Food for Thought #7

Japan is a fascinating country, with a rich and unique culture, and one of the most impactful travels was when I visited Tokyo 3 years ago (you can see some of my photo essays here and yeah, it’s me down there in this post with some manga friend behind ahah).

Naturally, you understand that it’s been a while since I wanted to dedicate a Food for Thought to Japan and, although I am aware that I’m not an expert, there are some local artists I truly admire.

Thanks to Netflix (subscribe through this referral link to get the first month for free!!), I’ve discovered an amazing series called ‘Midnight Dinner: Tokyo Stories’. It is fiction but it looks like a documentary: every episode, a typical japanese dish is the starting point to a story based in Tokyo.

‘Midnight Dinner’ is such a touching series that, somehow, made me understand a bit more of the japanese culture: the importance of food and how a group of strangers can create a community in this particular restaurant (opened at night in one of the biggest cities in the world).

And in fact, all the agitation and the stress that makes part of Tokyo doesn’t enter in this restaurant: inside, the chef cooks calmly and patiently while, simultaneously, we get in touch with its guests – who are they?; what do they work on? what is their connection to Tokyo? 

Another amazing discovery I made in Netflix related to Japan is the cinema. Oh well, for a long time I wanted to dedicate some time to Manga and here I found a collection of amazing directors like Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki.

I am still being introduced to both filmmakers but it has been a great surprise: from Takahata I saw and got truly impressed with ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’, it is such an emotional and tender story about a family who raise a special girl.

From Miyazaki, there are a few interesting animation movies. I particularly liked ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, which is another kind of ‘familiar’ story mixed with mystical creatures and the traditional japanese beliefs.

Japanese Literature

Literature is, undoubtedly, one of the reasons I wanted the most to write this post. Not only because I have been writing haikus for years but also because I read many japanese authors and would love to discover more.

For those who’ve been following my blog for longer, you know how I read almost every Murakami book: when I moved to Riga I could only buy books in english and I entered the world of Murakami with ‘Norwegian Wood’ (you can read my impressions in this chronicle).

Murakami had such a positive impact on me that I wanted to discover more japanese writers. Yukio Mishima is one of them and ‘Confessions of a Mask’ his book I like the most (up to now because I just read three). In this novel, Kochan is the protagonist who, from a very young age, struggles to fit into a society marked by war and militarism.

‘Confessions of a Mark’ is a great novel. I truly admire the Mishima’s writing and the way he criticizes a society based on falsehood: in fact, everybody disguises its life and its feelings behind a mask. 

Another amazing author I truly recommend everyone to read is Osamu Dazai. I read his novel ‘No Longer Human’ a few years ago and I still remember how it starts: looking at a series of his photographs, a man named Oba Yozo reflects about himself, disgusted by his ridiculous yet monstrous looking. 

‘No Longer Human’ is then composed of three parts, each one referring to the memories of this man that, as you already imagine, lived all his life in solitude, unsuitable to fit in a society he doesn´t relate to.

 

Finally, Kawabata. Yasunari Kawabata is another relevant japanese writer that I suggest everyone read. The author of ‘The Sound of the Mountain’ and ‘Dandelions’ was the first japanese winner of the Nobel Prize of literature.

I read ‘Snow Country’ and, even if it’s not my favorite among the other names referred, I believe it is important to experience Japan: in this classic japanese novel, the reader follows the love affair of an old man from Tokyo and a young and poor geisha from a village in the interior of the country.

What I liked the most about ‘Snow Country’ was the feeling of commitment of this girl to a man who has no principles or morals: not only he cheats on his wife but he also creates a series of illusions to a devoted and blind soul.

It would be lovely to hear you: do you have any cultural recommendation from Japan that you’d like to share with me and the other fellow readers??

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38 responses to “Food for Thought #7

  1. I’m planning a walk to Mount Gas- San , in part to follow the road of Basho , then stay at mount Koya , lastly stay at monastery in Kyoto. as for writers , yes Japan has a great history and film , anything from Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu ‘ Tokyo story a classic

  2. I love Japanese Literature and I am happy to learn that you are immersing and exploring this eccentric but fascinating side of literature 🙂

    • I’m sure you will have a great time when you manage to go there thanks for the comment and have a lovely weekend, PedroL

    • Thank you for commenting, I’m sure you will find a lot of interesting things in these recommendations Maggie 🙂 have a great day, PedroL

  3. I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read any Japanese literature. With all this time now, I guess I can start. Thanks for the recommendations. 🙂 Japan is a fascinating country. I find something new to love just by taking a stroll.

    • I’m sure you will have a pleasant time watching these recommendations and discovering new ones Shannon 🙂 thanks for visiting my blog 🙂 PedroL

  4. Have you read Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965)? Very surprising, psychological, often erotic novellas. Mind blowing, unforgettable.
    Banana Yoshimoto is a young author who creates strange, heavy atmospheres — she could be a Murakami character.
    I adore Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book — written 1000 years ago, but you feel as if you were reading a letter written by a friend.
    Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel, a Japanese take on Wuthering Heights, two volumes, great to get lost in…
    I am planning on dedicating a post of my own to Japanese literature :))
    I will definitely check out Midnight Diner… Thank you, I had never heard of it.

    • Hi and thank you so much for your contributions, it was so complete and inspiring that, if I could, I would start now to read all these authors eheh

      In fact, I think you really should to write a post dedicated to the Japanese literature, I can see how useful it can be 🙂

      Thanks and have a great week, PedroL

    • Now that’s a dedicated thing eheh I’ve been there only once but can’t wait to return and experience all the amazing local things 🙂 until then, will keep reading and discovering more of the culture eheh thanks for the comment and have a great day, PedroL

  5. I love the classical Japanese cinema. And some authors too most contemporary would be Sushaku Endo. You might enjoy the film “Mishima”.

    • Hi Ivana and thanks for the tip, I will definitely check it out eheh I’m so happy because after this article there were so many comments and new additions to my Japanese culture list eheh have a great day, PedroL

  6. I once worked for a Japanese company and I also love Japanese movies and literature. The first book of Murakami I read was ” What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”. It’s a non-fiction book and talks about how running has affected his personal life and career. It’s different from other works and actually can inspire those who like running or a healthy life. Another book I highly recommend is “The One-Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka. It introduces to Natural Farming in Japan. My favorite book “An Encouragement of Learning” by Fukuzawa Yukichi. It shows us a profound insight into Japanese minds and how they have built their country that powerful. When it comes to Japan, I have a lot to say, of course, not only bright sides. I planned to travel to Japan this April to enjoy Cherry Blossom but the pandemic changed my plan. Anyway, great to know that you like “Midnight diner”. I watched its series before it appeared on Netflix and really enjoyed it. It seems to give me a peaceful time in this hustle and bustle of life. Cheers, Huong.

    • Dear Huong, thank you so much for sharing all these recommendations, that’s why I love blogging, there’s a huge community out there helping each other eheh 🙂

      And that’s amazing all those books! I’m also truly interested in Japan, as you may have understood lol, and would love to spend there a few months and immerse in the local reality, it must be so interesting 🙂

      Hope you manage to go to Japan, don’t forget that after the storm comes always the fortune 🙂

      Have a great week
      Cheers from Portugal
      PedroL

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