Book Bloggers Abroad (27) – Japan

Book Bloggers AbroadWelcome to the weekly guest post in the Book Bloggers Abroad series. Every week a book blogger from a different country is featured who talks about what it’s like to be a book blogger where he or she lives.

Regrettably, this is the last post in the series! But there is the Book Bloggers Abroad 2011 Challenge, if you want something related.


Our guest blogger for today is Nat from Japan. Her blog is called In Spring it is the Dawn. She reads a wide variety of books, but she really enjoys reading books by Japanese authors or books set in Japan. She runs the very interesting Hello Japan! feature where bloggers are asked each month to undertake some task to do with Japan. Go and check out her blog!

In kimono

Me in a kimono for our engagement party. This picture was taken about 10 years ago!

I’m Canadian but I’ve been living abroad for about 15 years now. (Wow! It still surprises me when I think about it.) I first came to Japan not long after graduating from university where I got a degree in Applied Linguistics, in other words, Teaching English as a Second Language.

At first, I spent a year in Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, on a one-year Working Holiday Visa. It seems I was destined to return to Japan though as I ended up coming back, but to Tokyo this time, where I taught Business English at various companies around Tokyo for about 4 years.

It was during this time that I met the man who is now my husband. After we married, he was transferred to England for work and we spent almost 4 years there, first in London, and then in Cambridge. I loved it! Especially all those fabulous book stores!

We’ve now been back in Japan for a little over 5 years. We’re currently living in an apartment in the suburbs of Tokyo with our two very silly cats. It’s a fairly residential area but still quite built up (where isn’t around Tokyo?) and with the trains it’s very easy to access central Tokyo.

Chuo Dor

Chuo Dori, the main shopping street in Ginza, Tokyo

I’m still teaching but mostly private lessons now, tutoring, and at a small English conversation school. I’m not working full time, but I do commute a lot. This year I’ve been struggling to blog as often as I used to and I’m not entirely sure what changed other than I’ve been dealing with some personal issues this year. I guess they’ve taken their toll. I’m also not the fastest reader but start getting withdrawal if I don’t read for a couple of days. Basically, it seems that there is never enough time to read and blog as much as I’d like!

I get most of my books in little padded envelopes from overseas. Imported English books can be rather expensive here so The Book Depository is a real life-saver! It really doesn’t make sense that I can order a book to be sent half-way round the world (with free shipping no less) that’s cheaper than buying the same book at a local bookstore! But I’m not complaining. I also get a few books here and there from publishers or authors for review. Plus since getting my Sony Reader earlier this year, I’ve started reading more e-books which is pretty convenient for my train commutes, and the fact that my bookshelves are stuffed full and there is literally no more room.

Kinokuniya Shinjuku South Bookstore

Kinokuniya Shinjuku South Bookstore (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

However, I do still pop into my favorite book store, Kinokuniya Shinjuku South store, whenever I’m in that part of the city. From what I’ve found, it has the biggest selection of English books in Tokyo, and the prices can sometimes be reasonable, especially on mass market paperbacks. In fact, I bought a couple of books there last week! So I will occasionally get something there, but mostly I just enjoy browsing. As easy and convenient it is to buy books online, I still miss wandering around a bookstore simply browsing and seeing what catches my eye. One of the things I really like about Kinukuniya is they have a nice selection of Japanese literature titles in a dedicated section.

Kinokuniya Shinjuku South store.

The Japanese literature in translation section at Kinokuniya Shinjuku South store.

When we were still living in our old apartment in a different area of the city, I had a library card to a newly-built library that was within walking distance from our apartment. They had a few shelves of English books and I would occasionally take out the odd book. You could only have the books for 2 weeks though, and they seemed much stricter about returning books on time. Since we moved to a different area of Tokyo about a year and a half ago, I haven’t bothered to get a new card. The closest library here is a few train stations away and a little out of the way. Plus it’s not like I need to borrow books with my giant TBR of unread books at home!

Usually I read wherever I can. In bed at night. Curled up on the sofa. On the train. Our apartment is somewhat spacious by Japanese standards but still quite small by Canadian standards and I dream of the day I can have a reading room with a comfy chair and all my books around instead of crammed into bookshelves and in stacks all over the place.

One of our cats, Jiro

One of our cats, Jiro, curled up on the sofa beside me during the last 24 Hour Read-a-thon.

I studied French in school and later spent a year there on a student exchange but it’s been many years since I spoke it or read it with any frequency so my French has become quite rusty. I do have some French literature books though that I picked up on our travels in Europe, and that I still hope to read someday. However, English is my native language and the language I read and blog in.

In fact, even though I live in Japan, other than in local shops, my daily life takes place almost entirely in English. Therefore, sadly, I can’t read in Japanese, or even speak it all that well either to be honest. I’d love to be able to read manga, or Haruki Murakami’s novels, in the original language.

I could simply suggest Haruki Murakami’s Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World as one of my favorite books by a Japanese author, but he is such a big name, most people have probably already heard of him. Although, excuse my little bit of self-promotion, I’ll be hosting a Murakami Reading Challenge next year and I’d love it if you’d join.

Instead I’ll recommend another favorite Japanese book of mine, The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. It’s the story of four sisters set in the years just before WWII as Japan is embracing Westernization and modernization, losing some of its traditional culture in turn. At its heart it is an Austenesque story of these four women. I reread it earlier this year and loved it just as much as the first time. It’s available at, The Book Depository and other bookstores.

If I’m allowed to mention a Canadian author as well I’d suggest Ann-Marie MacDonald. I’ve loved both her books but would especially recommend her first, Fall on Your Knees.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland

Well, there you have it. Thank you Judith for letting me join in your Book Bloggers Abroad series. I’m so glad I was able to get in before the deadline!


