Tag Archives: japanese

Birthday by Koji Suzuki

Image result for birthday koji suzuki

For anyone who has ever heard of The Ring or Ringu, this is a must read. I, myself, am a huge fan of Japanese horror, whether it be books, movies or video games, so when I found this book on thriftbooks.com, you can imagine how ecstatic I was. My favorite movie in the Ringu/Ring franchise is Ringu 0: Birthday, the movie directly inspired by this book. 

The story begins with introducing us to a character called Takano Mai. As with all Ringu characters, she doesn’t stick around for long. The majority of this book is set 24 years after Yamamura Sadako’s death, and is told from the perspective of Toyama, a man who knew Sadako when she was eighteen and nineteen years old. They were lovers and he recalls the events that led up to her death, unbeknownst to him. 

My favorite character in the Ringu franchise has always been Sadako. In fact, when I was younger she used to be my imaginary friend. I used to write letters to her and doodle pictures of her in the margins of my homework assignments. I felt a kinship with her, what preteen hasn’t? Being misunderstood and feeling like an outcast, a freak, comes with the territory of growing up. But Sadako always held a special place in my heart because she was so powerful, powerful enough to exact her revenge upon her murderers and abusers from beyond her watery tomb at the bottom of that well. 

That’s why this book has easily become one of my favorites. It is the prequel and the sequel to all the events that lead up to the first Ringu/Ring book and movie. It tells us the story of who she was, how she loved, and and what kind of personality she had before she because a curse. Koji-sama is an amazing writer, creating for us a vivid depiction of a horrific and tragic number of events that created Sadako’s infamous video tape. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes horror. It’s very well translated from its original Japanese and it’s easy to read. I finished it in less than two hours. Overall, it gets a 5/5 from me. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the Ringu books (Ring, Spiral, Loop and Sadako) so I can wax poetic on how awesome they are, too.

Buy it Here!

The Suffering by Rin Chupeco

The Suffering

I picked this book up after I got home from work yesterday and didn’t put it down until I was finished. It was fantastic, and everything I expected from a sequel to such an incredible book as The Girl from the Well. It continues to follow Okiku and Tark after the events of the first book. I love this series so much that I can barely contain myself!

This book has a perfect setting for a horror book–Aokigahara in Japan. This is actually one of my favorite sites to study, as it’s history fascinates and mystifies me. The Suffering takes all the best elements of Ringu and Fatal Frame and squishes them into an action-packed, scary-as-hell, made-me-weep-like-a-child tale. There’s love, there’s loss and there is a whooooole lot of creepy ghosts and spine-chilling moments.

Did I mention Fatal Frame? If you have ever even heard of the story of Fatal Frame (any of the games, really) then this book should appeal to you. The whole lost mansion/village, creepy dolls, ritualistic sacrifice, crazy priests, yuurei out the wazoo and whole searching-and-fighting-for-the-person-you-love-most thing are all super prominent themes in this book. I saw so many similarities in the stories that it got me thinking that surely this must be an actual legend in Japan, and since I know Chupeco-sama is a crazy good researcher, I bet it probably is. And that interests me to no end!

Everyone should read these books. Seriously, they are so, so good. Anyone who likes horror, J-horror, anything of the like, will love this series. Do it! I give it four out of four stars!

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The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well (The Girl from the Well #1) – Rin Chupeco

This incredible novel of terror and love is everything I have ever wanted in a piece of literature. Ever. It has jumped to my ‘Favorite book’ slot faster than any other novel I have read. As a student of Japanese culture, I am constantly pushing my ear to the ground in the latest releases as far as J-horror goes. Ju-on, Ringu, Kairo, Kaidan: these are just a few of my favorite movies in the genre. So, when I spotted this lovely book in Barnes and Noble and read one review that called it a mix between ‘The Grudge’, ‘The Ring’, and ‘The Exorcist’. Well, you can imagine how thrilled I was. I actually squealed in the middle of the store. This book seemed so perfect!

