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Reviews

Talking Architects

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This collection of interviews, artwork, and newly-translated essays by and about 12 diverse postwar Japanese architects provides a fascinating “oral history” of Japanese society during the 1960s and 1970s, a period when the nation’s attention shifted from rebuilding from the ashes of war to finding its place in the international community.

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Confronting Disaster

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In Ghosts of the Tsunami, Richard Lloyd Parry confronts us with the startling human reality of this astonishing disaster. Parry’s chief concern is with the harrowing events that transpired at Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki, a heartbreaking drama that is notorious in Japan but perhaps less well-known internationally.

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Painting in the Light of Two Suns

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The evolution of Teraoka’s oeuvre now can be explored in the monumental 400-page Floating Realities: The Art of Masami Teraoka, almost a catalogue raisonné. In addition to beautifully printed full color reproductions, the book includes a forward by Mike McGee.

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Words Necessary and Unnecessary

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Translating out of one’s original language into a second language is a risky endeavor. In the case of translator Goro Takano, with this exquisite and slightly quirky bilingual chapbook-object, he acquits himself well.

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For the love of neko

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The Neko Project is a book that pays homage to Japan’s unyielding love of cats through its thoughtful and expansive photography. It is the result of an open call to their network of Japanese photographers on the theme of cats and features all the projects that were submitted, alongside historical anecdotes and insightful commentary in both French and English.

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Tumbling Assumptions

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The author says she embarked on this year in Japan in order to undertake a spiritual practice of her own. She must occupy herself while her husband seeks Soto Zen priestly credentials by training in a nearby monastery, so she joins a pottery class as a deshi (disciple) of the elderly female teacher. But she cannot seem to make the dirt and water come together to make a smooth clay, either physically or metaphorically.

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Meiji Poor

Down and Out Poor Meiji Japan Book

Huffman focuses his inquiry on the very poorest of Japan’s urban poor—the hinmin, or paupers, who flooded into Tokyo at a rate of up to 1,000 people each week in the late 1800s and early 1900s, victims of government policies that pushed farm families to starvation and forced their sons and daughters to seek jobs in the swelling cities.

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Unstinting Courage

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In his views Lu Xun showed himself to be an unstinting supporter of modernity, a fearless enemy of atavism, and a savage critic of his country’s culture.

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Separately Ever After

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Throughout the novel, the writer introduces us to people from all corners of the world, who have walked through similar magical doors that lead them to other parts of the world. Although some of these people are peripheral to the plot, they throw light on the phenomenon of migration, helping us see how migration changes countries, cities, towns, neighbourhoods and people.

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The Manchurian Bodhisattva

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In 772 the Tang dynasty emperor Daizong decreed that, for the welfare of the empire, Manjusri should be worshipped in every Buddhist monastery in China. Each of the five peaks (or ‘terraces’) of Wutaishan became associated with a different manifestation of Manjusri; accounts of visionary encounters and apparitions abound.

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Records of a Travel-worn Notebook

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During his copious amount of travel, Rowe grew particularly interested in the storytellers he encountered, especially those who are able to embed us strongly in the soil of those places where their stories take root.

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Japan Dissents

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Andrews doesn’t paint radicals as innocent victims, however. He describes in great detail the violent, sometimes deadly infighting that tore apart the protest movement in the 1960s and 70s, and argues that this self-destructive behavior nudged the general population toward political apathy in the decades that followed.

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ToPoJo’s “Deep Beatitude”

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The whole matter of Beat Lit/Beat Culture’s engagement with Japan has been overdue for thoughtful attention for too long. With writing on Beat Generation personalities and their work at near-saturation point in English, Japan’s pivotal informative role in helping incubate Beat ethics, aesthetics, and insight practices especially has remained oddly elusive.

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The Allen Ginsberg of Japan

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Kazuko Shiraishi, in person, is similar to her poetry: vivacious, playful, intelligent, flirtatious and most important, loving. This year she turns 87, but still exhibits some of these characteristics, both in her personality and in her work.

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Before you go, be sure to check out our latest issue:

KJ 95: Wellbeing