The Guest Cat – Judging a Book by its Cover

The Guest Cat cover detailIt’s not often that an unknown Japanese writer publishing their first book in the UK hits the bestseller lists. In fact, it’s not often that any Japanese writer (other than Murakami) does. And yet Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat has become one of the must-have Christmas books of the year. Thousands of people will be waking up to find it in their stockings on Christmas morning. So what has it done right? Continue reading

Book Review – The Art of the Japanese Garden

Art of the Japanese GardenA few weeks back I reviewed David and Michiko Young’s book on Japanese architecture, and now I’m covering the companion book on gardens. As with the architecture book, it’s published by Tuttle and is copiously illustrated with colour photos taken by the authors. I have to admit, when it arrived the first thing I did was check to see whether my favourite gardens were included. Some were, and some, to my surprise, hadn’t made the cut. Continue reading

Book Review – The Art of Japanese Architecture


I’m an ebook person most of the time. I like being able to download a book and start reading instantly, and I like that when I’ve finished I don’t have a book to clutter up my shelves. But I’ll make an exception for a beautifully illustrated book like The Art of Japanese Architecture. Continue reading

Book Review – Sayonara by James A Michener

SayonaraThis year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Sayonara, bestselling author James A Michener’s towering novel of racial prejudice and its tragic consequences in Korean War era Japan. The hero is an American ace fighter pilot; the heroine, a top star at the Takarazuka Revue. And since it’s also Takarazuka’s 100th anniversary this year, I thought this was a good time to tell you about one of my favourite books. Continue reading

Crime fiction – a British Library A to Z

Murder in the LibraryDid you know that one in three of all novels published in English around the world are crime fiction? No, neither did I until I went to the Murder in the Library exhibition at the British Library where I discovered that and all sorts of other interesting facts. Continue reading

Autumn reading – Hi! My name is Loco and I am a Racist

My name is Loco and I am a RacistThe last of the three books in my autumn reading series is Hi! My name is Loco and I am a Racist. It’s hard to describe this book – it’s a real one-off. Despite the provocative title I would classify it as an autobiography, by a black man who wants to reach out to other people sincerely and directly and demands that others respond in kind. Continue reading

Autumn reading – Tokyo Hearts

Tokyo HeartsThe second of my three autumn reading books is Tokyo Hearts, a romantic novel set in Tokyo by new writer Renae Lucas-Hall, published in June this year.

It features star-crossed lovers Haruka and Takashi. Like many Japanese girls who love fashion, Haruka is a brand addict and Vuitton, Hermès and Louboutin loom large in her life. She seems well matched with Tokyo style devotee Takashi but the attractions of her rich boyfriend in Kyoto threaten to destroy the romance. It takes an earthquake to make her realise where her true affections lie. Continue reading

Autumn is for reading – Samurai Awakening

Samurai AwakeningIn Japan they say ‘autumn is for sports, autumn is for eating, autumn is for reading’. I’ve done a few posts on sports already and eating is a perennial favourite so I’m going to go for reading and suggest some books you might try. I’ve chosen three; they’re all newly published (in fact the first one is published today), they’re all by foreigners who are living or have lived in Japan and they’re all first books. Those are the similarities – the books themselves are as different as it’s possible to be. Continue reading

Your summer holiday book – Botchan


Natsume Soseki, one of Japan’s foremost writers, published Botchan in 1905. It’s been described as ‘probably the most widely read novel in modern Japan’ but it’s not that well known in the west. Now’s your chance to discover it. Continue reading