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New Writing from Japan

July 2012

A couple wearing striped outfits and pink wigs are vacuum sealed in plastic in front of a green...
Image: PHOTOGRAPHER HAL, "Flesh Love #27, Lim & Kyohei," 2010, 1201 X 900mm, archival pigment print. Image courtesy of the artist.

This month and next we’re showcasing writing from Japan. In the wake of the events of March 11, 2011, the boundaries between real and unreal, solid and fluid, seem to have shifted; guest editor Michael Emmerich has selected pieces that resonate with the country’s new mood. The pieces in this first part have the texture of a dream, unstable, fleeting, fantastic. In tales of shape-shifting, Jin Keita finds new life in a different form, and Kawakami Hiromi pursues a girl who turns into a pearl. Kurahashi Yumiko takes flower arranging to a new level. Akutagawa Prize winner EnJoe Toh spins a yarn about an oddly familiar galaxy. Nakai Hideo follows an illusionist and finds himself part of the act. Medoruma Shun receives voice mail from the beyond. Poet Yotsumoto Yasuhiro plays with rhyme and rhythm. And Furukawa Hideo’s young office worker stumbles upon a new world only steps away. 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 Reality of Dreams: An Introduction
By Michael Emmerich
It is as though there is a real world and a world of eerie dreams.
By Jin Keita
It required a certain focus and concentration in order to vaporize.
Translated from Japanese by Alison Watts
Apollo’s Head
By Kurahashi Yumiko
For the time being I set the head in a shallow porcelain bowl, the kind used for flower arrangements.
Translated from Japanese by Ian MacDonald
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire
By EnJoe Toh
Galactic Empire, you’re my only hope.
Translated from Japanese by Jocelyne Allen
Underground City
By Nakai Hideo
“Please kill me. Kill me, like you killed your wife.”
Translated from Japanese by David Boyd
Record of a Night too Brief
By Kawakami Hiromi
The girl finally grew incredibly small, about one centimeter wide.
Translated from Japanese by Lucy North
Stories from the Streets of Koza
By Shun Medoruma
The next afternoon I saw Granny Nabi pushing a dog in a stroller.
Translated from Japanese by Sam Malissa
Fish Variations
By Yotsumoto Yasuhiro
All journeys explore this side of the atmosphere
Translated from Japanese by Angus Turvill
The Farside
By Hideo Furukawa
And the woman who died—the victim, I mean—looked just like you.
Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori