Book review: Short Stories in Japanese

Michael Emmerich’s Short Stories in Japanese is an interesting and useful book that contains some entertaining tales for learners of Japanese. If you are looking for something to bolster your Nihongo then this book could be a useful addition to your bookshelf.

Be warned, this book is aimed at intermediate learners and above! It’s not for beginners. As for the layout, it’s a parallel translation style work with English on the left and Japanese on the right. Some notes are given at the end of each chapter but for the most part you are on your own.

There are also no romaji provided, which is a plus in our humble opinion. If you are going to attempt reading Japanese literature then you should hopefully know the kana by now! The relevant furigana are given once only as is the norm in published Japanese works.

The Stories

Here are the stories included in the book.

“Concerning the Sound of a Train Whistle in the Night or On the Efficacy of Fiction” – Murakami Haruki
“A Little Darkness” – Yoshimoto Banana
“Genjitsu House” – Koike Masayo
“The Silent Traders” – Tsushima Yuuko
“Mogera Wogura” – Kawakami Hiromi
“The Maiden in the Manger” – Abe Kazushige
“Where the Bowling Pins Stand” – Ishii Shinji
“Love Suicide at Kamaara” – Yoshida Sueko

Cautionary note: Some of the material is adult in nature so avoid this book if that could offend you.

The good

– Great resource for Japanese reading practice. It will take some effort to get through each story, especially if you are on the lower side of intermediate, but it will be worth it. This is the kind of material that helps you to become comfortable with reading the “real thing” over time. You will later reap the dividends of your hard work.

– The stories are varied, challenging and entertaining all at the same time. They are also of a relatively modern nature, providing you with fairly recent examples of Japanese in use. Rest assured, there’s no Genji to be seen here, although that certainly has its place too!

– It’s nice to be able to read contemporary stories by Japanese authors such as Haruki Murakami.

The bad

– The notes provided in this book are on the sparse side. The author could have been a little bit more helpful with some of his explanations of Japanese expressions. Although you can always use a dictionary, it would have been more convenient if things were explained better.

– As we previously discussed here, listening to the audio along with the Japanese text is a great way of learning the language. A matching audio CD would have been nice for consolidating on what has been learned.

A solid companion on your path to Japanese literacy

If you already have a reasonable base in Japanese then Short Stories in Japanese is a logical next step in your quest for Japanese literacy. Even if you aren’t yet proficient in reading Japanese, you can always enjoy the English translations while trying to make out some of the words that you know in Japanese. Reading this book will also enrich you culturally and give you a deeper understanding of the Japanese psyche. We highly recommend it. You can buy it on Amazon.

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