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Surfing in the Snow

Events | Shimabara | Noh | Japanese Sweets nagazasshi │ March/April 2012


nagazasshi Volume 5 Issue 4 January/February 2013

Editor-in-chief Audrey Akcasu

Deputy Editor Qi Yang

Assistant Editors Raymond Arcega Katelyn Schwartz

Copy Editor Rosario Paz

Magazine Manager Kim Durinick

Layout and Design Douglas Bonham

Contributors Ashleigh Allen Jon Arnouts Hannah Conklin Shane Hiroshi Matthew Jones Kyle McCloskey Sue Ann Simon


Andrew Morris Matthew Nelson www.nagazasshi.com


Cover photo: Cold Fingers S.H.

けましておめでとうござい ます Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu

Happy New Year! 初夢は何でしたか? Hatsuyume wa nan deshita ka? What was your first dream this year? I hope you dreamed of Mt. Fuji, a hawk and an eggplant! Why? In Japan, your dream on the night of New Year’s Day (traditionally no one sleeps New Year’s Eve) is thought to foretell your fortune for the coming year. This trio, of seemingly random items, is said to be the most auspicious, especially if dreamt in that order. Maybe mountains, birds and vegetables weren’t on your mind that night, but don’t worry. If surfing (p. 12), Japanese sweets (p. 16) or Shimabara (p. 10) made an appearance in your dream, you really are in luck this year! This issue has everything you need to know about all three. Perhaps you had a more artsy vision and dreamed of plays or music. We’ve got you covered there too. Kicking off a new serial about Japanese theater is a piece on Noh (p. 6), and we also take a look into the origins of Japan’s somber national anthem (p. 18). Whatever you dreamed of, we wish you well in the New Year and look forward to another great 12 months. 今年もよろしくお願いします Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu We look forward to your continued goodwill in the coming year.

Audrey Akcasu, Editor-in-chief March/April 2012 │ nagazasshi

Contents Events


Japan’s Traditional Performance Arts: Noh


Kanji of the Month


Hanto Sites


Surf’s Up!


Pour Some Sugar on Me


The Story Behind Kimigayo


My Two Yen


A primer on Japan’s celebrated art form


Travel recommendations for Shimabara How to get started surfing northern Nagasaki The Japanese ways to settle your sweet tooth The history behind Japan’s national anthem photo Kyle McCloskey

The Nagazasshi staff presents its Recommended Reads

photo Jon Arnouts


photo Katelyn Schwartz


nagazasshi | January/February 2013


Event of the Month photo Ashleigh Allen

Shimabara Castle Doll Tour February 2-March 3, Shimabara For one month you can tour shops and historical homes surrounding Shimabara Castle that are decorated in celebration of Girls’ Day on March 3rd. You can enjoy not only a traditional holiday, but also the traditional “castle town” atmosphere.

Events Ten Million Daffodils January 10-27 Suisen Satokoen, Nagasaki City An event for not only your eyes, but also your nose, you can view 10 million daffodils and enjoy their “100 fragrances.” The poetic backdrop of Battleship Island heightens the experience. 99 Islands Oyster Fair, Part 2 February, Saikai Pearl Sea Resort, Sasebo City Didn’t get enough oysters in November? Need a reason to leave your house? Head back to Sasebo for an equally fantastic experience of succulently barbecued oysters.

Nagasaki Lantern Festival February 10-24 Nagasaki City This year’s Chinese New Year festival offers some more than 15,000 lanterns, Chinese acrobats and lion dances. Being the 20th anniversary of the event, one lucky bride and groom have been selected to partake in a traditional Chinese wedding. nagazasshi | January/February 2013

Arie Warehouse Tour Mid-February Arie, Minamishimabara Help Arie celebrate its long history of noodle-making, miso-brewing and Christianity in this “open-town” event. Warehouses will be open for tastings, including the sake brewery, which will release its new batch of rice wine. photo Sue Ann Simon

Illumination Flower Event February 2-23, Unzen What goes well with steam and sulfur? Illumination. The streets of Unzen are lined with lights brilliantly decorating the trees and surroundings in a peaceful and romantic arrangement. There will also be a fireworks display on the second Saturday.

