The Travelling Cat Chronicles — Hiro Arikawa

So yeah, i love cats and i love most things Japanese, so eventually i had to get around to pulling this out of “The Pile” and reading it.

It’s one of those books that one just flies through, and i was always eager to dive back into it whenever i got a few moments spare.

Nana, a street cat, is our wonderful narrator, who gives us a delightful cat’s eye view of Satoru’s world as he drives around Japan visiting each of his childhood friends trying to get one of them to adopt Nana before he dies, but Nana has other ideas and is determined to stay with Satoru until the very end.

It’s through this cat’s eye view, and through each childhood friend we visit, that we get to learn, bit by bit, about Satoru’s life: a life of tragedy, loss and grief, and how these things shaped Satoru.   I think i’d put it on the shelf with The Little Paris Bookshop, also a well written book about tragedy, loss and grief with some cats in it.

Yes folks, a definite must read for anyone who likes cats.

Warning:   you may get a little soggy eyed at the end — cats can do that to you.

Hiro’s Page

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A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees — Yoshida Kenkō

This small book is a selection of quotes from Essays in Idleness.

The writer begins the book with this statement:

What strange folly, to beguile the tedious hours like this all day before my ink stone, jotting down at random the idle thoughts that cross my mind …

We are then regaled with a selection of those random thoughts, and quite good thoughts some of them are too.

Although written approx 1330 in Japan, a lot of these thoughts are as relevant today in the wider world as they were back then.   Yes, admittedly, some might be a bit dated and endemic but there are some very timeless thoughts for the modern, wider world to enjoy as well.

There’s also a delightful curmudgeonliness to the thoughts, like you’re listening to your favourite grand parent having a rant about what’s bothering them this week.

I shall certainly get a copy of Essays in Idleness and have a full read of Yoshida Kenkō’s thoughts.

Kenkō’s Page

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The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

The Japanese do make the nicest tea i’ve ever tasted: organic ceremonial grade matcha is perfection.

I read this book years ago and seriously need to give it a re-read soon.

Okakura’s Page

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell

And onto David Mitchell’s fifth book…

It’s certainly a change from his other books, being based in Japan at the end of the 18 Century at the Dutch East India Company’s island/trading post, Dejima.

When the Shoguns closed Japan to westerners they left Dejima as the only doorway into Japan for Europe’s trade, and it was the Dutch who ran Dejima.

The book centres around actual historical events, but names and dates are changed to allow David to weave his tale.   And the tale takes us inside ancient Japanese nefarious occult beliefs and practices as we follow our protagonist and his love for a Japanese midwife who becomes entrapped within the cultists’ lair, all the while having to deal with the political machinations within the interplay between Dejima, Nagasaki and the Shogun in Edo.

Once more, a great piece of story telling from this incredible writer, and a also an incredibly interesting look inside the life and work of Dejima itself at a very interesting time in Japanese history.   Well worth a read after you’ve read David’s first four books, but do expect something rather different.

And i’m now embroiled in David’s 6th book, The Bone Clocks, which is more in style with his first four books and i’m enjoying immensely.   I’ll let you know what i think soon.

David’s Page

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Ikigai – Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

It looks interesting.

I’ve always found Japan and its history a fascinating subject for reading about. I’ve never been, if life ever throws the opportunity my way i’ll definitely go.

Héctor García’s Page Francesc Miralles’ Page

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