The story begins with a legend. The most famous ghost story in Japan (aside from maybe Kaidan) is of Okiku, a ghost who was betrayed by her lord and thrown down a well. This book follows the un-life of the very same Okiku as she traverses modern day America, sucking the life out of abusers and murderers. You actually (Finally!) get to experience a Japanese horror movie from the perspective of the yuurei!

Half of the story takes place in America, and half of it takes place in Japan, which I feel is a reference to the other main character–Tarquin–as he is half Japanese and half American. The book is a perfect blend of horror, cute factor, and history. It takes a real, honest-to-goodness three hundred year old Japanese ghost story and puts a whole new spin on it. Chupeco introduces the reader gently into the ways of Japanese culture. I myself am well versed, but even if I had never heard of hakama, miko, or onigiri, I would have enjoyed the book just as much, as she very clearly and tactfully explains every reference to Japanese culture that she makes (which, to my delight, was many!).

It is so rare for me to find a book that so quickly grabs my attention and steals my heart. It is fantastically well written, the characters are so real and easy to sympathize with, the setting is alive and vividly described, the plot is so deliciously immersive and wonderful that I finished the book in two hours flat! I could not put it down (even reading it while cooking dinner, book in one hand and spatula in the other!). And I will be honest and say that on payday, the first thing I am buying is the sequel: The Suffering.

If you are interested in Japanese culture, horror movies, Japanese horror movies, ghost stories, supernatural and the paranormal, murder, mystery, history, legends, mythology, then this is a book you absolutely HAVE to read! It is an acceptable novel for people of all ages and genders, I myself am 22 and a girl. There is a touch of romance, but it is merely hinted at, so it does little to affect the overall plot, which I thought was a nice touch, as the events that unfold were a strange scenario for a love story. Rin Chupeco is my hero, because she has created a story that is everything I have ever wanted in a book, or even any kind of literature at all. A story that crosses the boundaries of culture, and delivers you into the eyes of the monster-who you discover very quickly was never the monster in the first place. 8)

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Little Sister by Kara Dalkey

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey is one of my favorite books. It was published way back in 1996, so not a lot of people remember it. It follows the story of Fujiwara no Mitsuko, a Japanese child of a noble family in the 9th year of Emperor Shirakawa’s reign.The setting is beautifully painted in watercolor strokes by the author, who writes as Mitsuko. We follow her as she and her family go through fires and scandal, and she befriends Goranu, a Tengu. Tengu are a particular kind of Japanese Oni, or demon, that can shape shift, but are most often shown in paintings as men with the head of crows.

This book is particular in the way it describes daily life in feudal Japan, and is careful to pay homage to how things were and are. The Japanese mindset are very different from western mindset, but somehow the author conveys it purely and clearly. The mythology and religion in both Shinto and Buddhism is referenced constantly, as in Japan the religion is more of a lifestyle and therefore are integrated into all parts of every day life. From the haiku poems that her sister exchanges with suitors in the Imperial court, to the furisode kimono sleeves she hides her face behind, the setting of Mitsuko’s world takes center stage in this hauntingly beautiful story.

Mitsuko is such an interesting and dynamic character, who sees herself as nothing more than a dutiful sister and daughter. She embarks on a journey into the underworld to save her sister with the help of Goranu. But Mitsuko is so much more, and Goranu sees that. She is brave and creative. Their relationship goes from being a reluctant partnership to a willing friendship-and later much more. The interactions between the two are definitely my favorite thing about this book, aside from the historical and vivid setting.

The author is a master of immersion, and it is not difficult to get lost in the story and forget reality for a while. It falls just short of 200 pages, and is easy to breeze right through. To this day, I wish it was longer. The first time I read it, I was in middle school, and now at age 22, I still reread it once a year. It never gets old, and the story stays with you. It is a truly beautiful tale of honor, love and duty, with the added splash of historical accuracy and regional beliefs.

I give it a 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Japanese culture and is curious to learn more about their mythology from a fictional character’s point of view. It is a truly amazing book! Please consider looking it up and giving it a read. It is always a sad thing when such a lovely piece of literature is left to gather dust in the annals of time.

Buy it here!