Goto Camellia Festival February 16-March 3 Goto City When you think of the Goto Islands, do you think “camellia”? You will after this two-week event celebrating Goto’s most famous product. The flowers will be in full bloom and it’s a great chance to buy various goods, enjoy events and take a tour of the city, which will be illuminated by soft lanterns on its traditional stonewalls.


Japan’s Traditional

Performance Arts

In the first installment of a series on Japanese theater, Genevieve Seah introduces us to Noh


en minutes and forty-three seconds. This was exactly how long it took for the masked actor to move from the bridgeway onto the main stage. I watched him slide slowly and quietly as I stifled a yawn. My eyes were beginning to water when the first melodious syllable broke the silence. The actor had begun to sing, but I had no idea what he was singing

about. Fast-forward two hours and I was snoring in my seat. Here thus described my first foray into Noh. A word of caution to readers: one does not simply venture into the world of Noh. Watch a Noh performance without any background knowledge and I guarantee you an uncomfortable nap in the theater and a really expensive, wasted ticket. Noh, originating from several popular entertainments and ritualistic dances, is one of the world’s oldest (and perhaps the slowest

photo Jon Arnouts


January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

Noh 能 progressing, in my opinion) performing arts. Here is some trivia to put the timeline into perspective: a collection of treatises on Noh, Fūshi Kaden, written by Noh’s founder Zeami Motokiyo, was published 200 years before Shakespeare’s theatrical debut. If you think Shakespeare is difficult, good luck with Noh. It is extremely stylized and ritualistic; the language is almost completely incomprehensible, even to people who understand Japanese.

Though minimalistic in set design, Noh does employ the use of props. The props are usually simple and symbolic. For example, a bamboo frame with a cypress branch attached on the top can represent a well and a curved frame wrapped in white cloth can symbolize a boat. Apprentice performers often make Noh props on the day of a performance. After the performance, the props are then taken apart and the materials (mainly bamboo sticks and cloth) are returned to storage.

舞 台 芸 術

Nonetheless, Noh is a highly-celebrated art form both in Japan and overseas, and has been designated as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO. Though difficult to understand, one can easily appreciate the beauty of Noh simply by observing the way the art form uses space, props, masks, movement and music.

The beauty of Noh lies in its simplicity and use of symbolism. The Noh stage is a simple space consisting of a square main stage, a bridgeway and two seating sections for the musicians, chorus and stage attendants. The bridgeway is especially important because it symbolizes the passageway that connects reality to the spiritual world. There is no curtain separating the stage from the audience, nor are there large set pieces on stage. The only stage design is a picture of a pine tree on the back wall of the main stage, because Noh was originally performed outdoors in open fields.

nagazasshi | January/February 2013

While props in Noh are largely disposable and apprentices are permitted to make them, the masks used in Noh, however, are priceless family heirlooms reserved only for the most experienced actors. As masks are essentially the heart of Noh, there is a great variety of them. Originally, there were 60 basic types of Noh masks, but today, there are 200 different kinds in use. Specific masks portray different types of characters and they can be loosely categorized into six different groups: old man, elders, woman, man, demons and spirits. The masks are sculpted to portray a neutral expression, allowing the performer to imbue it with emotion. Depending on the movements of the actor, such as a slight tilt of the mask downwards or upwards, various moods can be expressed on stage. Movements, along with the musical elements of song and instrumentals, give


