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I wish to buy a Japanese book - recommendations, anyone?


19 Mar 2002
Hello there,

I have a little problem which is also quite urgent, and I hope someone here will be able to help me a bit.

It's a friend of mine's birthday in a fortnight, and he's a student of Japanese, so I thought I'd get him something sensible this year and find a nice book, since he likes reading just as much as I do. The thing is, though, I don't understand any Japanese myself, so I really had a hard time already trying to make my way through amazon.co.jp... I mean I don't know any Japanese literature, and I need someone to recommend me a couple of good books, of which I'll hopefully be able to get one via its ISBN number.

So... does anybody have any suggestions? It should be not too difficult to read since my friend's not been studying very long yet - ideally it would be bilingual in Japanese-English or Japanese-German. Otherwise, well, he likes fantasy stuff and science fiction, but I reckon that'd be too difficult to start with, and since I've an idea he likes pretty much the same stuff that I like, a book of poetry might be very fine. Or maybe fairy tales - not 'kid's tales' but old stories and legends, something of the sort.

Any recommendations (plus ISBN number), I'd indeed be obliged.

Peace and good-will -- Maudlin~
maudlin,, Hi and welcome to the forum!!!

I'm sure thomas or twisted will assist you very soon, they are quite up to date with all the latest and with all most interesting books ect. wish I could help with your search but unfortinately my japanese is non exsistant hahaha, chat soon and again welcome
Maudlin have you checked out the "chit chat" section with the heading "what are you reading at the min" I'v just remembered that there are quite a few books as topic there,🙂
Ta Deborah, that's splendid! I'm taking a look right now. Don't suppose people have posted the ISBNs though have they? %-)

So long ~ M.
Oooh, been browsing a bit more and it's always the same thing, I can't make sure whether some book is in Japanese or in English. It must needs be in Japanese - that is the problem for me - 'cause otherwise I could well get him an English book from Amazon.co.uk or even from our local bookstore. Argh, and I've got so little time left for ordering... oh well.

Btw can anyone tell me what 'fuun' means, or is it just a name? I liked the word and the avatar but finally settled for the little snail critter.

So far so good ~ M.
Why don't you check and see if your friend has a copy of: The New Nelson. This is a ...Kanji reference manual. It might prove to be very useful. ISBN0-8048-2036-8. / ISBN 4-8053-0546-0 (Japan).
Because I cannot. I probably won't see him until his birthday, and I don't want to plain ask... and anyway, useful or not, it's such a practical sort of gift, isn't it? I'd like a "proper" book much better...

Still, thanks! ~M.
maudlin I came across this today and thought it might help you a little

sorry cant get it to work yet,but I'l try again🙂
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I'l try again lol


well it might give you an idea of a book (I hope)
Hi Maudlin
I dunno about the ISBN etc. but I think 'Kokoro' by Natsume Soseki would be a wonderful gift to give. It is one of the greatest books of Japanese literature by the man whose face you see on the 1000-yen note.

I have read no book like 'Kokoro'(even among English novels) which is so full of harsh realities of life and love. It is a tragic but beautiful story.
Thanks kinjo🙂

I'm trying to help but I read nor speak japanese, so hopefully your book you spoke of will indeed prove to be what Maudlin is seeking:clap:
Thanks Deb'rah and Kinjo... but unfortunately, since my friend's birthday is tomorrow already, I took the pains to travel a coupla hours to reach the nearest Japanese bookshop. And bought two books of which I know next to nothing %-) but they look very nice and I just hope he'll like them when he'll finally manage to read them. I'll keep 'Kokoro' in mind though! Maybe I'll take to Japanese myself some day, or more likely I'll read a translation.

Hmmm... (quite a change of topic) does somebody have an idea which (European) language might be best suited to translate Japanese into? I mean which seems best suited to reflect and preserve the peculiarities and the poetry of the language. Luckily it might be one of those that I understand. :)

Thanks everyone, and keep smiling

PS: Oh and by the way, one of the books I bought is by Oe Kenzaburo, I bought that 'cause I recognized his name (luckily written in Latin letters) from reading the books discussion in the other forum, so it proved quite a useful tip, Deborah.
Hmmm I'm reading this thread a bit late, but for his next birthday you could always get him one of Kodansha's Billingual manga's. They're really cool Japanese comic books that are written in English but right next to the little speach bubbles they have it written in Japanese. You can choose from lots of different genres including your friend's favorites, science fiction and fantasy.
Thanks Scott - I thought about getting a Manga but I'm somewhat - well, not very fond of them, at least of some. And quite besides I don't know which he'd like. Though if there are bilingual ones I may change my mind.

Anyway, I thought I might tell you all about the outcome of the story :) he unpacked the books and immediately was so deeply immersed in deciphering (he started mumbling syllables) the front pages, the back pages, and random middle pages, that he seemed to have quite forgotten about my presence. I was ever so pleased! And just as I gathered, he COULDN'T read the title but it didn't matter. We spent a most wonderful evening with these books, he explained the Kanji / Katakana / Hiragana differences to me (as well as a load of other stuff) and I had hella fun pointing all sorts of symbols out to him and saying 'what the heck does THAT mean?'. It was great! :)

So, thank you all once again and maybe I'll pop up again around Christmas time ;-)

~ Maudlin.
Maudlin, sorry for missing this post.

Oe is an excellent choice. He's very famous and has a very unique choice of topics.

If your friend likes poetry and romantic adverture along Casanova lines I'd try "tales of ise" also called Ise Monogatari.
Well, the most famous Japanese book that I'd recommend is the Tale of Genji ("Genji monogatari"). Of course it's classical literature ; it was written 1000 years ago, and is the first novel in the world. It's very thick (more than 1000 pages) and very difficult to read in Japanese as it's old Japanese. It also exist in bilingual manga.

Otherwise, the kondansha bilingual (not only manga !) are good, but usually made for Japanese readers, which means there are normally no furigana above the kanji (quite a problem). I've had a very hard time to find something readable in Japanese for a someone who is learning. In English, there are the Penguin or Oxford books for students that come in 6 levels from beginner to advance. I usually recommend them to my Japanese students. Unfortunately, nothing similar exist for those who want to learn Japanese. Even textbooks to learn Japanese are quite limited. zannen da na.
I'm telling ya', Murakami Haruki!
He's a modern, famous Japanese author. Some of his stuff is even translated into English. Good stuff!
Well, Maudlin, if you're still looking for Japanese books in the future, if you live in or near London, I recommend you to have a look at the Japanese Center at Picadilly Circus. They have loads of books there. They should be able to help you find a good one whatever you're looking for.
Ooh I did not know that there were no furigana over the Kanji in Kodansha Bilinguals. Thanks for informing me..are there usually furigana over kanji in normal mangas only in Japanese?
The penguin and oxford books are for people learning English. They are shorten rewritten version of famous novels, etc. They only use easy vocabulary adapted to all levels from beginner to advanced. So you don't want to buy them, but I wanted to say it's a pity nothing similar exist for those learning Japanese.

Children mangas in Japanese usuallu have furigana, but not other ones (or only difficult kanji).
Genji Monogatari was the first novel written by a woman. Murasaki Shikibu. Her Sempai Sei Shonagon wrote "The Pillow Book" Around the same time.

I haven't really figured out when they use them. But it might be when a kanji has an unusal reading or when it's beyond the level of the recommend list of kanji.
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