100 great Japanese books for children and more …

1. いやいやえん 中川 李枝子
2. おにたのぼうし あまん きみこ
3. かたあしだちょうのエルフ おのき がく
4. 手ぶくろを買いに 新美 南吉
5. 花さき山 斎藤 隆介
6. 100万回生きたねこ 佐野 洋子
7. ぼくは王さま 寺村 輝夫
8. ロボットカミイ 古田 足日
9. エルマーのぼうけん ルース・スタイルス・ガネット
10. 王さまと九人のきょうだい 君島 久子
11. スイミー レオ・レオニ
12. スーホの白い馬 大塚 勇三
13. ふたりはともだち アーノルド・ローベル
14. わすれられないおくりもの スーザン・バーレイ
15. くまさん まど みちお
16. のはらうた 工藤 直子
17. かわいそうなぞう 土家 由岐雄
18. グスコップドリの
19. 龍の子太郎 松谷 みよ子
20. だれも知らない小さな国 佐藤 さとる
21. ちびっこカムのぼうけん 神沢 利子
22. つりばしわたれ 長崎 源之助
23. どうぶつえんのいっしゅうかん 斉藤 洋
24. ながいながいペンギンの話 いぬいとみこ
25. ハンカチの上の花畑 安房 直子
26. 一つの花 今西 祐行
27. 一ふさのぶどう 有島 武郎
28. ふしぎな木の実の料理法 岡田 淳
29. 魔女の宅急便 角野 栄子
30. わらしべ長者 木下 順二
31. イギリスとアイルランドの昔話 石井 桃子
32. オズの魔法使い ライマン・フランク・ボーム
33. 川べのゆかいな仲間たち ケネス グレアム
34. くらやみ城の冒険 マージェリー・シャープ
35. くるみわり人形 E.T.A. ホフマン
36. 子ぶたシープピッグ ディック キング=スミス
37. たのしいムーミン一家 トーベ・ヤンソン
38. 小さなスプーンおばさん アルフ・プリョイセン
39. チョコレート工場の秘密 ロアルド・ダール
40. ドリトル先生アフリカゆき ヒュー・ロフティング
41. 長くつ下のピッピ アストリッド・リンドグレーン
42. かぎりなくやさしい花々 星野 富弘
43. シートン動物記 アーネスト・トムソン シートン
44. フー子とママのふたり 福沢 美和
45. マヤの一生 椋 鳩十
46. 君たちはどう生きるか 吉野 源三郎
47. 次郎物語 下村 湖人
48. 二十四の瞳 壷井 栄
49. ビルマの竪琴 竹山 道雄
50. 冒険者たち 斎藤 惇夫
51. 坊ちゃん 夏目 漱石
52. 路傍の石 山本 有三 
53. ああ無情 ビクトル・ユーゴー
54. 赤毛のアン L.M. モンゴメリ
55. おおきな木 シェル・シルヴァスタイン
56. 大きな森の小さな家 ローラ・インガルス・ワイルダー
57. 風にのってきたメアリー・ポピンズ P.L.トラヴァース
58. 木を植えた男 ジャン ジオノ
59. クオレ エドモンド デ・アミーチス
60. 最後の授業 ドーデ
61. 三国志 羅 貫中  (岩波書店)
62. シャーロック・ホウムズ コナン・ドイル
63. 宝島 スティーヴンスン
64. 飛ぶ教室 エーリッヒ ケストナー
65. トム・ソーヤの冒険 マーク・トウェイン
66. 二年間の休暇 ジュール ヴェルヌ
67. ハイジ ヨハンナ・スピリ
68. 秘密の花園 フランシス・ホジソン バーネット
69. ふしぎの国のアリス ルイス・キャロル
70. 星の王子様 アントワーヌ・ド サン=テグジュペリ
71. モモ ミヒャエル・エンデ
72. 森は生きている サムイル マルシャーク
73. ヨーんじいちゃん ペーター=ヘルトリング
74. ライオンと魔女 ナルニア国ものがたり C.S.ルイス
75. お米は生きている 富山 和子
76. ガラスのうさぎ 高木 敏子
77. 国際交流につくした日本人 くもん出版
78. コンチキ号漂流記 トール・ハイエルダール
79. たたかいの人 大石 真
80. 難民少女ランちゃん 吹浦 忠正
81. ファーブル昆虫記 奥本 大三郎
82. 窓ぎわのトットちゃん 黒柳 徹子
83. ベートーヴェン ひのまどか
84. ばらの心は海をわたった 岡本 文良
85. 悲劇の少女アンネ シュナーベル
86. 白旗の小女 比嘉 富子

This is a reading list that approximates a private school’s recommended reading list. We are adding to it with more suggestions from our online community:

THE FOLLOWING BOOKS MAY BE READ EITHER IN JAPANESE OR IN ENGLISH USING TRANSLATIONS.

