An English mission to Japan arrives in 1613 with all the standard English commodities, including wool and cloth: which the English hope to trade for Japanese silver. But there’s a gift for the Shogun among them: a silver telescope.
A summer 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted thirty years of worsening climate impacts—and that nothing can be done to stop it. Heat waves. Droughts. Wildfires. Flooding. Given bleak environmental news, staggering global inequality (the world’s richest 1% hold more than 40% of the world’s wealth), a resurgent refugee crisis, and the growth of authoritarianism worldwide, young people could be forgiven for thinking they don’t have much to look forward to. “In this era,” author Takuji Ichikawa asks, “What should a novel look like?”
Not many novels open with the narrator peeing out the window. But Kazu, the protagonist of Sachiko Kashiwaba’s newly translated Temple Alley Summer, is an unapologetically average kid. His classmates nickname him “third” because he is third in his class, in sports, and in popularity. He’s just fine with that.
Kotaro Isaka’s thriller Bullet Train moves as fast as the train—the Shinkansen—it takes place on and is named after. Already destined to be a movie starring the not-very-Japanese Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock (one imagines some changes en route), Bullet Train, a guilty pleasure if there ever were one, is something of a cross between Murder on the Orient Express and Train to Busan.
Polly Barton is a Japanese-English translator with an extraordinary output, including three novel-length projects published in English translation in the last eighteen months. Fifty Sounds is her memoir, chronicling her year teaching English on Japan’s remote Sado Island and the way it changed the trajectory of her life.
If you are in Tokyo and you’re riding on the Yamanote Line, you are likely heading to one of the major shopping destinations on that line, such as Shibuya, Shinagawa, or Tokyo Station. If you are going to Tokyo Station, you will pass through Komagome, once a place in the country where people had villas with gardens. It was where the noblewoman Ogimachi Machiko (ca 1679-1724), second concubine to Lord Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu (1658-1714) composed her classic memoir, In the Shelter of the Pine, covering the years from 1690 to about 1710.
Hiroshi Hirabayashi, Japan’s former ambassador to India, views India as the next superpower, joining the United States, China, and Russia at the apex of world politics. In India: The Last Super Power, part study of India’s history, culture and domestic politics, part geopolitical analysis, and part memoir, he lays out the case.