Recommended Reading List
Canadians in Japan
Download list
Please login or register to use this feature.

Canadians in Japan

By kerryclare
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
tagged: japan
Canadian stories set in Japan.
Almost Japanese

Almost Japanese

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary

In Sarah Sheard's celebrated novel Almost Japanese, a young girl's obsession with a famous Japanese musician blossoms into personal transformation. In spare, lyrical prose, Sheard documents Emma's discovery of her new next door neighbour, a dazzling Japanese symphony conductor. Things Japanese soon begin to transform Emma's world. Several years later, she must journey to Japan on a private pilgrimage to connect to the source of her obsession.

More Info
Flight Paths of the Emperor

Flight Paths of the Emperor

edition:Paperback
tagged :

Set mainly in the psychologically insulated communities of expatriate teachers in Osaka, Japan, these fourteen stories seek to understand issues of national or personal honour, and the problematic importance of family. Heighton also examines subtly related themes, like death, age, marriage, war and poetry, while hinting at autobiography throughout. Sophisticated, passionate and elegantly told, this collection, first published in 1992, was nominated for the 1992 Ontario Trillium Book Award and br …

More Info
Lost Girls and Love Hotels

Lost Girls and Love Hotels

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Margaret is doing everything in her power to forget home. And Tokyo’s exotic nightlife—teeming with drink, drugs, and three-hour love hotels—enables her to keep her demons at bay. Working as an English specialist at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute by day, and losing herself in a sex- and drug-addled oblivion by night, Margaret represses memories of her painful childhood in Canada and her older brother Frank’s descent into madness.

But Margaret’s deliberate nihilism is thrown off …

More Info
Tokyo, My Everest

Tokyo, My Everest

A Canadian Woman in Japan
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

Co-winner of the Canada-Japan Literary Awards 1997
By either folly or design, Gabrielle Bauer finds herself on a plane bound for Tokyo, leaving her career, home, and husband behind.

More Info
Hitching Rides with Buddha

Hitching Rides with Buddha

Travels in Search of Japan
edition:Paperback

Originally published as Hokkaido Highway Blues, with limited distribution in Canada, Will Ferguson’s classic book about Japan, for all fans of the bestselling Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw.

With the same fervour they have for outlandish game shows and tiny gadgets, the Japanese go nuts each spring when the cherry blossoms sweep from island to island towards the country’s northerly tip. Will Ferguson was celebrating the event in the standard fashion. And after way too much sake he announced he wo …

More Info
Excerpt

Note on the Canadian Edition

This book was published in the US and the UK under the title Hokkaido Highway Blues. An abridged British pocketbook version was also released. The full version has been restored for the Canadian edition, along with the title I always wanted: Hitching Rides with Buddha. (That title was nixed by the American publisher on the complaint that it sounded too religious. Sigh.) This is the first time this book has been published in Canada.

The photograph on the front is of a wooden folk toy I brought back with me from northern Japan. It depicts one of the namahage, the red-faced, wild-tempered demons who terrorize children and are placated with saké. It is said that the legends of these namahage originate with shipwrecked Russian sailors who were washed ashore. I can think of no better emblem for long-term Western residents living in Japan. Hitching Rides with Buddha is the tale of one such namahage and his journey across a country that has held him captive for years.

--W. F.

The Devil’s Washboard
Southern Kyushu
1

Cape Sata is the end of Japan.

When you turn your back to the sea and look northward, all of mainland Japan is balanced, sword-like, above you. It is a long, thin, volcanic country: a nation of islands that approaches – but never quite touches – its neighbours. It is a land that engenders metaphors. It has been likened to an onion: layers and layers surrounding . . . nothing. It has been described as a maze, a fortress, a garden. A prison. A paradise. But for some, Japan is none of these. For some, Japan is a highway. And Cape Sata is where it ends.

A road winds its way in descending squiggles toward the sea. Tattered palm trees and overgrowths of vine crowd the roadside. Villages flit past. The road twists up into the mountains, turns a corner, and ends – abruptly – in a forest of cedar and pine. A tunnel disappears into the mountainside.

From here you proceed on foot, through the unexpected cool damp of the tunnel, past the obligatory souvenir stands, onto a path cut through the trees. Along the way, you come upon a hidden shrine. You ring the bell and rouse the gods and continue deeper into the forest green.

A faded cinderblock building is perched at the edge of a cliff, clinging to the last solid piece of ground. Inside, a tired-looking woman is selling squid that is skewered on sticks and covered with thick, sticky soy sauce. Somehow, you resist the temptation. Instead, you climb the stairs to the observation deck and, through windows streaked with dust and nose-smears, you gaze out at the majesty that is Cape Sata.

A few tourists mill about, uncertain what to do with themselves now that they’ve seen the view. They buy some squid, look through the coin-operated telescopes, and frown thoughtfully. “So this is Sata,” they say. The end of the world.

Sata feels like the end.

Here, the mainland meets the sea. The coast tumbles into boulders. Pine trees lean out over dead-drop cliffs, waves crash and roll – almost soundless in their distance – and jagged rocks and sudden islands rise up like shark fins from the water. There is a perpetual wind at Sata, a wind that comes in from the open ocean and billows up the cliffside.

“Look,” says Mr. Migita, herding his children before him as he comes. “Look over there.”

He points back toward the mountains to a faint pink smudge in among the evergreens.

“Sakura,” he says. And the heart quickens.

The cherry blossoms have arrived. Now the journey has begun, now the race has started, now the challenge met. “Sakura! Do you really think so?”

He looks again. “Maybe not. You want some squid?”