Click on the world for a Google Maps picture!

Thanks Nat, for letting us have a look at your life as a reader and blogger. I also think Hard-Boiled Wonderland is Murakami’s best novel (and that he is one of the best writers around!). But I also liked Fall on Your Knees, which you mentioned. A very special book.

Don’t forget to take a look at Nat’s Blog. If you have any questions or comments for Nat, just leave them in the comments section.

I hope you enjoyed the Book Bloggers Abroad series. I enjoyed it very much myself and would like to thank past participants too for showing us some of their world. If you like, you can join me in the Book Bloggers Abroad 2011 Challenge and read some of the books that have been recommended by guest posters in this series.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

13 Responses to Book Bloggers Abroad (27) – Japan

  1. Julie says:

    Wow! Living abroad for that long is quite brave (at least as far as I’m concerned). I live and work only 20 minutes from the city I was born and raised in. Wonderful post!

  2. Anastasia says:

    I want to live abroad in wonderful places! I’m so jealous, Nat! I do have a question, though: how did you move all your books around? (That’s the main thing I’m worried about re: my moving somewhere else. My books!)

  3. chasing bawa says:

    OMG, you cat is called Jiro! That is SO cute:) I’m love Haruki Murakami’s work and also The Makioka Sisters and will definitely check out Fall on Your Knees. It’s great to take a peek into your world, Nat. And I’m sad to see that this is the last in a wonderful series, Judith.

  4. Iris says:

    It was so nice reading a little more about your lif since we exchange tweets so regularly! You look so cute in the kimono. And I did love Fall on Your Knees. I did not know she had written another book. And I still need to introduce myself to Japanese literature, I’m hoping to read more of it soon.

  5. I love Japan! My friend went out there to teach English about 10 years ago too. I have been out there three times and I think it is my favourite country. I love Japanese literature, but although I own The Makioka Sisters I haven’t tried it yet. Hopefully I’ll get to it in 2011.

    I loved Fall on Your Knees too 🙂

    Thanks for letting us know a bit more about you.

  6. amymckie says:

    Great to hear more about Nat and Japan! I was lucky enough to meet Nat at BEA last year (and hopefully might again this year??).

  7. tanabata says:

    Thanks again Judith! I’m so glad I was able to take part in this series, and a little honoured to be the final guest post.
    It’s been a few years since I read Hard-boiled Wonderland, and Fall on Your Knees. I think both are due a re-read one of these days.

    Julie – As I’m getting older, I’m starting to feel more like returning “home”. 🙂

    Sakura – Jiro is SUCH a goof! LOL. I’m sad this is the last in the series too, but happy to have made it in time.

    Iris – Thanks. I only wish I still looked like that. 😉
    MacDonald’s second book, The Way the Crow Flies, was shortlisted for the Canadian Giller Prize and is also very good. I wish she would hurry up and write another novel!

    Jackie – Japan is a pretty unique, special place. I hope you do get a chance to read The Makioka Sisters next year.

    Amy – I’m glad we got to meet up in New York! Sadly I won’t be going to BEA next year, but am contemplating the Euro Book Blogger Con in London if it actually gets off the ground.

  8. tanabata says:

    Anastasia – I’m sorry. I couldn’t see your comment when I replied earlier. I promise I wasn’t purposely ignoring you. When I went to Japan I didn’t take many books with me, and it was really while we lived in England that my collection started to increase dramatically. All those tempting book stores! Luckily for most of our moves since then a moving company has been provided by my husband’s company and even the one time we moved across Tokyo by ourselves we still hired a moving company. The moving guys sure haven’t enjoyed hauling all the heavy boxes of books but there’s no way we could do it ourselves. Books certainly do take some effort and money to move.

    • Anastasia says:

      Oh, it’s no problem! I saw it was being held in moderation and new you’d get to it eventually. 😀

      And wow, that’s great that your husband’s company helped y’all move! That certainly does make it easier to tote around a larger book collection, haha!

  9. Gnoe says:

    Oh no, the LAST Book Bloggers Abroad post already! And a great one to end with.

    Thanks for letting us look into your life Nat. Gorgeous kimono you wore for your engagement party! *sigh* Not that I especially would like to wear a kimono… Let’s say it just wouldn’t look right on me with my Dutch figure. 😉

    I’m glad to hear you like Hardboiled Wonderland so much. It’s one of the few Murakamis I still haven’t read and now I’m looking forward to it even more. Though it’s not on my list for your Murakami Reading Challenge (yet) — I have other works scheduled for that! And as you know I have The Makioka Sisters on my shelf too, sorry I wasn’t able to join in the read-along as planned. 😦

    My eye fell on some nice details in your pics: Norwegian Wood at the bookstore and the Apple logo in Tokyo at night. But I especially love the photo of Jiro doing his job during the read-a-thon. 😉 It’s a good thing Judith made the adding of pictures compulsory!

    So I would like to end this comment with a big THANK YOU to Judith for hosting this fabulous Book Bloggers Abroad series. It has been so much fun reading about all those awesome people!

    • leeswammes says:

      I really enjoyed hosting Book Bloggers Abroad, Gnoe! It was indeed great fun finding out about other bloggers and their countries.

    • tanabata says:

      Thanks, Gnoe! The kimono was borrowed from H’s sister-in-law. And trust me -that picture was taken 10 years ago. It wouldn’t look the same on me now. 😉

      I really want to reread Hard-boiled Wonderland as it’s been quite a few years since I first read it but parts of it have stayed with me, which has got to say something, right?

      Glad you enjoyed the other pics! 🙂

  10. leeswammes says:

    Thanks for participating, Nat. It was very interesting to hear about your bookish life in Japan.

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