emotional expression to Noh. The dances unlike Western music, there is no set pitch are made up of detailed movement pator musical scale in the vocal elements. The terns strung together in fluid successions. main performer sets the pitch and the Each movement pattern is used to express leading chorus head adjusts and leads his a different emotion or scenario, such chorus accordingly. as sadness or the depiction of a distant mountain. Noh dances are different deAs one can see, Noh is a theater art form pendent on the gender of the characters as steeped deeply in symbolism and nuance. well as the category of the play. The instru- Unfortunately, these are often lost on the mental elements general audience. are responsible for The dances are made If you do decide to attend a Noh setting the tone up of detailed movement and tempo of the patterns strung together in performance, it would be prudent dance, while the fluid successions to go prepared. vocal elements You will also probably enjoy it more if you are used to move the story forward. The know the story or the highlights of the chorus often sings as an accompaniment play. Trust me. This is one rare occasion in to the dances and sometimes voices the which spoilers will be appreciated. n main performer’s inner thoughts. One distinctive characteristic of Noh is that,




January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

nagazasshi | January/February 2013


Hanto Sites Kyle McCloskey’s recommendations for traveling around the under-recognized Shimabara peninsula

On the western side of the hanto, you’ll find the quiet seaside town of Obama. And yes, in case you are wondering, there is a statue of the current American president with which you can take your picture.

You’ve seen it on maps, you’ve read about it in guidebooks, maybe you’ve even talked to someone who’s been there: that kidney-shaped peninsula in the eastern part of Nagasaki Prefecture known as the Shimabara Hanto (peninsula). Normally, any mention of Shimabara outside of the hanto garners one reaction from Japanese people: “Inaka desu ne!” (“So rural!”). However, even though there are no large cities in the area, there are still numerous sites to visit and things to do!

In Obama’s main park, you’ll find an area where you can cook food using the natural steam from a hot spring. There’s a bit of a line on the weekends, but it’s worth it. Just put your food in a basket, lower it into one of the open chambers, and in about ten minutes or so your meal will be ready to go. After you’ve finished eating, take a load off in Japan’s longest natural footbath, which is located right next to the park.

The literal centerpiece of the hanto is Mount Unzen, an active volcano, which last erupted in 1991. Fortunately, a large portion of the mountain, called Fugen Dake, is now safe and accessible to hikers. The route from Unzen Town to the top of Fugen Dake takes about 2.5 hours one way, but there’s an additional trail head further up the hill called Nita Pass, if you don’t feel up to such a long hike.

Heading south down Route 251, the road that circumnavigates the hanto, you’ll find yourself in Kazusa, the southernmost section of Minamishimabara. Maehama, the local beach flanked by two tall rock outcroppings, is a popular destination for people from all over Shimabara during the summer. Just make sure to get there before Obon, when the jellyfish are out in the water in full force! The summits of the outcroppings also offer some beautiful views of the Ariake Sea.

While you’re in Unzen Town, take advantage of the numerous onsen (hot springs) that are available. These range from the incredibly cheap Yunosato Public Bath (¥100) to the fancy Unzen Spa House (¥800), which also offers a short glassblowing class (¥2000).

My town of Futsu doesn’t have much to offer in the way of tourist attractions (the only site in town I’ve discovered is a large rock that is meant to be an ancient tomb), but we do have a popular karaage (fried chicken) restaurant named Shiraishi. People all over the hanto speak of it in the


January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

photo Kyle McCloskey

The peak of Fugen Dake, part of Mount Unzen, Shimabara’s active volcano reverent tones reserved for only the best fried chicken. So if you’re passing through town and feeling hungry, look for the red banners with the rooster on them. There’s another branch located in Shimabara City, but that location only offers take-out. Between Shimabara and Minamishimabara, you’ll find the Mount Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall (¥1000). This museum features an interactive movie theater (the ground shakes and fans blow hot air at you, just like a real volcano!) that details the history of the recent eruptions, a surreal puppet show about an eruption in 1792, and replicas of the affected areas. There are English audio guides available. Within walking distance of the museum, you can find Mizunashi Honjin (free), a collection of 11 houses that are still buried under volcanic ash and debris from the 1991 eruption. nagazasshi | January/February 2013