2

Every spring, a wave of flowers sweeps across Japan. It begins in Okinawa and rolls from island to island to mainland. It hits at Cape Sata and moves north, cresting as it goes, to the very tip of distant Hokkaido, where it scatters and falls into a northern sea.

They call it Sakura Zensen – the “Cherry Blossom Front” – and its advance is tracked with a seriousness usually reserved for armies on the march. Progress reports are given nightly on the news and elaborate maps are prepared to show the front lines, the back lines, and the percentage of blossoms in any one area. “In Shimabara today they reported thirty-seven percent full blossoms.”

Nowhere on earth does spring arrive as dramatically as it does in Japan. When the cherry blossoms hit, they hit like a hurricane. Gnarled cherry trees, ignored for most of the year, burst into bloom like fountains turned suddenly on.

The coming of the sakura marks the end of winter. It also marks the start of the school year and the closing of the business cycle. It is a hectic time, a time of final exams and productivity reports. Budgets have to be finalized, accounts settled, work finished. Karo-shi (death by overwork) peaks in March. Deadlines, school graduations, government transfers – and then, riding in on April winds, come the cherry blossoms. And in one of those extreme shifts that seem to mark Japanese life, the nation swings from intense work to intense play. Crowds congregate beneath the flowers, saké flows, neckties are loosened, and wild spontaneous haiku are composed and recited.

These cherry blossom parties, called hanami, are a time for looking back and looking ahead, for drowning one’s sorrows or celebrating another successful year. Toasts are made to colleagues, absent friends, distant relatives, and to the sakura themselves. Then, as quickly as they arrive, the cherry blossoms scatter. They fall like confetti, and in their passing they leave the dark green shimmering heat of summer, the wet misery of the rainy season, the typhoons of late August. At their peak – at full blossom and full beauty – the sakura last only a few days.

During their brief explosion, the cherry blossoms are said to represent the aesthetics of poignant, fleeting beauty: ephemeral, delicate in their passing. The way to celebrate this poignancy, naturally, is to drink large amounts of saké and sing raucous songs until you topple over backward. It is all very fleeting and beautiful.

It is also oddly formalized. In what other nation would you find a memo posted on a company’s cafeteria notice board that reads: keep this area clean. final reports are due friday. and don’t forget, we are going cherry blossom viewing after work today.

In addition to the usual public parks and castle grounds, cemeteries are sometimes chosen as suitable spots for cherry blossom parties – as a counterpoint to the celebrations, and as a reminder that this beauty, this joy, like all things will pass. We live in a world of impermanence, a world of flux and illusion, a world brimming with sadness – so we might as well get pissed and enjoy ourselves. (Or at least, that's how I read the underlying Buddhist theology.)

In addition to Cherry Blossom Viewing, you have Moon Viewing, Snow Viewing, Wildflower Viewing, Autumn Leaf Viewing, and Summer Stargazing. All are formally engaged in, and all follow set procedures and seasons. As a service to readers, I have prepared a handy chart listing each phenomenon, the season in which it appears, and the correct manner in which to observe it:

Phenomenon/Season/Proper way to view
Cherry blossoms/Spring/Drunk on saké
Wildflowers/Summer/Drunk on saké
Harvest moon/Autumn/Drunk on saké
Autumn leaves/Autumn/Drunk on saké
Snow on ancient temples/Winter/Drunk on saké

In the late nineteenth century, a British scholar noted that if one could just reconcile the lofty heights of Japanese ideals with the earthy limitations of its people, one would truly understand the essence of this beguiling nation. Not surprisingly, he left Japan a bitter and frustrated man. Me, I don’t even begin to understand the countless contradictions of Japan, but when the cherry blossoms come every spring I am swept away nonetheless.

close this panel
Sick Joke

Sick Joke

Cancer, Japan, and Back Again
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Sick Joke is one quirky travelogue. Glenn Deir spent two years happily stumbling through the conundrums of Japanese culture. Then he got tonsil cancer and less happily stumbled through the conundrums of medical culture. Sick Joke is a tale of two journeys told simultaneously that will make you laugh out loud.

More Info
This Will Be Difficult To Explain and Other Stories

This Will Be Difficult To Explain and Other Stories

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :

With this collection of wise, querying stories, Giller Prize winner Johanna Skibsrud introduces an astonishing array of characters, showing us through their eyes what even they cannot see and uncorking minor epiphanies in the middle of ordinary days. These stories takes readers from South Dakota to Paris to Japan, into art galleries, foreign apartments, farms, and beach hotels, and shows us the liberating bewilderment of characters who come face to face with what they didn’t know they didn’t …

More Info
Arigato, Tokyo

Arigato, Tokyo

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian, japanese

On a publicity tour in Japan, Carl, a Canadian author, finds himself falling in love amidst the sacred stages of Noh theatre and the seedy dance clubs in Tokyo, wired on cocaine and sake. His object of affection is the young, seductive actor, Yori, but the affair becomes complicated when Carl's translator and Yori's sister, Nushi, becomes entranced with him. As his tour continues, he straddles the fragmentary place between two cultures—one of individuality and directness, the other of traditio …

More Info
comments powered by Disqus

There are two ways to make a reading list

This way:

  1. Click the "Create a New List" button just above this panel.
  2. Add as many books as you wish using the built-in search on the list edit page.

Or that way:

  1. Go to any book page.
  2. In the right-hand column, click on "Add to List." A drop-down menu will appear.
  3. From the drop-down menu, either add your book to a list you have already created or create a new list.
  4. View and edit your lists anytime on your profile page.
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...