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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,369 Ratings  ·  185 Reviews
Isaku is a nine-year-old boy living in a remote, desperately poor fishing village on the coast of Japan. His people catch barely enough fish to live on, and so must distill salt to sell to neighboring villages. But this industry serves another, more sinister purpose: the fires of the salt cauldrons lure passing ships toward the shore and onto rocky shoals. When a ship runs ...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published 2000 by Harcourt (first published 1982)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Henry Avila
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nine-year-old boy , Isaku, struggles in the sea, reaching out for the driftwood, but the big waves constantly move over his small body , and then, pushing him out towards the deep water, on the back flow, as hard rain comes down relentlessly. He can barely keep on his feet, the large piece of wood, almost as big as him, is stubbornly, stuck between the rocks. The weak Isaku finally succeeds in removing it, the other villagers pick their driftwood easily and bring them back to shore. The boy gets ...more
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sting's soul cage
Recommended to Mariel by: Lauren
I have not reviewed Akira Yoshimura's Shipwrecks. It felt like I had. Nope, the goodreads page is insisting that I have not. It's blank. What would I have said? (This isn't feelings mabelline. I'm born with the word stutterings. Swear it.) I have conversations in my head. Well, I used to all of the time. I've grown more inward inward and less imagined hopeful outward so the mental conversations aren't me making up whole dialogues of what I wished would be said as much as me talking to me. (If ot ...more
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015

Kinzo had been laid up at home since summer. One day he had lost his footing and slammed his back against a rock while out spearing octopus on the reef. Unable to work, he became a burden on his family. In a village flirting with starvation, an invalid would be written off as dead.

Shipwrecks is not a story for the faint of heart. It is a tale of strife and pain, of lives spent in backbreaking work for little to no return, of pragmatic decisions that to an outsider may look like crimes against
Nancy Oakes
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
What a great book! The book itself is very small, but by the time you get to the end you realize that there was a lot to this story. For example, in what is a story set in medieval Japan, you get the following topics that are (imho) apropos in the modern world: how human beings use religion as a tool to cover up their own self interest, and how sometimes evil deeds are performed in the name of self preservation and the mob is drawn into the performance of these deeds without any thought about wh ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing

One of the most beautiful and heartbreaking books I've ever read. I can remember -- vaguely -- reading this one in my twenties, and I've always remembered it as being very moving but couldn't quite remember why. Twenty-year-old me was a bit of a dumbass to be honest. I know I didn't appreciate this book nearly as much as I should have. I think the story resonates with me more now that I'm older and have a family of my own -- on re-reading the book I had a lot of empathy for the mother who is try
Not your typical bloated historical fiction. I want to rant about how wonderful this was, and tell you in detail about all the twists, turns and revelations, but that would ruin it for you.

It's a short book. The story pivots around a small impoverished fishing village in medieval Japan, where life is ruled by nature and guided by rather dubious moral codes. Frequently on the verge of death, and isolated from the general populace, villagers cling to sea worship and their ancestors' rules of cond
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
3.5 stars

A bit reluctant to buy it from a secondhand bookshop called Shaman next to Khaosarn Road in Bangkok, I was not sure if I could finish reading this novel by Akira Yoshimura because I’ve never read him before. However, from its fine translation by Mark Ealey, I found reading it relatively readable from its eight chapters depicting a central protagonist named Isaku and the curse-like fate that follows. This synopsis should suffice as its background:

Isaku is a nine-year-old boy living in a
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a strange little book about a youth - almost a man - growing up in a marginal coastal village in nowheresville Japan. The people are so poor that it is common to sell themselves as servants for a fixed period, in this way their families can avoid starvation.

The village has next to no useful crop land so everything is harvested from the forests and especially the sea. The harvest includes shipwrecks which are lured onto the rocks by the villages. A shipwreck is a rare event but when it d
Ana  Vlădescu
This story is eerie and a bit like a child in a horror story: the scariest thing you can imagine. Or at least, that I can imagine. In a poor village where life isn't guaranteed, the story follows a little boy, Isaku, and his family's destiny. Survival is tough and the only happy moment is when ships smash on the rocks near their houses and they loot them of everything - including killing the sailors. It is scary and disheartening to think that your life is dependent on the killing of innocent pe ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-red-circle
Mishima's "The Sound of Waves" and Oe's "Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids", but with a love affair that goes no further than an exchange of gifts. I loved this perhaps the most. No one would ever know how Isaku felt about Tami. And she would be the love of his life. Isn't that adorable? Why doesn't anyone do that anymore? Nowadays, he'd probaby have a #photo of his "Tami" #tattoo on @Twitter

