The Translation of Love [Book Review]

30362775During the American occupation, the citizens of Japan were encouraged to apply directly to General MacArthur – “if you have a problem, write a letter, this is what democracy means” – and so write they did. MacArthur received over 500,000 letters, letters of entreaty, rage, gratitude, complaint, even adoration.

Twelve-year-old Fumi Tanaka has a problem – her beautiful and beloved older sister, Sumiko, has disappeared. Determined to find her, Fumi enlists the help of her new classmate Aya, forcibly repatriated with her father from Canada after the war. Together, they write to MacArthur and deliver their letter into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese-American GI whose job it is to translate the endless letters.

Before reading The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake, I had no idea about post-war Japan’s American occupation. I had even traveled to Japan, so I don’t know how I missed the enormity of the changes that occurred in Japan during the period of occupation. Continue reading “The Translation of Love [Book Review]”

Semester at Sea in GIFs

Finding the words to describe a four-month around-the-world-on-a-floating-university experience is often hard. And also, expressing things in GIFs is so much fun, so here you go.

How you feel when the ship sets sail for the very first time:

(You’re going to have that song stuck in your head all day. You’re welcome.) Continue reading “Semester at Sea in GIFs”

Travel Throwback: Walking Aimlessly

It has been well over a year since Semester at Sea Spring 2013 and I find myself thinking about it more and more. It was fantastic, and I can’t wait to travel again.

wandering sas

Because I was on a fairly limited budget, I tended to stay in the cities where we docked and I tried to walk as much as possible. Of course I had plans and short trips, but I often spent some time just walking through the city without much of an agenda. I would like to say that I took really deep HONY-esque pictures, but most of those pictures are in my head, safely. Continue reading “Travel Throwback: Walking Aimlessly”

Book Review: Confessions by Kanae Minato [J-horror]

Her pupils killed her daughter. Now, she will have her revenge.

I have a lot of feelings about this book, so I apologise in advance for a rambling review. The first feeling is one of regret: not that I regret reading it, not at ALL; but regret that I did not love it as much as I had intended.

The other feelings are harder to name, so let me start off with some pointers: I love reading books set in different countries. I love learning about different cultures through books, although I am aware that books may offer only one viewpoint or exaggerated ones. Continue reading “Book Review: Confessions by Kanae Minato [J-horror]”

Africa Needs More Books

I was walking through my home suburb (read:village) with my brother the other day. We went to the local library, sampled some books (slim pickings) and as we walked home, I asked about such-and-such a bookshop, and such-and-such a used bookshop. They were all closed down. Anyone wanting to purchase books needs to go to town (literally). A town which, incidentally, has only generic chain bookshops.

And I said to my brother, “This place needs more bookstores.”

And then, “Our country needs more bookstores.”

And then, “Africa needs more bookstores.”

morebookstores3 Continue reading “Africa Needs More Books”

My First Manga (and Review)

I was fourteen when a friend of mine told me to try Manga. The next time I went to a bookshop I went to the Manga shelf and uttered, “But the book is faulty. It’s back to front!” Genuinely. I felt a little stupid when everyone laughed at me, so maybe that’s why it took me almost another decade to consider it again.

I got Bakuman in Japan earlier this year when I visited the Manga Museum in Kyoto. By Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, this Manga is apparently very different from other Manga, because it is basically a Manga about Manga.The story: Moritaka is a young schoolboy who is close to the end of his compulsory schooling and has no idea what he wants to do with his life, and thus no idea which high school he should attend (if any). He enjoys drawing, but his parents expect him to lead a “stable” life and he agrees, having lost his uncle to the consequences of overworking. Continue reading “My First Manga (and Review)”

Booking It Around The World

Last week I posted about books for travelers, and I realised I never wrote about my forays into bookstores while traveling. Most Semester at Sea students decide to collect ONE THING in each country. One girl decided to buy a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in every country, preferably in a local language. Another chose Alice in Wonderland. I thought this was cool, except that a) I don’t have an all-time favourite book and b) I prefer books that I can read. So I decided to buy a book in every country, either about that country or by an author in that country. In English.

bookscollage

Continue reading “Booking It Around The World”

Review: The Big Necessity by Rose George

One of the first things I noticed when I started traveling was international differences in public restrooms. In New York City I was met with the conundrum of a city that has everything except restrooms. In China I saw squat toilets for the first time – and refused to use them. Working in a hospital with filthy restrooms has given me a strong bladder. Then, when we hit our first official port for Semester at Sea (Japan) I saw the smartest loos alive.

What a pleasure, then, to read The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters while traveling. (The cover caught my eye – isn’t it wonderful?) Rose George literally goes everywhere with this book. She plunges into the depths of sewer systems in New York and London. She exposes the dirt and grit of the water we consume. And then she travels to the corners of the earth to see how other countries compare. Continue reading “Review: The Big Necessity by Rose George”

Kon nichi wa, Sayonara, Japan

Japan… Oooooh Japan. Did I think Japan would be like China, because I’ve been to China before and it’s also in Asia? Maybe I did, and that’s a pretty ignorant assumption I made. Lesson learned.

It’s been a day since we left Japan and I’m still overwhelmed. I’m not entirely sure how to put into words all that I saw and learned, so it will probably be a series of posts.

But know this: it was good. It was a culture-shock. It was so amazing. Continue reading “Kon nichi wa, Sayonara, Japan”