Shimabara Castle (¥520) and Bukeyashiki (free), the restored Samurai Village, represent Shimabara’s connection to Japanese tradition and history. On a clear day, the view from the castle is quite impressive, but unfortunately all the information inside the castle is in Japanese with no English translation available. The staff at the castle is friendly and will happily let you dress in samurai garb for free. There is also a free natural foot spa in the arcade near the castle, so rest there before heading out on your next adventure. If you take Route 58 out of Shimabara City, you’ll come across Hyakkadai Kouen, a large park complete with several rolly slides, soccer fields and an enormous medieval-style castle. This is a great place to have a picnic and relax during the warmer months, especially during cherry blossom season when the hanami (cherry blossom viewing) crowds appear in droves! n


Surf’s Up! Cold Fingers S.H. informs us that surfing is not, in fact, only a summer sport


h, surfing! The sport that originated in sunny Hawaii, enjoyed by the Ali’i (chief or royalty class) about a thousand years ago, has made its way around the world to be shared and loved by people of all cultures. Yes, in beautiful Hawaii, where the weather is always warm and the water is rarely cold, thousands of people visit, whether to learn how to surf in Waikiki or test their skills at the beautiful North Shore of Oahu. “But this is Japan, not Hawaii,” you say. Yes, but even here, locked underneath the safety of the 99 Islands, and with the continent of Asia resting close by, the winds find a way to make waves to kiss the shores of western Kyushu. Kyushu is known all around Japan for the beautiful waves in Miyazaki and


Kagoshima. In the south east, the coasts have the advantage of being exposed to all of the large Pacific swells that send ridable surfing goodness to the reefs and beaches. Here in western Kyushu, however, experienced surfers get to enjoy the seasonal typhoon waves in late summer at the exposed southern reefs. Consistent northern winter swells means surfers in this area can enjoy the benefits of cold water surf for the majority of the fall and winter months too. “But it’s winter! It’s too cold!” Getting started in surfing sounds like a better idea in the summer when it’s warmer, but the truth is that it’s actually easier in the winter. There are fewer people to potentially injure, the waves are an ideal size and shape for learning, there is January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

photo flickr.com/polepole

area of Kyushu. usually plenty of parking, and the threat of jellyfish is non-existent. Learning in the summer means using a gigantic foam With a decent wetsuit and waves to keep a surfer busy, the board on small cold comes secwaves, dodging The truth is that it’s ond to fun. If you other people while actually easier [to learn have ever been to probably irritating how to surf] in the winter the mountains to the locals, slipping ski or snowboard, off your board you know how it feels to step outside because of the sunscreen, and looking into the freezing cold and slide down the out for jellies half of the time. mountain, all without thinking about Winter in Japan means more storms and the chill. The same happens with a wetsuit in the ocean. low-pressure systems pushing high-energy waves from the north to south. The “I have no balance, maybe surfing amount of surfable days in the winter isn’t for me” versus the summer is laughable. Summer only provides for a handful of nice days of clean surfing fun. On the other hand, Surfing isn’t just what you see on TV with small pointy boards and people dowinter has a consistent push of energy, ing jumps and crazy turns; it is anything hugging the reefs facing north in this

nagazasshi | January/February 2013


photo Cold Fingers S.H.

The winter weather provides better surfing, even if it means a wetsuit that harnesses the energy of the wave and propels you down its face, giving you a rush that only a surfer can understand. There is a saying in the surfing world: “Only a surfer knows the feeling.” Some people prefer to surf on small thin boards, some people like using large buoyant ones, others use foam and stay prone, while others don’t use a board at all. Yes, even bodysurfing with just your feet and hands counts as surfing. On days where the waves are too small for a short board, or not worth it to drag the long-board out of the car, surfers will often jump into the water to catch a few waves on their stomachs and have a blast. The love of the ocean and surfing is not one that can be put into words easily, so I will echo what thousands have said before… Only a surfer knows the feeling.


