Akira Mizubayashi’s Fractured Soul opens in Tokyo in 1938. Rei sits quietly to the side while his father Yu conducts rehearsal for a string quartet playing Franz Schubert’s “Rosamunde Quartet”. Yu plays first violin, accompanied by three exchange students from war-beleaguered China. When Yu realizes they’re about to receive an unexpected visit from Japan’s military police, he hides Rei in a Western-style wardrobe in a spare room. Rei listens as officers smash his father’s beloved instrument and then take Yu away, never to be seen again. A lone military officer discovers Rei’s hiding place, but keeps his secret.

Author Maki Kashimada became a member of the Japanese Orthodox Church when she was in high school. The Orthodox Church in Japan is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox Church within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, one of fifteen subdivisions within the Orthodox Church. There have been Orthodox Christians in Japan since the 1860s, but they have never been a large group. Today, the Ministry of Culture of Japan puts their number at less than 10,000 registered members in a country of more than 125 million people. (For comparison, there are about 430,000 Roman Catholics. All Christians sects combined make up between 1-2% of Japan’s population.)

The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in titles translated from Japanese into English. While many of these novels and short stories collections are by rising authors, publishers also present readers with classic works by authors already well-known outside of Japan. These include Osamu Dazai, long celebrated for his No Longer Human, first translated into English by Donald Keene in the 1950s. Dazai’s A New Hamlet was translated by Owen Cooney in 2016. No Longer Human was released in a new translation by Mark Gibeau as a Shameful Life in 2018. The short-story collection Early Light debuted in the fall of 2022. The Flowers of Buffoonery is the latest addition to his oeuvre in English.

Seishu Hase’s The Boy and the Dog opens with Kazumasa Nakagasi. He finds an emaciated dog outside a convenience store. The dog is wearing a tag engraved with his name, Tamon, short for Tamonten. Tamonten is one of four guardian deities of Buddha’s realm. The dog Tamon becomes a guardian for the people he encounters on his five-year journey to find a person he dearly loves.