A Few Hints About the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 Coming This June

Earlier this week Tony inquired as to when we might expect the next Japanese Literature Challenge. I only run the challenge from June until January because I feel it’s nice to take a break and build enthusiasm for beginning again. But, the minute he asked I felt my thoughts start whirling in preparation. I have built the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 review site, as yet undisclosed, but I will give you a hint about the button for this year. It is a piece of artwork from Aki Sogabe, who makes beautiful pictures with kiri-e, the art of paper cutting.

Aki Sogabe working on her art.
For now take a look at some of her pictures I especially like:


Cat Nap, Moon Has Risen, Sunset and Cormorants




The piece I have chosen comes from an illusturation she did in a children’s book, and it depicts one of my favorite themes: camping in the woods on a moonlit night. Taking an illustration from a children’s book made me think of creating more structure for our reading. Until now, I have left it very open: choose at least one piece of Japanese literature to read and review.
But, this year I am going to have a monthly theme. It is not a required theme, of course, but an optional umbrella under which you can organize your reading if you so choose. Why not begin June with reading Japanese children’s literature? It is a delightful entree into the genre, and might be just the kind of thing to spark the interest of someone hesitant to try Japanese literature. I set before you the following titles:
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say:  “A picture book masterpiece from Caldecott medal winner Allen Say…Lyrical, breathtaking, splendid—words used to describe Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey when it was first published. At once deeply personal yet expressing universally held emotions, this tale of one man’s love for two countries and his constant desire to be in both places captured readers’ attention and hearts.” ~Barnes and Noble
Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes: “Hiroshima-born Sadako is lively and athletic–the star of her school’s running team. And then the dizzy spells start. Soon gravely ill with leukemia, the “atom bomb disease,” Sadako faces her future with spirit and bravery. Recalling a Japanese legend, Sadako sets to work folding paper cranes. For the legend holds that if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again. Based on a true story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes celebrates the extraordinary courage that made one young woman a heroine in Japan.” ~goodreads
Crow Boy: “A shy mountain boy in Japan leaves his home at dawn and returns at sunset to go to the village school. Pictures and text of moving and harmonious simplicity”.  ~Saturday Review
These are three of my favorite Japanese children’s books, and only serve as a starting point should you wish to read in this category. For now, I hope to have whetted your appetite for Japanese literature and the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 to come. I promise to have exciting themes, occasional prizes, guest posts, and an enormous list of titles from which you can choose. Please consider joining us this June.
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32 thoughts on “A Few Hints About the Japanese Literature Challenge 7 Coming This June”

  1. Oh I LOVE this idea of themed reading months!!!! I always have problems for some reason completing this challenge. Which is ridiculous as I LOVE Japanese literature. What really makes me laugh is that I always manage to read some Japanese literaure at some point during the year but it usually ends up NOT during the challenge :p

    I absolutely LOVE that art too!! Can't wait to see what you've picked for the challenge button 🙂

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  2. Trust you, Chris, to be the first responder to my “hinting” post of what to expect in the JLC7. You were the very first friend to encourage me to begin the very fist challenge 7 years ago! Love your enthusiasm then and now, and I know what you mean about only reading when it's not in the timeframe. Some of us don't like being put in a box of any sort, especially an arbitrary set of months. 🙂

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  3. Angie, I wish I could have gone with you to that demonstration! I know origami quite well, but not kirigami. It is indeed a beautiful art form, but I am fond of all things Japanese anyway. Perhaps you'll think about reading with us this year? I hope so.

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  4. I love the hints you're giving us about the buttons! Grandfather's Journey is such a beautiful book. I'm looking forward to the start of this challenge.

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  5. Hi Meredith, I am back blogging 🙂 and I have some new Japanese books so I will be participating. I am presently reading ” Z ” the book about Zelda Fitzgerald. Very timely with ” THE GREAT GAZBY ” movie I absolutely want to see…can't wait.