 

Before the Polar Express (by Chris van Allburg), there was “The Night of the Milky Way Train” ! by Kenji Miyazawa M.E. Sharpe For kids aged 9-12 years.

 

Recently at the public library I have enjoyed reading animal stories by Kenji Miyazawa. A household name for readaloud moms or Japanese booklists. Enjoy the review of the work and the write-up about the author The Milky Way Train: Celebrating Kenji Miyazawa By: Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara at http://www.astronomy.pomona.edu/archeo/japan/as-japan.html Buy it at amazon.com or amazon.co,jp http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-reviews/0873328205/ref=cm_cr_dp_pt/…

 

Professor Strong’s translation of Kenji’s (as he is affectionately known to his fans) “Ginga tetsudo no yoru” is perhaps the best, most accessible English versions available. And there are many available. (Avoid the “Rock Press” _Milky Way Railway_ edition, it is rock-bottom.) Roger Pulvers’ recent translation and John Bester’s older translation are also good (Pulvers’ may only be accessible in Japan in Jpn/Eng bilingual format), but I think Strong’s version may be the best one yet: with easy to understand English, wonderful illustrations (that hint at the story contents, not explicate) — plus you get her copious notes, biography and an alternate version — all make this a nice copy to have in children’s library. I think it is well-suited for an adult to read to a child (the notes in the back can help the parent out of a jam if asked “what is a crow-lantern?”). Reviewed by Jon Holt. He recommends also Bester’s collection “Once and Forever” and collections of his shorter stories (Restaurant of Many Orders, etc.) which patch together his brilliance.”

 

Note there is an earlier translation of The Night of the Milky Way Train published by Stone Bridge Press is available from WeatherHill). See the review by Steve Renshaw below:

 

The Milky Way Train: Celebrating Kenji Miyazawa

 

By: Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara Revised November, 1999

 

1996 marked the 100th anniversary year of the birth of Kenji Miyazawa… poet, novelist, and amateur astronomer who lived in Japan in the early 20th century. While Miyazawa died at the untimely age of 37, his work had a significant impact on Japanese literature. The January 1996 issue of Tenmon Guide (Astronomy Guide) highlighted the life of this writer whose works are still affectionately read in modern Japan.
 

Having such a strong interest in astronomy, Miyazawa often sought to weave astronomical phenomena into his stories. One of his most famous works is titled “The Night of the Milky Way Train” (a translation published by Stone Bridge Press is available from WeatherHill). Written not too long after the late 19th century Meiji restoration, this work represents what we often see as the paradox of Japanese culture and virtue played against a Westernized backdrop. The story remains, for many young Japanese, their first association with the wonder of the “starry sky”. Here is a brief synopsis of the story…

 

Miyazawa’s mix of East and West begins with the names of the two young characters of the story: Jovanni (Giovanni) and Kanpanera (Campanella). The story takes place during the imaginary “Centaurus” Festival, a time when lanterns are lit to show deceased ancestors the way home. This imaginary festival occurs in August, and in the story, Miyazawa images children running and scampering, yelling that Centaurus is “dropping dew” [no doubt, a somewhat misplaced reference to the Perseids].

 

On the night of the festival, Jovanni is sent to the store to get some milk. On the way, he stops on a hill to lay and gaze at the stars. He hears a voice that sounds like a train conductor saying “Milky Way Station!” and suddenly finds himself with a seat on “The Milky Way Train”. Across from him sits his friend, Kanpanera. Thus, a journey starts for the boys on a trip around the Milky Way.

 

Miyazawa highlights many experiences for Jovanni and Kanpanera, carefully weaving phenomena with fantasy. One of the first stops for the youths is at “Hakuchou Station” (Swan… Cygnus) where the boys see an image of a cross made by “the frozen north cloud”. Here they also see a “beach” over 500 million years old where a paleontologist is digging the fossil of the ancient ancestor of a cow [note Miyazawa’s poetic use of stellar distance and time and the ever present “milk” related images]. Some experiences involve phenomena not readily seen with the naked eye. For example, our travelers pass the observatory at Albireo, where the blue and gold markers measure the flow of the Milky Way river. One “stop” references the galactic center; just south of Washi Station (Eagle… Aquila) the river divides, and on the “sand bar”, a signalman is lighting lanterns [referring to the bright region of Sagittarius] as a warning that swans, eagles, peacocks, and crows may be crossing.

