Author Archive

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Week 1

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Happy May, y’all! May is my favorite month for reasons aside from it being my birth month, and one of those reasons is celebrating my Asian-American heritage. Let’s appreciate some of the awesome Japanese-Americans that have graced the world with their talent and wisdom!

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Robbin’s 留学の思い出: Shopping

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The awesome sweater I picked up for cheap during lunch hour at my university.

I suddenly realized this morning that this time a couple of years ago, I was studying at 京都精華大学 (Kyoto Seika University). I’m in the midst of reading more books for review, so I thought I would take a pleasant stroll down memory lane. When I talk about shopping, I don’t mean shopping in a mall or an arcade (though I assure you, I did plenty of that) — I’m talking about having my lunch at the college cafeteria and then rushing out to the quad. On sunny days, many students will tote about a plastic picnic blanket and spread their very gently used clothes, CDs, and other fun things. And so my friends and I would rejoice more than usual when the sun was shining. We’d stuff curry and karaage and udon in our faces quickly, and then march outside before the other students could look at the items.

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Taxes! Repaying Virtue! Sontoku!

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Odawara Castle and Ninomiya Shrine

Taxes! Repaying Virtues! Sontoku!

In spirit of Tax Day here in America, let’s learn about houtoku, or repaying virtues, from our good friend Ninomiya Sontoku (二宮 尊徳, 1787-1856). Chances are, you haven’t heard about this fascinating fellow. First and foremost, don’t associate him right away with taxes! He’s not a bad guy! In fact, he’s so amazing that he’s one of the few people who have a Shinto shrine named for them (rather than a mythical deity). Ninomiya Jinja, founded during the Meiji period in 1894, is located very close to Odawara Castle in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture.

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Approaching Murakami: ノルウェイの森「Norwegian Wood」

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Still from the movie, "Norwegian Wood"

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” – The Beatles, “Norwegian Wood”

Thanks to my work schedule, today is my Monday, so to me, it’s Murakami Monday (this won’t last long, will it?)! Here’s something a little more modern for all you readers out there — Haruki Murakami’s 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood. I am not well-versed in the weirdness of Murakami’s novels. In fact, I started with 1Q84, which is probably not the best book to start with when you’re jumping into this pool. Norwegian Wood, from what I understand (seeing as I have not read the entirety of this author’s works yet), is probably a safe bet when you’re going to introduce someone to Murakami’s books. It has its own quirks, yes, but the level of said quirks is nowhere near as high as the others. This book, titled after a Beatles’ song of the same name, is seen as a coming-of-age story that deals with love and loss.

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How to Read Battle Royale Even When You’re Squeamish

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

As you can see from the photo above, one of my most recent purchases was Koushun Takami’s (高見 広春) Battle Royale complete collection. Okay, so before any crazy ideas start bubbling up, this is NOT going to be a comparison of Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale. There are plenty of other resources and articles for that, especially since it’s getting out of hand. Let us gather together and see these two amazing series (which is, yes! An opinion!) for what they are. Yes, BR may have come first, but so did Theseus and the story of the Minotaur. Please fasten your seatbelts and acknowledge that many things these days are no longer “original”. All good? Crazy fans and hipsters at bay? Good. Let’s proceed.

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日本昔話: Folktales, Fables, and Folly

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

The cover of Japanese Children's Favorite Stories

When I think about my childhood, I tend to think about the stories my mother used to read me. I had the most beat-up copies of Mother Goose and my favorite part was watching the dish run away with the spoon. Japanese folklore, however, possesses a magic all its own. It may not have tableware eloping with each other, but there are tales of teakettles turning into badgers and children being born from peaches. On top of having some of the most amazing tales, they’re also great for practicing basic Japanese comprehension. Continue reading and have a look at some of my favorite stories, some links for e-books in hiragana, and a fun 70’s cartoon with a super-long opening theme!

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伝統芸能: Kabuki in Kyoto

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Dojoji from University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Research Guides

Ah, March. This month will probably bring back memories of my time in Kyoto for years to come. Before I get all teary-eyed, I’d like to talk about some 伝統芸能(でんとうげいのう) – traditional Japanese performing arts. I was fortunate enough to catch a kabuki (歌舞伎) performance of Dojoji, one of my favorite plays that has been adapted into many literary and artistic forms. It’s been a couple of years since then, but it was a fascinating experience that I recommend for everyone — that is, if you’re well-prepared. The best way to appreciate any sort of performing art is to have at least a general understanding of the background story. Otherwise, I will guarantee that you’ll find yourself hopelessly lost in prolonged song-like syllables, theatre makeup, and actors moving slowly in heavy multi-layered costume kimonos. You have been warned.

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Book Review: Kappa by Akutagawa Ryunosuke

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I love Japanese literature. I’ve gone through the motions of taking all the Japanese literature classes in college, and while some professors were sub-par, there were some amazing instructors who helped me fall in love with it. The first novel that comes to mind is Akutagawa’s Kappa. It made me laugh out loud. It made me ponder. It even stimulated a surprisingly insightful conversation with my usually quiet father. The overarching message of a ruined society is cleverly disguised in satire, and the radical and seemingly far-fetched “Kappaland” masks it in gaiety and absurdity.

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