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  6. I am definitely in! I have already read three, including one Ryu and one Haruki and I have so many waiting to be read, but I am not sure I will fit into one of the themes…

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  7. I read Grandfather's Journey every year to my class, especially when we come to the theme of immigration in Social Studies. But, as I'm sure you know, I don't have to be Japanese to feel the conflict the grandfather does of loving two places at once. Doesn't he represent the way many of us feel? At least he does for me. So glad you're going to join in with us, Vasilly, and thanks for liking the hints. 😉

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  8. Yay, Madeline. I've never been on goodreads for any length of time, and so I'm glad I'll find you via your blog once more. Zelda Fitzgerald has always intrigued me, probably more when I was a teenager than now when I discovered she sabotaged Scott's writing. I look forward to your thoughts on her biography, and I'm so eager to see the film remake!

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  9. Hooray, Ally! I have many, many to be read as well, so don't you worry about any threes. First of all, they're only a mere suggestion, secondly, I will make them broad. Can't wait to read Piercing which I believe you reviewed for the JLC6 last year and I immediately bought.

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  10. So excited for this! Love Aki Sogabe's work, and I'll definitely be taking part in the challenge 🙂
    I have yet to read Mishima and Oe… shocking right?

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  11. I'm glad that this challenge inspires you to find more authors and titles (as it does me)! And, it's not shocking that you have yet to read Mishima and Oe…there are so many famous authors I have yet to read myself. May we live long, with plenty of good eyesight!

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  12. This sounds so exciting. I'd love to read more Japanese literature – I'm ashamed to say I've only ever read Murakami! Children's literature seems like a great place to start.

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  13. Bellezza, you know I'm in 🙂 I can't wait to see what button you've created for this year! And, I like the idea about themes, although I'm not too sure if the books I want to read will fit the themes. Either way, I'm excited to get started on JLC7 – its my favorite challenge of the year!

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  14. I'm putting together a fabulous list of literature from which to choose, complete with links to the book's synopsis as well as the cover image. I hope that will be helpful, and enticing, when making your choice of what to read.

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  15. That's a great idea! Notwithstanding my own bias on the matter (I work for 2 Japan-related publishers, Stone Bridge Press and Chin Music Press), I'd love to see what works you find. Here are some of my, and my children's particular favorites;

    1. anything by Allen Say (though some have themes meant for older children)
    2. The Cat who Went to Heaven
    3. Tasty Baby Belly Buttons (a version of the Momotaro fairy tale)
    4. Wabi Sabi (by Mark Reibstein, perhaps more for adults, but gorgeous)
    5. A Rabbit's Eyes by Kenjiro Haitani. This one you may not have heard of, as it was only translated into English in 2005. It's a classic in Japan, about a new teacher and her students in a poor port of Japan. Reminds me somewhat of Jonathan Kozol

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  16. David, your list thrills me! I noticed Wabi Sabi when I was looking for an illustrator to use for this year's button. I'm crazy about Ed Young's work. It's hard to find good literature for children in this genre, at least ones that have been translated into English, so I'm so glad to have your suggestions. I remember reading The Cat Who Went to Heaven as a child, and I, too, love anything by Allen Say (especially The Tree of Cranes). I'm going to add your list to my list of suggested reading which will be revealed soon. Thank you so much.

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  17. My pleasure. Another suggestion for very young children is “My Friend Gorilla” by Atsuko Morozumi. Though the book takes place in Britain, the author/illustrator was born in Japan and moved to the UK (much like Kazuo Ishiguro). In a nutshell, it's about making friends with those who are different (in this case, a gorilla).

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  18. I just ordered Wabi Sabi, and I will certainly look into My Friend Gorilla, which seems appropriate not just for those of us who love the genre, but for my students in third grade as well.

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  19. Short stories just might be one of the monthly themes, Stu, so I hope you will join us! I'd love to have your input as you're one of my favorite sources for translated literature.

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  20. Don't be worried about any themes, Nadia, just read what suits you. I only am putting hem in for a bit of structure in case anyone feels like it. So glad you're excited, as am I, and I'm so honored it's your favorite challenge. Wow, that's really touching to me. xo

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  21. Gary, I couldn't stand it if you didn't join in and give us some insight into poetry. You know I'll make that a part of the challenge even though it isn't strictly literature.

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  22. Can't wait to see what you've put on your list, Tony! You always inspire me with what to read, such as The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories.

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