Sakura Peak, Slice of Life #2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Slice of Life #1, I love this time of year in Japan. There is a local park called Minatoyama Koen which is popular for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties. I like to cycle down there during spring break and enjoy the sakura with a flask of tea. You can buy taiyaki, a fish-shaped toasted waffle with sweet red bean filling. It might sound weird but it goes really well with a cup of tea.

I went to the park yesterday and the sakura was at its peak. Some of the trees’ blossoms were already beginning to fall. It’s a beautiful sight as the light-pink blossoms drift down in the breeze. If one falls in your cup, it is considered lucky. Here are some photos of the cherry blossom in Minatoyama Park.

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Slice of Life #1

I took part in a 3-day English Camp from March 25th to 27th. It was held in a mountain village in Tottori Prefecture. We stayed in a hotel that had been converted from an old elementary school.


I love this time of year. The sakura are blossoming and the days are getting warmer. I’ve lived in Japan since 2003 and I still really look forward to the cherry blossom season. It’s a truly beautiful time of the year. People enjoy hanami parties in the local parks, sitting under the cherry trees having drinks or eating obento. Did you know that the sakura “front” gets reported on the daily news as it makes its way across the country?

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2020 Books Describing YOU!

I saw this fun Book Challenge Tag on Bookstooge’s blog and thought I would give it a try. The rules are simple: Answer the questions using books you read in 2020.


  1. Describe Yourself: The Private Life of Elder Things


2. How do you feel? Alienated

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Negative Reviews

I was inspired to write this after reading a couple of intriguing posts about negative reviews by Re-enchantment Of The World and Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Fatten It. Clicking on the links will take you to each post. Please read the comments, too, as there are some great points brought up there.

(c) Alex Norris, Website: https://webcomicname.com/

Thinking over the past year of blogging book reviews, I’m pressed to remember a truly negative review I posted. I was disappointed with Stephen King’s IT because I thought it was overlong and suffered from King’s tendency to waffle. Also, it was surprisingly dull in parts and had me almost skipping pages. Despite these flaws, I still rated it 2 stars. Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation wasn’t a great read for me either, but I initially gave it 3 stars, mainly because I liked the weird atmosphere and some of the writing style. After thinking more about it, I’ve amended that rating to 2 stars. But if you follow the Goodreads rating system, “2 stars” means the book was “okay.” Is “okay” a negative review? Not really.

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A Big Book of Ballard

I posted a review of J.G. Ballard’s short story “Chronopolis” yesterday, so I thought I would show some photos of the HUGE book I read it in. The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard (2010) was a present from my brother a few years back. I’ve only dipped into it occasionally, so I want to make an effort to read more of the stories this year. It’s also a good chance to read more Ballard–a writer whose work is reckoned to be essential reading for any fan of the science fiction genre.

This book contains 98 short stories written between 1956 and 1996. That’s one thousand one hundred and ninety-six pages! I think this will take me a few years to complete, as I’ve been advised not to read too much Ballard in quick succession. I can understand why. His writing is well-known for being “thought-provoking and unsettling,” his stories “eerie and melancholy.”

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New Additions to the Teahouse

Shiver: Selected Stories (2015) by Junji Ito

‘This volume includes nine of Junji Ito’s best short stories, as selected by the author himself and presented with accompanying notes and commentary. An arm peppered with tiny holes dangles from a sick girl’s window… After an idol hangs herself, balloons bearing faces appear in the sky, some even featuring your own face… An amateur film crew hires an extremely individualistic fashion model and faces a real bloody ending… An offering of nine fresh nightmares for the delight of horror fans.’

I’d heard about Junji Ito’s horror manga, but never read any. I recently watched a video about the Japanese artist on ComicPop‘s Youtube channel. It made me want to check out his work. Here’s a link to the video. (Discussion of this book starts from 25:43)


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Reading the Sci Fi “Canon”

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.”

–John Scalzi, Taken from his essay Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again, August 2020

Selections from the recent Penguin Science Fiction collection

Maryam, over at The Curious SFF Reader, wrote a great post about the science fiction canon, asking if we should read it or not. Her essay and all of the comments made for a fascinating read and got me thinking about what this “canon” is. Is there a canon for science fiction like there is for literature? If so, who decided which books make up this canon?

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Happy New Ox!

Happy New Year from Wakizashi’s little corner of Japan!

2021 is the third year in the Reiwa Period (令和三年). The Japanese follow the Chinese Zodiac which has 12 animals for each 12-year cycle. 2021 is the Year of the Ox (or Cow). According to the Chinese Lunar calendar the New Year begins on February 12th.

Ox Years are: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

What kind of year can we expect?

Kathryn Wortley of the Japan Times writes: “The second animal of the Chinese zodiac, the ox denotes the hard work, positivity and honesty that will be manifested in all of us in the coming 12 months, according to astrologers.”


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Top Reads of 2020

Another year draws to a close, so it’s time to publish my Top Reads of the year. These are the stories that stood out for me over the past 12 months. They are listed in no particular order; just the ones I enjoyed reading the most during this crazy year of 2020. If you click on the title, it will take you to my review.


Best Books Read in 2020

Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah (1969) by Frank Herbert
Europe at Dawn (2018) by Dave Hutchinson
In the Forests of Serre (2004) by Patricia McKillip
Utopia Avenue (2020) by David Mitchell
The Folding Knife (2010) by K.J. Parker
The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman
Lancelot (2018) by Giles Kristian
The Stand (1978) by Stephen King


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Wakizashi

Like Tom Waits sang, “I’m big in Japan”; six foot two inches to be precise. They use centimeters over here, so that makes me around 189~190cm. Not significantly tall for a “Westerner”, but taller than a lot of Japanese people. I’m always easy to find in a crowd over here. That can have both its good points and bad points😉.

from IDW Publishing’s current run of Usagi Yojimbo
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