Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And We're Off!

First, we must determine a winner for the treats in Prize Package One.

The names of all the participants are written on a strip of paper.
The strips are subsequently folded into equal sized pieces. (I don't teach third grade for nothing!)

The winner is Trish of Trish's Reading Nook! Congratulations, Trish!

I have several more prizes to be given away during the challenge: music, books, origami, things to delight and amaze so don't be sad if you didn't win today.

Of course, today marks the beginning of the Japanese Literature Challenge 2. I have yet to determine exactly which books I'll be reading, but I'm certain it will be more than three. I'm also certain that we are going to have a wonderful adventure together.

Thanks for joining.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

I purposely put off picking a book up from the library before today because I was a afraid I wouldn't be able to resist jumping in and reading early..ha ha.
My first choice for my JLC2 is...drum roll please....Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto! It is a collection of six short stories, published originally in 1993, with English version being published in 1995. I thought reading a few short stories might ease me into the Japanese genre. Also, although I saw Yoshimoto mentioned in the suggested reading lists, I actually 'found' her myself while browsing the shelves at the library for Japanese authors.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

East Meets West on A Saturday Night

Last night I went to a koto concert at the Morton Arboretum. There we listened to koto music for two and half hours, an instrument I knew next to nothing about. The koto is a 13-stringed zither which was introduced to Japan from China in the 7th century. It was very popular among the merchant classes of the Edo period (1600-1867).

We were told that the koto resembles an imaginary dragon with the coils of string at one end being his tail, and the flat face at the other end being his head. It is made of paulownia wood ("kiri" in Japanese), and the bridges (looking like white teeth to me) can be moved according to the tuning required for the piece being played.

The man is Curtis Patterson, born and raised in my home town, who moved to Japan in 1986 to study koto.

The woman is Ryuko Mizutani, a graduate of the NHK Japanese national broadcasting company's school for traditional Japanese music. She appears on a number of recordings, including her solo album "Vista" which I bought to give away as one of the prizes for this challenge.

If you have a chance to listen to koto music, perhaps while you're reading, I would strongly encourage it for a beautiful environment.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Interesting Booklists

Sam Houston, (Book Chase) wrote a post the other day about the "Top 10" booklists published by The Guardian. If you haven't completed your list of books to read for Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge, or are just curious to see which books on or about Japan might be on these lists, click on the links below:

Top 10 Books Set in Japan

Top 10 Asian Crime Fiction (there are at least 4 Japanese authors listed)

Top 10 Japanese Novels

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Prize Package One

This package of treats will be given away July 30 to one of the participants. Thanks for joining!

(p.s. If you joined the challenge, you should be listed under "Participants." If you want to write posts for the review site please send me your email address at so that I can invite you to be a blog contributor.)

Faithful Elephants

Some of the most powerful anti-war messages in the world come from Japanese literature, and from stories written for young people about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- books such as Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Hiroshima No Pika, and Shin's Tricycle.

I reread this little book (another very powerful plea for No More Wars!) the other day as I was organizing some materials from a recent summer class for teachers, and decided to share some of this information before we all begin our reading for Bellezza's upcoming Japanese Literature Challenge.

Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People and War, by Yukio Tsuchiya, is a heartbreaking story. It's in picturebook format, with beautiful watercolor illustrations, and is written in simple language for young people. However, the subject matter is powerfully disturbing, and it would be important for an adult discuss these grim realities of war with the young people reading it.

It is a powerful and painful introduction to the horrors of war, in particular the horror of the deaths of the zoo animals at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo during WWII. Most of the animals were euthanized during the bombing of Tokyo. Their attempts to euthanize the three performing elephants, however, failed. The elephants were too smart and wouldn't eat the poisoned food, and their skin was too tough for the lethal injections, so their deaths were slow and grim.

Of all the anti-war books I've read, this is one of the most powerful and haunting.

From Chieko Akiyama (Radio and Television commentator and critic, Tokyo, 1988):
Building a world without wars has been the greatest human ideal throughout history. Unfortunately, it has never been accomplished.

Politicians, diplomats, and military men possess the keys to achieving peace. The responsibility should not, however, be left entirely to them when the threat of nuclear war is as great as it is today.

I believe it is absolutely necessary for each human being to work toward the prevention of war and establishment of peace. The power of the individual is small, yet we believe in the strength of the collective human energy, just as we know a drop of water is the source of a great river.

