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New Writing from Japan, Part II

August 2012

A snow-covered mountain in front of a cloudy sky.
Image: Masaru Tatsuki, Mt. Osore in Winter, 2010. Lambda print, 60cm x 60cm

The second part of our double issue of Japanese writing presents writing grounded in the everyday, with uncertainty and confusion roiling underneath. Guest editor Michael Emmerich has selected pieces about ordinary people in ordinary situations, struggling with discontent and longing for change. In two tales of plastic surgery, Asa Nonami shows a woman in the grip of obsession and deception, and Akutagawa Prize-winner Kawakami Mieko looks at breasts and implants. Young sensation Wataya Risa finds an alienated high-school girl trying to throw out her life, while Motoya Yukiko’s numb young woman drifts through her early twenties.  Sakurai Suzumo sets marital discord against the devastation of March 11; Tsushima Yūko sees a day at the beach turn dark; and Nomura Kiwao evokes the landscape of childhood. The issue is produced in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation. We thank the BCLT, and David Karashima and the Nippon Foundation, for their generous support.

The Real, the Familiar: An Introduction
By Michael Emmerich
By the middle of July, things were back to normal. Tokyo was hell.
from “Face”
By Asa Nonami
“Even if we were to remove the crow’s feet, there’s still the overall balance of your face to consider.”
Translated from Japanese by Takami Nieda
My Wife and Me in March 2011
By Suzumo Sakurai
I began to realize how disgracefully I was behaving.
Translated from Japanese by Chikako Kobayashi
from “Breasts and Eggs”
By Mieko Kawakami
Just as I’m thinking it’s about time to get out, she suddenly whips off her towel and shows me her own breasts.
Translated from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai
from “Install”
By Wataya Risa
And if you ask what I was doing, I was lying in the garbage like this pretending to be a nonconformist.
Translated from Japanese by Katherine Lundy
That Morning, When It
By Motoya Yukiko
I can’t say I wouldn’t have sex with him if, after a few drinks, the mood felt right.
Translated from Japanese by Michael Staley
Kid Sister
By Yūko Tsushima
Just then my right arm hit something and pain pierced my flesh.
Translated from Japanese by Gitte Marianne Hansen
By Nomura Kiwao
For now I’ll just give it that name, repelling all water, still
Translated from Japanese by Angus Turvill