The Teahouse Expansion

Konnichiwa minna-san! This is Wakizashi coming to you from the Teahouse. I’m looking to expand the Teahouse into the deep waters of YouTube. Now, my mother always told me I have a face for radio, (maybe). But I won’t let that hold me back.

I’ve had a YouTube channel for 8 years, but before this week, I had only uploaded a couple of super-short videos of family moments in Japan. (Oh, I used to be so young!) But making videos is something I’ve always wanted to try. So, from last week, I’ve restarted my channel and will be combining it with this book review blog. I’m planning to make videos using some of the content already published on this site, as well as new content. I also want to share some scenes of life over here in Yonago, Japan. We’ll see how it goes. I’m making this up as I go along!

I will still be posting new reviews of books and comics on here–I’m currently working on a long-overdue review of Daryl Gregory’s wonderful novella: The Album of Dr. Moreau. But I’ll also be sharing some of the videos I make. Please feel free to ignore this extra content. I mean, who has time for YouTube, right? With our ridiculously huge mountains of books to-be-read, our day jobs, families, ninja training, and so on. It’s a busy, fantastic, slightly bonkers time to be alive, right? And life is too short for regrets, as someone somewhere once said. So, I’m going to give it a try, as an expansion to my hobby.

Here is my super-short review of The Invisibles Issue #1. I bought it back in 1994 and somehow brought it over the sea to Japan. Re-reading it after all these years was a fascinating experience. It really felt like opening a geeky time capsule. The back cover has an advert for Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. Remember that movie?

I made the “thumbnail” using the free Canva application. I filmed the video on my Sony Xperia, after buying a simple tripod to keep the camera steady. If you watch it, please let me know what you think. And if you have any tips or advice, I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks so much for reading!

-Wakizashi, feeling the 80% humidity and the 85 degree heat, with added summer rain.

The Slump Has Me!

In my last post, I wrote about The Slump From Beyond the Stars. I’m afraid that it has me in its unfathomable grip. I urge you to be wary of its silent, stealthy approach. Don’t end up like me, staring listlessly into space, trying to remember what has been lost. Instead of drifting into a numbed stupor, pick up that book or comic and open its pages. Read. Read like there’s no tomorrow. Don’t let the Slump take hold.

Leaving my Lovecraftian tendencies behind, I wanted to write about a reading slump that has hit me over the last few weeks. I’m not sure how or why it started, because the last book I finished reading was really good and left me much to ponder. It was a beautiful, strange book, a compelling story which has evaded my limited powers of reviewing. The book was “Skyward Inn” by Aliya Whiteley, and I recommend it. I just have to figure out how to put it into words.

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The Slump From Beyond the Stars

As I type these words, trying to make some kind of sense of the events that have plagued me over the last few weeks, I fear the worst. Dear God, if you are reading this, I can only hope you will believe my testament. You must do so, I beg you, because every word is true, no matter how incredible it may sound. It is coming for me. I feel it in my soul. I pray to heaven that I can finish this letter before it finds me.

It began with my research into Lovecraft’s story “The Colour Out Of Space“. I never should have opened the cover of that accursed book. I thought I was being clever by writing the words down instead of reciting them. Little did I know it was this physical act of inscription that likely sealed my doom. I was performing a spell and I had no idea I was doing it. God, the irony, it’s almost funny when I think about it. But I fear the laughter, once it starts, will never stop.

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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:

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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