Japanese fiction

All posts tagged Japanese fiction

Short Stories Challenge – Jamila by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan

Published April 15, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s Jamila all about?:

Remaining constant even as it fades in and out of view is the great Mount Fuji, one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. It serves as the anchor for these characters lives, and for Randy Taguchi’s Fujisan, an exploration of redemption, discovery, loss, and remembrance and the eternal bond with the mystical natural powers that connect us all. In Jamila, we learn about a young man who is beautiful on the outside but fears he is empty inside and an old woman who is using garbage to replace a hole in her heart.

What did I think?:

Jamila is the third story in this collection by Randy Taguchi, and yet again another example of truly beautiful writing in my opinion. Our narrator is a very attractive twenty-something man who has been pushed to achieve great things all his life by his parents but is uncomfortable with who he is inside. He gives up a menial job in a securities firm but his father manages to acquire him a post in the Office of Environmental Quality, expecting him to worm his way up to the top in no time. One of his duties as an environmental officer is to deal with a local “problem” in the form of an old woman who hoards trash. This has become an environmental issue as the trash is piling up from the house into the street, and has begun to smell awful, affecting the neighbours in the vicinity.

Our narrator is horrified at first when he sees the extent of the problem and when he is first introduced to the old woman he nicknames her “Jamila” in reference to a monster he remembers from a children’s TV show in his past. He begins to watch Jamila to try to understand more about her as he has been told that although the accumulated garbage poses a health hazard, they must have the old woman’s permission before they can remove it. He watches as every day she hobbles out to collect more rubbish and sorts through it, sometimes finding something to eat before adding it to the pile and crawling through the little tunnel she has made back into her house. After a while, our narrator seems to find a common ground with Jamila and is certain she is using the rubbish to fill a hole that he feels is also present in his own life.

Our narrator is also an intriguing character as we learn more about his childhood, his pushy parents and his relationships with women which often turn sour very quickly. He is not particularly a likeable character, indeed there are some parts of his life that are quite shocking to read but always in a way that made me turn the pages desperate to see how it was all resolved. And of course, the ever present Mount Fuji whose forests apparently also represent a dumping ground for the trash of Japan. Another beautiful and compelling story by Randy Taguchi that needs to be read and savoured – I’m actually quite sad that the next story in this collection is the final one, I’ve definitely found an author to look out for.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



The monster, Jamila from kids show Ultra Q

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Short Stories Challenge – The Blue Summit – Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan.

Published July 1, 2013 by bibliobeth


The Blue Summit – What’s it all about?:

Randy Taguchi is a popular Japanese author who has written fourteen novels, along with countless short stories and essays. This recent collection of stories revolves around Japan’s Mount Fuji, one of the three Holy Mountains in the country. The mountain becomes an anchor for each of the characters lives, and remains a steady, looming presence in each tale. Our first story – The Blue Summit involves a former cult member working part-time at a convenience store, who is struggling to adjust and understand life outside of the cult. After an attempted robbery at the store, he contemplates his early life in which he was a medical student compared to his current meanderings, and questions the meaning of what it is to be “alive.”

What did I think?:

I’m a big fan of Japanese fiction so I was looking forward to starting this collection. The Blue Summit is a quirky, thought-provoking story, with a philosophical former cult member as our protagonist. He is currently working part-time at a convenience store which he enjoys as it gives him time to reflect on the meaning of life. When confronted by a robber, he seems to re-assess everything anew, unsure of his place and purpose in the world. He undergoes dream-like sequences where he defends himself against the robber, or recalls past times under Mount Fuji in his cult days. Another important character in the story is a troubled young woman called Kozue – a serial self-harmer. Our protagonist feels called upon to protect and help her, and through these actions he seems to find some peace.

I was intrigued and at some points completely mystified by this story – it seemed to hop around a lot with dream sequences, and I found myself wondering which events happened and which were purely dreams or fantasies. This I think was a deliberate ploy by the author representing our characters confused and turbulent mood. The addition of Kozue was an excellent means of keeping the tale interesting, and I enjoyed the interaction and mystery between the two of them.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Vampires In The Lemon Grove, Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove.