[NOVEL] THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES – KOBO ABE

Summary: After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.

“Being free always involves being lonely.”

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[NOVEL] KOKORO – NATSUME SOSEKI

Summary: Kokoro—meaning “heart”—is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man Watashi (“I” in Japanese) and an enigmatic elder whom he calls “Sensei.” Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student’s struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

“You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves.”

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[NOVEL] TOTTO-CHAN: THE LITTLE GIRL BY THE WINDOW – TETSUKO KUROYANAGI

Summary: This engaging series of childhood recollections tells about an ideal school in Tokyo during World War II that combined learning with fun, freedom, and love. This unusual school had old railroad cars for classrooms, and it was run by an extraordinary man–its founder and headmaster, Sosaku Kobayashi – who was a firm believer in freedom of expression and activity.

Down through the ages and in the whole world, Watt and Newton cannot have been the only ones to notice the steam from a boiling kettle or observe an apple fall.

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[NOVEL] JOURNEY UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN – KEIGO HIGASHINO

Summary: When a man is found murdered in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973, unflappable detective Sasagaki is assigned to the case. He begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are inextricably linked to the crime; the dark, taciturn son of the victim Ryojin Kirihara and the unexpectedly captivating daughter Yukiho Nishimoto of the main suspect. Over the next twenty years we follow their lives as Sasagaki pursues the case – which remains unsolved – to the point of obsession.

“If a wild cat is adopted when she has grown up a little, although she is friendly, she never really lets her guard down.”

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[NOVEL] BLUE MOSHIKUWA BLUE – FUMIO YAMAMOTO

Summary: Souko at the age of 23 decided to get married with the amiable and liberal Sasaki who works for an advertising company, instead of the hard-working and loyal cook Kawami. Years later, Sasaki Souko meets her other self: Kawami Souko, the life that she gave up when she was young, is arm in arm with her former lover Kawami. Longing for a change, the two exchange lives for one month. In the search for new experience and meaning of life, Sasaki Souko has greatly disrupted the balance of her fate…

Her mouth tastes unpleasantly acrid and bitter. It is the taste of freedom she ever wished for.

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[NOVEL] GROTESQUE – NATSUO KIRINO

Summary: [Grotesque portraits] the malice and deceit that surround the female students of an elite all girls high school. ‘Here we have class based society in all its repugnant glory.’ [It tells the story of] the diabolically beautiful and nymphomaniac Yuriko and the isolated and aggressively competitive ‘outsider’ Kazue. Yuriko’s sister ‘Watashi’ (meaning ‘I’ – unnamed first narrator) feels deep resentment for the two, and tries her best to ruin them both. A monumental work of Kirino, which with overpowering literary style portraits the life of modern women (Øyvor Nybor’s translation of Grotesque’s summary Japanese version).

A woman who does not know herself has no choice other than to live with other people’s evaluations. But no one can adapt perfectly to public opinion. And herein lies the source of their destruction.

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[LIGHT NOVEL SERIES] BUNGAKU SHOUJO – NOMURA MIZUKI

Summary: Bungaku Shoujo series centers around Konoha Inoue, one of two members of his high school’s literature club, which he joined shortly after entering school, though the story begins when Konoha is already in his second year. The other member and president of the club is Tohko Amano, a third-year girl who loves literature. Tohko eats stories by consuming the paper they are printed on, and Tohko often asks Konoha to write her short stories as “snacks”.

“Why are you eating the parts that I balled up and threw away?”

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[NOVEL] TOKYO FIANCÉE – AMÉLIE NOTHOMB

Summary: Amélie is a young language teacher living in Tokyo. When she succumbs to the attentions of her one and only student – the shy, wealthy, *may I also add “handsome”* and oh-so-Japanese Rinri – the lovers-to-be find themselves swept along by an affair that is as unusual as it is tender.

Why must pleasure always have a price? And why must one always pay for sensual delight with the loss of original lightness?

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