The toy walkie-talkie set Amiko receives on her tenth birthday, one that she bounces with excitement to use with her yet-to-be-born brother or sister, is never successfully played with; there always fails to be a coherent response from the other end. Through flashbacks and snappy dialogue, Natsuko Imamura’s novella This is Amiko, Do You Copy? conveys the significance of communication in the building and breaking down of relationships. Adapted into a Japanese film in 2022 and now translated by Hitomi Yoshio, Imamura’s short yet engaging narrative, covering just over 120 pages, follows its protagonist Amiko from age ten through fifteen.
Earlier this month, Toho Studios released “Godzilla Minus One”—the 37th film in the now almost seven-decade-old franchise. Godzilla has gone through many phases over the past 70 years: symbol of Japan’s nuclear fears, cuddly defender of humanity, Japanese cultural icon and, now, the centerpiece of another Hollywood cinematic universe.
Yu Miri in her novel The End of August tells an extraordinary tale: the saga of her Korean family and the story of their nation. Her story spans space and time, giving voice to both the living and the dead. It is a tale of Korea, from the brief, failed attempt to stand at the end of the 19th century as an empire against Imperial Japan, through the colonial period that ended with Japan’s surrender in the Second World War in 1945, to the postcolonial period that came to a close at the end of the 1970s. Settings range from her ancestral village in colonial Korea to Japan’s wartime continental empire in Manchuria and occupied China to Japan. Characters speak Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, some of them switching from one language to another as circumstances demand.
With a swift rattle on the computer keyboard and a bonus gift made out of a ball of wool, an extraordinary librarian gives book recommendations that guide five individuals wandering through life to suitable paths. Michiko Aoyama’s What You Are Looking For Is in the Library, shortlisted for the Japan Booksellers’ Award in 2021 and newly translated by Alison Watts, presents the loosely intertwined lives of Tomoka, Ryo, Natsumi, Hiroya and Masao—all spontaneous visitors of the Hatori Community House library and its librarian, Ms Komachi.
Hiro Arikawa came to international attention when The Travelling Cat Chronicles became a bestseller in many languages, not least English. The story of a man named Satoru and his cat Nana who go on an extensive journey to visit Satoru’s friends won over readers in Japan and around the world, especially those who appreciate the special bond between humans and cats. Both characters return in a couple of stories in Arikawa’s new collection, The Goodbye Cat, translated by Philip Gabriel.
The giant reptile Godzilla has spawned a franchise of 38 films (and counting) and even has his own official website. But for all the fun of a rampaging 50m monster (or is he 120m?—he has grown along with Tokyo’s skyline), it’s easy to miss his origins as a powerful metaphor for the consequences of nuclear warfare. Shigeru Kayama’s novellas Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again in Jeffrey Angles’s new translation restore Godzilla’s metaphorical roots.
Hiromi Kawakami is one of the best-known Japanese writers available in English translation today. Her novels like Strange Weather in Tokyo are beloved by many English-language readers. But her most recently translated work, the short story collection Dragon Palace, is something very different.