For the past 22 years, one of the things I have done is to read on television and radio, and to include in my lectures, the story of the Faithful Elephants, written thirty-seven years ago by Yukio Tsuchiya.

During the last stage of World War II, Tokyo was often attacked from the air. At the city zoo, the keepers, with tears in their eyes, had to kill many of the animals for fear that they would run amuck in the town if the zoo was bombed directly. Faithful Elephants describes how three elephants died at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo at that time.

My act of reading this story seems trivial. However, twenty-two years of tenacious and continuing sowing of the seeds of peace and the prevention of war are now bearing fruit. Strongholds of peace have been built in the hearts of adults and children when they realize the sorrow, misery, horror, and foolishness of war.

The biggest gift adults can give children is to make public the complete history of and the different viewpoints about war, and to help them consider how we can realize the human ideal.

I hope this book will be read throughout the world and that the seeds of peace and war prevention will be sown. I hope that those seeds will soon bud, bloom and bear fine fruit.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are You Interested in Writing Haiku?

A comment, left on Dolce Bellezza, leads me to make this announcement about a blog called One Single Impression.

One Single Impression is a community of poets writing and sharing haiku and other poetic forms. Each week we will offer up a new prompt that we hope will inspire your writing. We invite participants to share ideas for prompts, too.

It sounds exciting to me; I may give the writing of poetry a try.
But, for those of you who are already outstanding poets (California Teacher Guy), I encourage you to visit this sight ASAP.

Reading Japan

I really enjoyed the first Japanese Literature Challenge and I'm trying to read more Japanese literature as a long-term personal project so of course I wouldn't miss round 2! Thanks Bellezza!
This may be a bit presumptuous, but if anyone is looking for suggestions on what to read for the challenge, here is a link to books, by Japanese authors or by non-Japanese authors but about or set in Japan, that I've read since starting my blog 2 years ago, and here is a link to the books that are currently languishing in my TBR piles. Of course there are plenty more but it's a starting point. If you've already read anything on my either list, I'd love to hear what you thought of it. And I'm looking forward to hearing about and discovering more books during the challenge.
Happy reading!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Trip to the Library

So I go to the library this morning and begin looking for the Japanese authors on my list. I found about half of the ones I had listed, and read the synopses on the book flaps or covers of many of the author's books. I ended up not taking any thing out yet; I found at least three potentials, but still want to explore all my options. Who knows, I may read even more than 3. This challenge is proving to be veerrry interesting and I haven't even read a single book yet.
I had a blast! That is, I was having a blast until I got a hormonal/overheated/overexcited flash ( blast is good; flash is not )which resulted in an aura in my eye which signals Danger! Danger!* migraine coming..take cover! Oh, great; in the middle of the library!!!??? I got out of there, and with the help of caffeine and Tylenol I was able to nip it in the bud, and disaster was averted.

* or in keeping with the spirit of the challenge, perhaps I should say Tora! Tora! Tora!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Hi, Caitlin here to say hello, and that I'm hot on the trail of some 'good reads' for the JLC2. I am presently exploring my options; not in any rush since we have a while to complete the assignment. I posted a little something on my regular blog about my struggle today also.
Now let me ask a question. Does the author need to be Japanese, or can the books just be themed around/about Japan? Whichever, there are plenty to choose from. I've just never been looking for them before!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Farewell to Manzanar

Recently I spent several hours at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, where over 10,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. The site is now managed by the U.S. National Park Service. In an isolated area at the far western side of the center stands an obelisk, marking the burial places of several internees:


Words I cannot read
Commemorate the dead
At the Manzanar camp.

© 2008 by CaliforniaTeacherGuy

My senryu came closer to the truth than I knew when I wrote it. Just yesterday I was reading Farewell to Manzanar, and stumbled upon this paragraph:

Near [the obelisk] a dozen graves were outlined in the sand with small stones, and a barbed-wire fence surrounded them to keep back the cattle and the tumbleweed. The black Japanese script cut into the white face of the obelisk read simply, “A Memorial to the Dead.”

Farewell to Manzanar is itself a poignant memorial to both the living and the dead, who endured the hardships and indignities of internment simply because of their Japanese ancestry.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Welcome to the second Japanese Literature Challenge!

Please feel free to write a post that:

  • reviews a book you've read, or
  • poses a question you have, or
  • reflects a thought you're pondering, or
  • links to a review in your own blog.

I greatly anticipate sharing what we discover as we start to uncover the world of Japanese Literature.