January 2021 Wrap-Up – January in Japan

Well, it seems to have flown by, but we’ve reached the end of January, and it’s been a fairly productive start to the year on the blog.  The first week was spent wrapping up last year, with the usual awards post, a round-up of what you all liked and my now-traditional state of the blog address, where I tried my best to put a positive spin on things in this rather gloomy time.

Of course, the rest of the month has been devoted to books, with the year once again ushered in by my January in Japan reading.  This year there’s been a fair amount of interest from others in the online community (especially on Twitter, with the #JanuaryInJapan hashtag), and it’s been great fun discussing the books I read and reviewed as well as hearing of some more intriguing-sounding works.  Of course, there’s no need to stop just because January’s over, especially with Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 14 running until March 🙂

In addition to rehoming some pieces I had published elsewhere, looking at the translations (and translators) of Natsume Sōseki, and recommending some excellent Japanese stories (Part One & Part Two), I eventually managed to knock up eleven reviews.  I also reread five Japanese books, namely:

Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai
Silence by Shūsaku Endō
Kusamakura by Natsume Sōseki
The Name of the Flower by Kuniko Mukoda
Ukigumo (The Drifting Cloud) by Shimei Futabatei

All in all, it’s been a great start to the reading year, and you can see links to the new reviews below…

…once we’ve kicked off the year’s number-crunching 😉

Total Books Read: 15
Year-to-Date: 15

New: 12
Rereads: 3

From the Shelves: 6
Review Copies: 8
From the Library: 1
On the Kindle: 2 (2 review copies)

Novels: 9
Novellas: 0
Short Stories: 3
Non-Fiction: 3

Non-English Language: 13
(12 Japanese, Danish)
In Original Language: 0

Books Reviewed in January were:

1) First Snow on Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata
2) The Doctor’s Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi
3) The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matuso Bashō
4) Astral Season, Beastly Season by Tahi Saihate
5) The Nobility of Failure by Ivan Morris
6) The Frolic of the Beasts by Yukio Mishima
7) The Passenger: Japan
8) Kiku’s Prayer by Shūsaku Endō
9) Gold Mask by Edogawa Rampo
10) Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse
11) Downfall and Other Stories / Days & Nights by Fumiko Hayashi

Tony’s Turkey for January is: Nothing

January tends to be a lean month for turkeys, and even if Mishima’s late novel isn’t up there with the best of his books, it would be harsh to label it a complete failure.  Let’s see what February brings…

Tony’s Recommendation for January is:
Ivan Morris’ The Nobility of Failure

There were a few contenders this month, with Endō’s return to Nagasaki and Ariyoshi’s excellent look at a woman in history both coming close.  However, The Nobility of Failure is a staple of university courses with good reason, a wonderful journey through Japanese history in an attempt to understand why the country can’t help but love a good loser.

As is usually the case, after a month spent on my Japanese books, the review copies have started to mount up, so February will mostly be spent on taking care of the most pressing (and interesting) of those.  However, look out for a couple of different posts, too.  There’ll be another old review finally finding its way back to the blog as well as a surprise for those of you with a liking for classic German literature – see you next month 😉

6 thoughts on “January 2021 Wrap-Up – January in Japan

  1. Looks like I need to read The Nobility of Failure to really understand Japanese culture, don’t you think?
    Kusamakura is on my TBR for March, with 2 other books by Soseki. This month, I focus on Tanizaki.
    By the way, your link here to ‘”looking at the translations (and translators) of Natsume Sōseki,” doesn’t seem to work, but of course I found your post.
    My recap is here https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/02/01/2021-january-wrap-up/


    1. Emma – Thanks for the heads-up – should be fixed now (not sure how that happened…). Tanizaki’s great, and I had my own month of focusing on his work a while back 🙂


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