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Japan Stories それぞれの日本

A beautifully written patchwork of stories of contemporary Japan each of which focuses on and mainly revolves around one person with associated minor characters who, though obviously less important than the main character, are still intimately linked to each of the stories.

Written originally in English there is a resultant, subtle, nuance that means the syntax has an immediacy for native English readers that feels sometimes lacking in English translations from stories originally written in Japanese. A few of the stories have surreal feel to them in a similar vein to that of ‘Things Remembered and Things Forgotten’ by Kyōko Nakajima but on the whole they all read very easily, the characters and the stories eminently relatable to the contemporary world, especially so for those readers with experience of contemporary Japan and the lives of modern Japanese. And though it’s said that foreigners will never understand the Japanese these stories bring to life what seems like the universality of the shared human experience in a way that seems to both open a window on the Japanese psyche and how Japanese ‘ordinariness’, rather than the highbrow, transcends national and cultural boundaries.

For some who have a more vested interest in Japan and have the benefit of either having lived there or visited often a few of the stories can trigger associations with places and situations perhaps less well known. One story is very much like a fictional account of the artist Tsukumi Ayano’s project repopulating a tiny de-populated Nagoro village on the island of Shikoku with knitted mannequins, whilst another potentially recalls the strange tiny museum which was dedicated to ‘ukiyoe’ (woodblock prints) and was located at the southern end of Kenninji Temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto (now sadly permanently closed).

The World’s Small Ukiyoe Museum, Higashiyama © T Skingle

There are stories which because of their subject matter raise their prominence such as, ‘I am not David Bowie’, which examines one man’s obsession with the singer, and an homage to Yayoi Kusama, but this collection is so much more than that. With stories ranging in length from a couple to a dozen or so pages this collection is fun, thought provoking, engaging beautifully written, and equally beautifully illustrated; a book to be treasured and savoured and returned to time and time again.

Jayne Joso’s ‘Japan Stories’ reading at Herne Hill, August 2021 © T Skingle

The book was supported by Arts Council England and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation


Jayne Joso is a writer and artist who has lived and worked in Japan, China, Kenya and the UK. She is the author of four novels and most recently a book of short fiction, JAPAN STORIES that explores contemporary Japanese lives…

Source: Jayne Joso website: www.jaynejoso.uk


Japan Stories それぞれの日本

Written by Jayne Joso published by Seren

ISBN-10: ‎ 1781725896

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1781725894

Illustrated by manga artist NAMIKO

Reviewer Profile:

Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.

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