“Where do I start?” Getting started is easiest through a friend with extra boards, but that is not your only option. In Itoshima, Fukuoka, there is a tight community of surf-beach bums dotting the coastline where you can find surf shacks all along the road offering rental boards, wetsuits, and lessons. Karatsu, Saga, also has several surf shops and rental places. Local handplane shaper, Nils Rye, can make you custom watercraft and fins made from local wood. The best people to ask about waves and ocean conditions are the fishermen. They live their lives on the ocean and know the way she acts. Who knows? Maybe you work with a local surf legend in disguise! E malama i ke kai Love, Respect, Take care of the ocean


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Let’s study


the most effective way!

nagazasshi | January/February 2013

Instructor Kiyoko Hayashi

2-19-22 Haiki Sasebo City Nagasaki


kuumons@ mtf.biglobe.ne.jp


Pour Some Sugar On Me One way to beat the winDaigaku imo (大学芋): While sweet ter blues is by giving in to potato fries are finding a following in the your sweet tooth. Katelyn West as a side for hamburgers, in Japan they have been gracing dessert plates Schwartz shows us how to sooth these sugary cravings for quite some time. To make the leap


his month I have risked my teeth (and waistline) to create this overview of okashi (お菓子), or Japanese sweets, just for you. I have an undying love for okashi, even if some people say they just don’t pack the same punch as Western sweets. As you will soon see, there are many common themes in traditional sweets: mochi (pounded rice cake), anko (sweet bean paste) and fillings. I tried to spread around the okashi love and give you a nice sampling of the many okashi that have held my taste buds hostage and forced me into endless hours of running.

Taiyaki (たい焼き): This is by far the cutest sweet on our list. Pancake/hotcakelike batter is poured into two molds shaped like happy swimming fish, then a filling is placed between the two halves. The two pieces are then baked into one, roasting the batter and warming the filling to delectable perfection. As with most modern-day Japanese sweets, there are a variety of fillings for your choosing. From traditional kuroanko to sweet, creamy chocolate, or even soy pudding, you can change your taiyaki to fit your mood.


from side dish to dessert, daigaku imo has an added perk. After frying the sweet potatoes they are coated in a sugar glaze made from soy sauce. Now, before you get concerned that your soy sauce has ventured too far from your sushi, try it, it is delicious!

Daifuku (大福): Daifuku is the most versatile okashi on our list and it contains all of the big three we talked about earlier: mochi, anko, and filling. The most basic daifuku is made by wrapping mochi around a ball of anko. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Filling flavors change seasonally and whole pieces of fruit are frequently used. You can even get persimmon daifuku with a whole half of the fruit in it! But, there is one daifuku that is more legendary than the rest… that is, if you can find it: Choco-ichigo daifuku. It is a whole, plump, juicy strawberry wrapped in a layer of hazlenut-chocolate cream, all wrapped in a layer of mochi. Keep your eyes peeled and you too can enjoy the gastronomic ecstasy that is choco-ichigo daifuku. Zenzai (ぜんざい): This sweet souplike dessert is superb for the winter

January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

photo Sue Ann Simon

months. With thinned anko as the soup and shining balls of mochi floating on top, it’s the perfect sweet to warm you up in the winter. And if you make the mochi yourself, you can even make cute shapes.

Melon Pan (メ ロンパン): While

many people may say this sweet is not particular to Japan, I’ve never seen it anywhere else. This is, by far, one of the most labor-intensive sweets I’ve ever seen. It is actually a combination of a cookie layered on top of a sweet bun. With a mindboggling number of steps and a start to finish time of over three hours, I doubt you’ll try making it at home. But please, head to your local bakery and enjoy the “fruits” of their labor. The tastes and textures of these sweets are bound to get you, from the creamy

nagazasshi | January/February 2013

custard inside a taiyaki, to the soulwarming zenzai and the sweet crunch of daigaku imo. There’s something for everyone, even if you think you don’t like mochi. In the words of Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat okashi!” Hmm, that doesn’t sound right…



