Tadoku Tuesday: What I’m reading in October 2017

I have quite a lot of novels and manga to read, but remembering where I am with each one is tricky. I’m going to write a post every month about what I’m reading, as I always have several books on the go at the same time and read little bits as and when I can – hopefully, this will encourage me to actually get to the end of the books I’m reading! You might find something to try reading yourself.

There are 3 things (2 novels, 1 manga) that I am currently reading:

「フリーター、 家を買う。」 by 有川浩

This novel is about a young man called Seiji who has been flitting from job to job since he graduated from uni and left his first job after 3 months. When his mother is diagnosed with depression, he decides to try and turn his life around with the aim of buying a house that his mother can live in away from the stressors contributing to his mother’s condition. I’m not even halfway through this so far but I’m really enjoying it. There are quite a lot of words that I could look up (I am taking the tadoku approach) but for the most part, I can make sense of the text, helped by the fact that there is a fair amount of dialogue. I enjoy reading coming of age stories and this sort of falls into this category. It also covers a lot of interesting topics such as depression, Japanese company culture and ‘freeters’ (people who make a living from a series of part-time jobs).

If I had to guess the language level of this, I would put this as JLPT N2 level in terms of grammar and maybe a bit higher in terms of kanji used. I am aware there is a drama adaptation starring one of the members of Arashi, but I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

「1リットルの涙」 by 木藤亜也

This is the true story of Aya Kito, who was diagnosed with a degenerative disease at the age of 15. She kept a diary and used this to document her personal experiences as long as she could and later died at age 25. Her diary was then published as a book, which also was adapted into a film as well as a drama starring Erika Sawajiri.

This is not the easiest read because of the subject matter, but it is a very compelling story. Aya goes through a variety of emotions as she realises the growing impact of her condition. I am about a third of the way through the book so far, but what I am struck by is how she shows a great deal of emotional strength despite what is happening to her at such a young age (where I am currently she is still only 15/16 years old).

In terms of language level, I guess this book is probably JLPT N3 level. There is a film as well as a drama version starring Erika Sawajiri.

「夢色パティシエール」 by 松本夏実

With the other 2 books above on the go, I needed something a bit more lighthearted to read. 14-year-old Ichigo Amano gains a place at the prestigious St Marie Academy on the merit of her extraordinary palette but has no experience in baking. Will she manage to catch up with her classmates and realise her dream of becoming a patisserie chef?

I will most likely do a separate post on this manga as I have found it a pretty easy read so far and has furigana over the kanji, which I think makes it readable for JLPT N4 learners. There is an anime version that can be found on Youtube which will give you an idea of what to expect, but I would say it is pretty typical of shoujo manga.

What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments 🙂

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Book review: Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, Shelley Rigger (2013)

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Prior to reading this book, I didn’t know much about Taiwan except a) lots of electronic items are made there b) it was previously a colony of Japan.  My interest in Taiwan was heightened recently upon the recent election of Tsai Ing Wen, partly due to her status as the first woman to do so – I didn’t really understand why this event was seen as controversial.

Fortunately this book provides a very comprehensive introduction to Taiwan’s social, political and economic history, as well as putting together interesting theories as to how Taiwan might be able to move forward vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Whilst the author explains everything from an impartial perspective, her passion for the country and belief in its future is evident throughout.

I felt that the book did a particularly good job on fleshing out how the different ethnic groups have come to coexist and how this has informed the people’s perceptions on what it is to be Taiwanese.  It also highlighted the importance of democracy to the country, as well as how this is a key issue of contention with the PRC.  The section that I found the most interesting was the section on the Taiwanese economy; it is impressive how Taiwan was able to leverage its economic power to build cross-strait relations, despite the volatile nature of political relations. This use of economic power to build relations does draw some parallels with Japan, the key difference between the two nations being that Taiwan was the source of wartime aggression whereas Japan was the perpetrator. As a previous scholar of Japan, I feel the book has helped to inform my knowledge of Taiwan, China and wider regional relations. Similarly, it has reinforced the strategic relevance of states such as Taiwan and Japan to the US in terms of East Asia relations.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in Taiwan’s development and its relationship with the PRC in particular.

P.S You can hear the author Shelly Rigger discuss her book here, worth a watch!