Before what we know as manga, there was kamishibai. Literally translated as “paper play” (紙芝居) kamishibai was a popular form of entertainment in Japan that is virtually unknown in the West. Luckily, Eric Nash has compiled one of the most comprehensible English-language books about this unique form of Japanese storytelling in Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater.
The 1980s was a period of rapid change and economic growth for China. In 1979, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping opened special economic zones in southern China, experimenting with market capitalism. Dori Jones Yang, a reporter for BusinessWeek, saw China’s rise in the 1980s and has recorded it for her memoir When The Red Gates Opened.
The Girl Who Played Go is a historical novel by Chinese author Shan Sa, originally published in French, and translated into English. With that many international filters, it is surprising how well it evokes the Chinese mindset, but also, the Japanese side as well.
Osprey Publishing has become synonymous (in my mind at least) for quality research into military history of all time periods, throughout the world. It should come as no surprise that I immediately picked up Osprey’s latest title Japanese Armies 1868 – 1877 by Gabriele Esposito and illustrated by Giuseppe Rave, which covers the Boshin War and Satsuma Rebellion.
October 1937. Surrounded by an enormous Japanese Army, Chinese soldiers hunker down for a siege. Their fortress is the Sihang Warehouse, tall and sturdy, standing on the banks of Soochow Creek. For seven days, they beat off numerous attempts to storm their position. Historian Stephen Robinson recreates and documents these events in Eight Hundred Heroes.
The Silent Dead is a Japanese crime novel by Tetsuya Honda and the first installment of the Reiko Himekawa series. It offers a glimpse into Japanese law enforcement, which is a huge blind spot to many Westerners. It also shines a light on corruption, sexism, and perversion that festers underneath the surface of Japanese culture, which is a blind spot to many Japanese themselves.
The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura is a crime thriller set in modern-day Japan about an experienced pickpocket named Nishimura as he prowls the crowded streets of Tokyo, looking for his next mark. He floats through the metropolis, taking what he wants, as if in an ethereal, dreamlike state, unable to wake up.
Shanghai between the world wars is a fascination of Westerns, the Chinese themselves, but also the Japanese. The zeitgeist of 1920s Shanghai is reflected in the appropriately named Shanghai by Riichi Yokomitsu.
[Read more…] about Shanghai by Riichi Yokomitsu – a Japanese Novel of Interwar Shanghai
Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda is a shonen manga series that covers a wide range of genres – adventure, war, political intrigue, comedy, and thrillers. Set shortly after the Russo-Japanese War (1904 – 1905) it follows Saichi Sugimoto, a veteran of the conflict, and his quest for a legendary stash of gold hidden in Hokkaido, the most northern of Japan’s main islands. While fighting at the vicious Battle of Port Arthur, he earned the nickname “Immortal Sugimoto,” given his almost legendary ability to avoid death, which he keeps throughout the remainder of this series.
The Russo-Japanese War is a fascinating conflict that, arguably, was one of the most important events in the 20th century. It contributed to the decline of the Russian Empire, paving the way for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and gave rise to the Japanese Empire, paving the way to Pearl Harbor. And yet, this war is often overlooked in the West, leading to a dearth of first-hand English language accounts. Thankfully, Human Bullets (1906) by Tadayoshi Sakurai survives to fill that void.