The story behind Did you know that the melody to Japan’s national anthem was written by a foreigner? Matthew Jones gives us the history


ational anthems. Is there anything more stirring to a person’s patriotic soul than hearing America’s “Stars and Stripes,” England’s “God Save the Queen,” or Ireland’s “Amhrán na bhFiann”? Well, not to Japanese people. The concept of a national anthem was completely alien to Japan, and so, Japan’s anthem, “Kimigayo,” was arranged by a foreigner.

came to Japan to train its first military band. While visiting, Fenton realized that there was no Japanese anthem, so he suggested to an officer of the Satsuma Clan, Iwao Ōyama, that one be created. Ōyama, who was well versed in Japanese and Chinese literature, agreed to find appropriate lyrics. He selected a poem praying for the long life of the ‘’lord’’ and Fenton set about putting a melody to it. Three weeks later, this first version of the anthem debuted in front of the Emperor. The melody had appeal and was swiftly adopted as the national anthem. Over the next decade, however, Fenton’s militarystyle march came under criticism for lacking solemnity, so a new melody was composed.

“Kimigayo” (君が代) is both one of the A German composer by the name of Franz oldest and one of the youngest national Eckert combined elements from Fenton’s anthems in the world. The lyrics are actuoriginal score with those of another melody ally from a waka poem, first penned in the composed by Hiromori Hayashi. This melHeian period (794-1185). Waka poems are ody was accepted non-rhyming with The poem ... referand remains today a set amount of sylences the Emperor’s reign as the solemn piece lables in each line, and the hope that it will of music we hear at similar in fashion last forever almost every major to a haiku. The event. The original poem, originally melody was not forgotten though; every spoken without any musical accompaniyear, at the Myōkōji shrine in Yokohama, ment, references the Emperor’s reign and the hope that it will last forever, making it a Fenton’s score is performed in his tribute. good choice for Japan’s national anthem at By 1893, “Kimiyago” was performed on the time. foreign missions as well as at public school Its musical composer, John William Fenton, ceremonies. After the end of WWII and Japan’s surrender, the state transferred was born in Kinsale, Ireland in 1828. During the Meiji Restoration (1868-89), Fenton from an absolute monarchy to a parliamen-


January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

Kimigayo 君が代 tary democracy. Since Emperor Hirohito was never actually dethroned, “Kimiyago” remained the de facto national anthem. “Kimiyago” was only recently officially recognized by the state of Japan. With the passing of the Act on National Flag and Anthem in 1999, “Kimiyago” was legally adopted as the anthem to be performed at all state functions as well as at public school events. This has caused some consternation in schools recently, as some teachers object to the anthem’s performance. The objection is rooted in the lyrics and history of the anthem. It contains strong links to Japan’s military past, as well as loyalty to the Emperor, calling for his reign to last until the “pebbles grow into boulders lush with moss.” Due to this, there are many who believe that a new anthem, one representing modern Japan, be created. For example, a few years ago, some teachers at a public school refused to stand for the anthem. Soon after, the school was reportedly bombarded with calls to remove those teachers from the staff. These teachers were then warned not to repeat this action. One of the teachers, Seigo Kawaguchi, took the warning he received to court. In late October, he appealed to the High Court in Osaka, under the claim that the warning restricted his freedom of thought. His appeal failed, and now he is nagazasshi | January/February 2013

awaiting an appeal to the Supreme Court. Kawaguchi’s case is just one of many, and it is an issue that is tied to a rising nationalist movement in Japan. Whether the anthem is retained, changed or removed from public schools is a matter for the government and the people to resolve. There is, however, no denying that “Kimiyago” is a great arrangement and even when its time is over, it will be remembered. n

Lyrics 君が代は Kimigayo wa
• May your reign

千代に八千代に Chiyo ni yachiyo ni • Continue for 1,000, 8,000 generations

さざれ石の Sazareishi no •
Until the pebbles

巌となりて Iwao to narite • Grow into boulders

苔の生すまで Koke no musu made • Lush with moss


My two yen... Recommended Reads

Bored under your kotatsu? Grab a book. The Nagazasshi staff has compiled some of our favorite books written or set in Japan 「告白」湊かなえ Confessions by Kanae Minato This who-dun-it novel centers around a middle school teacher set on finding two of her students and exacting revenge for the murder of her daughter. The book is written as a series of confessions by key characters. With each confession, one begins to question the value of Japan’s deeply rooted educational and parental system and how it affects today’s youth. Both a stunning thriller and social commentary, Confessions will keep you on edge until the explosive end.


