For a few years now I have nurtured an interest in Japan and its culture. Lately I have been searching far and wide for English translations of Japanese fiction, and often the Japan Times will turn me on to a potential choice.
Recently I have read Seicho Matsumoto's Inspector Imanishi Investigates. A reviewer commented, "A superb thriller... tantalizing." Ah, that description turned out to be quite accurate!
Although set in the late 1950's, the characteristics that continue to define Japan are ever present in the novel. Inspector Imanishi is a very likeable protagonist, and I was so taken by the book I searched for other Matsumoto titles, yet only three or so books have been translated into English. I did purchase a collection of Matsumoto's stories, The Voice and Other Stories, which I am clutching dearly for my upcoming flight to Japan.
Fires on the Plain, written by Shohei Ooka, was first published in 1951. The story is about a soldier's experience during World War II as he struggles to survive on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. It is a moving treatise on the brutality and senselessness of war. A film adaptation of the book was made in 1959, and it may be viewed on YouTube. One evening I watched the movie on my iphone while under the kakebuton. Even on the tiny screen I felt the impact of the film.
Then there is Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa. I loved this book, a monumental work of nearly 1000 pages. This historical novel tells the saga of the Warring States, with an emphasis on Toyotomi Hideyoshi, hence the title, Taiko. The book will endow you with a working knowledge of that turbulent era in Japan's history. It can make visiting the historical sights in Japan a much richer experience.
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