Early in The Aosawa Murders, Riku Onda writes that “it’s impossible to ever really know the truth behind events,” setting the tone of the mystery surrounding a horrible mass murder in 1970s Japan in which seventeen people are poisoned by cyanide after drinking a toast with sake and soft drinks. What starts as a jovial birthday party for three generations of the Aosawa family ends in the family, their relatives, and friends dying in agony. The only survivor in the Aosawa family is Hisako, their blind teenage daughter.

Liam Wong’s debut collection of photography, the eponymously entitled TO:KY:OO, brings together several trends that someone more au courant with the cultural zeitgeist than I perhaps would have already been familiar with. I had, for example, to look up what “cyberpunk” actually meant and can’t myself say whether the photographs in this collection are “cyberpunk-inspired” or are instead influenced by other, more mainstream, traditions. I am perhaps on firmer ground saying that they are vibrant, pulsating and hypnotic.

Introduction to Zen Training, Omori Sogen, Sayama Daian & Michael Kangen (foreword), Trevor Leggett (intro)
Introduction to Zen Training, Omori Sogen, Sayama Daian & Michael Kangen (foreword), Trevor Leggett (intro) (Tuttle, February 2020)

An Introduction to Zen Training is a translation of the Sanzen Nyumon, a foundational text for beginning meditation students by Omori Sogen—one of the foremost Zen teachers of the 20th century.

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters, Suzanne Kamata, Tracy Bishop (illus)
Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters, Suzanne Kamata, Tracy Bishop (illus) (One Elm Books, March 2020)

Thirteen-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto spent the last three years living in Atlanta where he was the star of his middle-school baseball team—a slugger with pro potential, according to his coach. Now that his father’s work in the US has come to an end, he’s moved back to his hometown in rural Japan.

The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Sue DiCicco, Masahiro Sasaki Tuttle, (March 2020)
The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Sue DiCicco, Masahiro Sasaki (Tuttle, March 2020)

In this middle-reader book, author Sue DiCicco and Sadako’s older brother Masahiro tell her complete story in English for the first time—how Sadako’s courage throughout her illness inspired family and friends, and how she became a symbol of all people, especially children, who suffer from the impact of war.

Lew Paper’s new book In the Cauldron charts the diplomatic road to Pearl Harbor, mostly through the eyes of the then-US Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew. Paper portrays Grew as a voice crying in the wilderness, showing the way to peace when everyone around him in official circles in both Japan and the United States drifted towards war.

Art, Cult and Commerce: Japanese Cinema Since 2000, Mark Schilling, Tomoki Watanabe (illus) (Awai Books, November 2019)
Art, Cult and Commerce: Japanese Cinema Since 2000, Mark Schilling, Tomoki Watanabe (illus) (Awai Books, November 2019)

From popular genre films to cult avant-garde works, this book is an essential guide to Japan’s vibrant cinema culture. It collects two decades of the best of Mark Schilling’s film writing for Variety, Japan Times, and other publications.