 

The story continues with a number of experiences and brilliant images as the journey traverses the Summer Milky Way. One especially poignant “stop” on the route seems to relate to traditional Japanese values stemming from the still ever present Edo era. At Scorpio, the bright light from Sagittarius makes trees cast shadows, and there is something that shines clear and red like a ruby [Antares]. Miyazawa relates Jovanni’s sense of this, and it becomes even more significant at the end of the story. For Jovanni, this star symbolizes the responsibility one has to others and the sacrifice that one is willing to make in order to help ones friends, even to the point of dying (shedding blood). He also notices the “accompanying” stars [probably Nu and Omega Sco] and is reminded of a very ancient Japanese association with these stars… the importance and closeness of friendship.

 

At journey’s end, the train makes its final stop at the Southern Cross. Jovanni looks around and notices that Kanpanera has disappeared. He suddenly awakes and finds himself on the hill near his home. As he continues into town on his errand, he sadly learns that his friend Kanpanera has actually drowned earlier in the evening while trying to save friends swimming in a nearby river.

There were several editions of Miyazawa’s story. In the first, the journey continued around the whole galaxy. The final edition (above) obviously concentrates on the Summer Milky Way. My synopsis does not do justice to the subtlety and beauty of Miyazawa’s poetic style. Still, I hope list members find it interesting. This story, loved and admired throughout Japan, is both charming and innocent. At the same time, its bittersweet end (especially for children) may seem strange to Western ears. Yet, it is just this highlighted virtue of self-sacrifice that defines so much of the traditional Japanese view of responsibility to others and forms the basis for what some might mistakenly interpret as a fatalistic spirit. Sadly, Miyazawa’s own younger sister died two years before he began writing this story, and many believe that this formed the basis not only for the ending, but also the emphasis on “relationship”.

 

Many amateur and professional astronomers in Japan were inspired as youths by this story, and it seems to have become a permanent part of modern Japanese Starlore. “The Night of the Milky Way Train” continues to inspire children and adults to gaze in wonder at the heavens; many may be the astronomers and comet hunters of the future. Miyazawa loved the starry sky and spent many nights drinking in its wonder and many days studying its design. More than a hundred years after his birth, the legacy of this amateur astronomer continues to live.

 

Other stories of Miyazawa and ethnoastronomy may be found at Shigemi Numazawa’s site: Niigata Account of a Journey.

 

J Books for 12 year olds with translations:

 

The Friends” or “The Spring Tone” by Kazumi Yumoto The Friends” about a group of boys who start spying on an old man in the neighborhood and eventually start helping him? If so, I did read it. Afterwards, I came across a Japanese movie that must have been based on that book. It was pretty good. I think I liked the movie better than the book, perhaps because translations often seem a bit awkward, especially if you know the language it is being translated from.

 

Jirohattan by Hana Mori, Tamiko Kurosaki and Elizabeth Crowe (Translators)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1880188694/

The Girl With the White Flag: A Spellbinding Account of Love and Courage in Wartime Okinawa
by Tomika Higa, Dorothy Britton (Translator)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/4770029314/

 

A great favorite among Japanese kids aged around 10 onwards like the Edogawa Rampo series. See the following review by Burrit Sabin

 

THE ASIAN BOOKSHELF Lurking in the shadows, following in Edgar Allan Poe’s footsteps By BURRITT SABIN

THE BLACK LIZARD AND BEAST IN THE SHADOWS, by Edogawa Rampo, translated by Ian Hughes, introduction by Mark Schreiber. Fukuoka: Kurodahan Press, 2006, 284 pp., $ 15.00 (paper).
Edogawa Rampo, the pen name Taro Hirai (1894-1965) adopted in homage to Edgar Allan Poe (think phonetically), is the father of the Japanese mystery. He remains a cultural icon, his oeuvre a mother lode of film ideas. Few of his works have been translated, however. So the publication of two admirably rendered Rampo novellas is welcome. One even lives up to its author’s namesake.

“The Black Lizard” features Rampo’s main detective, Kogoro Akechi. Akechi is a super sleuth, highly respected by the Police Investigative Unit, and a master of disguise. So is his nemesis, the Black Lizard. This siren with a taste for black clothes and expensive jewelry has on her upper left arm a tattoo of a black lizard. Nowadays mom with child in tow at the local pool may sport a tattoo in the small of her back, but in 1934, the story’s year of publication, a tattoo marked a woman as an outlaw. The Black Lizard kills for what she desires.

She covets the “Star of Egypt,” a diamond belonging to a jeweler, and also his daughter, Sanae. “I’ve come to desire your body even more,” she tells her. Perversion laces both stories to the degree permissible in the prewar era of creeping fascism.
Akechi is hired to protect Sanae after her father receives letters forewarning her abduction. The Black Lizard forewarns because she savors matching wits with Akechi. They assume disguises as she tricks him and he counter-tricks her. Unbeknown to her, Akechi substitutes a young woman for Sanae. The Black Lizard abducts the look-a-like.
The Black Lizard hides Sanae’s double in a subterranean lair, where she displays her collections of jewelry and stuffed humans. This baroque setting is one reason for the story’s frequent adaptation for small and large screens, including a feature film with a Yukio Mishima cameo.

