems there are entire industries based on looking back 50 years, and lamenting the damage progress has done in consuming what made the past a golden age.

Donald Richie's Tokyo: A View of the City is just this kind of look back from circa 1999 - a look at the culture and every day life that built the core neighbourhoods of Tokyo, what had gone, what had come, and what was just ahead.

Finding Japan: Early Canadian Encounters with Asia by Anne Shannon

Finding Japan is a huge - and pleasant - surprise. Many readers will be just like me having never realized that the connections between Canada and Japan were so rich, varied, and deep.

Finding Japan: Early Canadian Encounters with Asia looks at this long history. It starts even before U.S. gunboats opened a closed island Japan to the world -- with the story of the Canadian son of an HBC trader who marooned himself in Japan, and ended up teaching English to the man who would translate for the Americans when the arrived in their black ships.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka

The best literature serves to open your eyes to something new, to reveal something you haven’t seen before. Books that meet this test are few and far between — and Message to Adolf by manga master Osamu Tezuka is firmly one of them. 

It’s all the more surprising through Western eyes because we just don’t expect to come across idea shaking literature in graphic form — manga, comic, or graphic novel. Message to Adolf shows we probably should.