「悪人」吉田修一 Villain by Shuichi Yoshida Written by a Nagasaki native, the novel starts with the brutal murder of a woman on a remote mountain road near Fukuoka. For those living in the Nagasaki area, the names of places will sound familiar as the author takes you from Nagasaki to Fukuoka, Saga, and even the Goto Islands. Yoshida brings up the issue of social class and the desire to conceal it, loneliness coupled with boredom, and the economic struggles of both the young and old. He leaves the readers to judge for themselves who the real villain is.

January/February 2013 | nagazasshi

My two yen... Recommended Reads

「夏の庭」湯本香樹実 The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto This light-hearted novel centers around three childhood friends. One of the boys tells his friends about his relative’s funeral. As the other two become increasingly interested in seeing a dead body, they contrive a plan to spy on a house in their neighborhood, inhabited by an old man who they believe will pass away soon. When they are found out, they unexpectedly befriend the grumpy old man. They forgo their summer cram classes and club activities in order to do his house and yard work, transforming the dilapidated residence into one that looks lived in. As the unlikely friendship grows, the boys learn more about themselves as well as the world of adults

nagazasshi | January/February 2013

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell If you are a history buff, this is the book for you. A historical fiction focusing on the Dutch traders in Nagasaki in 1799, the story follows the idealistic Jacob as he arrives in Nagasaki. With the job of auditing a shipping company’s finances, Jacob is thrust into navigating the political and social terrain in a tense Japan. He also falls in love with a Japanese midwife who is beyond his reach. Mitchell spent four years researching for this novel and has been praised for his dedication to historical accuracy, as well as literary merit. In 2011, it was nominated for several awards and even made The Times’ Best Books of the Year list.


My two yen... Recommended Reads

「沈黙」遠藤 周作 Silence by Shusaku Endo Taking place in 1638, shortly after the Shimabara Rebellion, Silence is a story for lovers of historical fiction. Christians in Japan during this period had to hide themselves from the Tokugawa Shogunate because to be caught meant pressure to apostatize by stepping on a fumie, an image depicting Christ. Those who refused would be tortured until either they renounced their faith or died. This sorrowful story follows the trials of Sebastião Rodrigues, a Portuguese Jesuit tasked with traveling to Nagasaki to assist the troubled church and to find the whereabouts of Cristóvão Ferreira, his former mentor who has committed apostasy. One cannot deny that Endo’s controversial and award-winning novel is captivating and thought provoking.


Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Rampo Edogawa This book presents nine exceptional, yet disturbing, short tales from the man considered to be the first true Japanese mystery writer. Each tale explores both public issues of national identity and social inequality, as well as the private, dark recesses of the human mind, where insanity, perversion, and obsession lie. While Edogawa, the pen name of Edgar Allen Poe-influenced Taro Hirai, originally wrote these tales in the 1920s-30s, they remain every bit as enthralling today.

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「潮騒」三島由紀夫 The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima Best described as gentle, this novel tells a simple love story with grace and masterful description. Taking place in a small fishing village, the story follows a poor fisherman and the daughter of the village’s richest man as they fight malicious rumors, neighbors and near-death experiences to be together. Beautifully translated into English, it can only be better in its original text. n

nagazasshi | January/February 2013


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March/April 2012 | │Special nagazasshi July/August nagazasshi Hungry Hombre

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Nagazasshi 5.4  

In this issue we begin a new series on Japanese performing arts, showcase surfing, get travel recommendations for Shimabara, and investigate...

Nagazasshi 5.4  

In this issue we begin a new series on Japanese performing arts, showcase surfing, get travel recommendations for Shimabara, and investigate...