The novella resembles manga in eroticism, the protagonist’s chameleon prowess, and the victory of good over evil. Akechi only appears to blunder; he is invincible, ordained to prevail. The Black Lizard is evil incarnate, a stock character, a Wicked Witch of the West. “Hee, hee, hee!” she cackles.
But Rampo never intended realism. “Lizard” is intentional camp. Rampo suggests as much when he ascribes Akechi’s theatrical ruse at the story’s end to detectives not being “complete bores without a sense of humour.”
Rampo achieves greater depth of character in “Beast in the Shadows,” whose narrator, a mystery writer, wrestles with the question of his own complicity. He introduces himself as “an author” whose only interest is in the intellectual process of detection. “I am in no way a bad person.”

Indeed he requires the ratiocinative mind of Poe’s Auguste Dupin. Who, if anyone, killed Rokuro Oyamada? Suspicion shifts. The narrator loses objectivity as he sinks into an S/M relationship with Oyamada’s widow. By the novella’s end he can no longer claim not to be “a bad person.” He now knows the beast in the shadows. Rather than the black-and-white world of “Lizard,” there are shades of gray.

“Beast” is the more atmospheric work. The genre’s best authors set their shamuses in real places. Think of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s London of hansom cabs and dim lodgings or of Raymond Chandler’s noirish Los Angeles. In “Beast” Rampo’s sleuth inhabits Asakusa, with its cheap lodgings, freak shows and ferry on which traders “described their wares in time to the beat of the screw in the hoarse voice of a narrator who takes on all the roles in a silent movie.”

 

“Lizard” is an entertainment. “Beast” is a gem coruscating with Rampo’s virtuosity as storyteller. Both novellas, “Lizard” especially, read like serials, their periodical origin heightened by the illustrations. You finish one chapter thirsty for the next. And satisfaction is only a turn of the page away. – Japan Times

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Book Review: Visions of a Torn World By Kamo-no-Chomei ISBN: 1-880656-22-1 (paperback)

Stone Bridge Press’ Rock Spring collection brings together modern translations of both the luminaries and lesser-known writers of Japanese literature. Hojoki is unfamiliar to the vast majority of non-Japanese, but it has a significant place in Japanese cultural history as at once a vivid depiction of 12th-century Japan and a personal journal of a man all too aware of his mortality. The author Kamo-no-Chomei was a monk who renounced life in the then-capital Kyoto and lived his last years in simple huts in the countryside. The first half of Hojoki chronicles the many disasters among them fire, earthquake and famines that ravaged the city, as well as its ill-fated and abandoned relocation. The second half recounts Kamo-no-Chomei’s hermitic existence. Yasuhiko Moriguchi and David Jenkins convincingly capture the terseness and poignancy of the original Japanese verses in this very readable English version, which is further enhanced by Michael Hofmann’s evocative ink-brush illustrations and an enlightening introduction and notes section. Hojoki is an accessible and surprisingly intimate window on ancient Japanese society and one extraordinary individual’s rich inner life. – Richard Donovan 
BASHO’S WORKS:

Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology, by Helen Craig McCullough (Stanford University Press, 1990).

The Narrow Road to Oku, Translated by Donald Keene (Kodansha International 1996).

Basho’s Narrow Road, translated from the Japanese with annotations by Hiroaki Sato (Stone Bridge Press, 1996).

“Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi (“Narrow Road to the Deep North”) is, without a doubt, the most popular literary classic in Japan itself. Readers are attracted by the mystique of Basho’s journey and by the beautiful haiku. In the original, it is not a large book, and even with the necessary notes and translations into modern Japanese added, it remains a relatively slim volume. No wonder it has also attracted a host of translators, and new versions are still appearing once every few years. On top of that, it is of course the magic of Basho himself, of haiku and Zen and all that, that makes this work so popular in the West.

You may be surprised to learn that in the original, Oku no Hosomichi is not a simple or straightforward “Zen-like” work. Basho has not “forgotten language”, nor transcended it, but he plays with it in a masterful way. The work is larded with allusions from Chinese and Japanese literature, already starting in the first line that echoes the Chinese poet Li Bai.

Of these three, I prefer Sato, because his notes are the most informative and give the best insight in what Basho really meant. His translation is also the best. Keene is the weakest of this trio – his notes are sometimes insufficient, and he also too easily glosses over allusions and other difficult-to-translate passages. McCullough comes in second and is a valuable translation, – it is to be hoped Stanford will keep it in print – or else might this be something for Penguin Books? ”
Excerpt from the review and recommendations of three translations above by AD G. Blankestjin at his JAPAN PAGES Reviews Home

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