I also loved that everyone in this book is like me; the kind of person who wakes up thinking "Yay! Friday!" a
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
My God, this is flat. There's no subtext. What I mean to say is that in the books I like, really like, there's an overarching resonance. The writing can be sonorous with what's left unsaid. I can't find that here, which makes for a very one-dimensional story.
Dec 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Yoshimura, Akira. SHIPWRECKS. (1982; this ed. 2000). ****. This was the first of this author’s many books to be translated into English. He was born in 1927 and was president of Japan’s writer’s union at one time, and is a member of International PEN. In this novel, he tells the story of a village in medieval Japan. It is a small fishing village of only 17 families. They spend every available hour of their day seeking food to keep themselves alive. Young boys are taught to fish from the time the ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book, and the way it left me feeling. Yoshimura paints poignant scenes of the hardships of life in a remote village on an isolated seacoast of Japan where villagers are often on the brink of starvation. In the face of these hardships family members sell themselves into indentured servitude to protect the next generations, and employ a more desperate and sinister technique--luring ships onto the rocky shore, then murdering and pillaging for food and goods. Though the shipwrecks are f ...more
Jan 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful read: an isolated seaside village in medieval Japan which relies on the booty from shipwrecks to sustain themselves, and so lures unsuspecting ships to their dangerous shores. Nicely written, a fascinating account of village and family life and customs. Sounds anthropological I realize, but it's a novel and a good one.
Nov 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully told tale, tautly written, evoking another time (we don't really know when) in an isolated coastal village in Japan, where the villagers live according to strict traditions and morally questionable practices that ensure their survival. It's a small jewel of a book that takes you into this culture and - in spite of the obvious problems with their beliefs - makes the reader a part of this community, sympathetic to the choices that they make.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Magical picture of another time and place. When I started it I had no idea what the setting was and it took a while to click into focus. That was a nice way of reading this book. If you're going to give it to someone else don't tell them too much about it. It unfolds nicely in several stages. I think it engages gently in moral questions as well as being beautiful.
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
As the seasons change, one medieval Japanese village barely survives its harsh days – hunger is all present constantly present. It’s lightly depressing, there is no plot and nature is dooming domina matrix and main fatality. Very intriguing and absolutely different from anything hyper and glittered. There is no resistance in this book, just stoical acceptance of God’s will and nature.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman
Romanul Naufragii propune o incursiune în universul de credinţe şi tradiţii nipone, obişnuind treptat cititorul cu diferenţele culturale. La început, cartea dă impresia că este scrisă prea simplu, oferind o imagine a satului pescăresc în lipsa unui vocabular bogat în figuri de stil. În lipsa acestor subterfugii literare, autorul reia anumite idei, fără ca repetiţia să devină vreun deficit scriitoricesc. Ba din contră, autorul nu doar că întipăreşte în imaginaţia cititorului trăsăturile colectivu ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is set in the very harsh seaside village on the coast of Japan. The villagers rely on the Ocean to stay alive - but not in the sense one would assume. True, they are fishermen and they train their entire lives to fish and live off the Ocean, but the Ocean serves another purpose for them as well. The villagers build large salt cauldrons which serve two purposes: they sell the salt to neighboring villages and the fires from the alt burning cauldrons lure passing ships during the O-fune-s ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Aug 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, asia, haunting
This is how I started a review of a Japanese film I enjoyed: Dark depressing, slight hope, darker and more depressing, hope again, cruel fate, roll credits. That's pretty standard format for Japanese film; and Japanese literature is much the same, but without the credits.

Shipwrecks is set in medieval Japan, a family in an impoverished fishing hamlet whose father had to sell himself away into a three year stint of indentured servitude for the family's survival. Upon leaving he asks his hardworki
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a great storyteller, and what a great story. It's not often you come across a writer who can tell a story with simplicity yet in a highly effective manner. You need to read between the lines a little here to understand the messages (and the overall message), but that's what makes it great. If you want a little preview without any spoilers...

A boy lives in a Japanese fishing village where he must learn to provide for his family via fishing, but the village always prays for o-fune-sama. This
Francisco H. González
Naufragios es una novela escrita por el japonés Akira Yoshimura quien falleció en 2006. Novelista y ensayista. En España no es muy conocido, pero creo que con este libro, que parece estar funcionando bien mediante el boca-oreja para muchos se convertirá en su autor de cabecera.

El libro lo edita Marbot ediciones y es una preciosidad. Ya solo pasar las yemas de los dedos por la portada del libro es toda una sensación, un deleite estético. Huelga decir que lo importante es el contenido más que el c
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I 'm checking reviews over books, I have noticed many many times words like depressing, sad, dark, are followed by ratings of 1 or 2 stars. Something which is really annoying for me. I cannot understand why a sad theme should be a bad feature on a book.

Well, here is my view. This book is beautifully sad and wonderfully tragic. I 'm trying to respect any view over books but if you can't really understand how I find these characteristics so positive you should better go and watch a comedy -
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkably bleak novel. Written very simply and without have much of a plot, it's a grim portrait of life in a desperately poor fishing village in medieval Japan. The villagers light fires on the beach to try to lure ships onto the reef. If a ship wrecks on the reef, they kill the survivors and loot the cargo. Yet you can't blame them for this, for they are always on the brink of starvation. They barely eke out a living by fishing, and people regularly sell themselves into indentured s ...more
David Stringer
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is smallish yet engrossing historical fiction book about a small, poor, desolate Japanese village and it's struggles to survive the weather and lack of food. The story follows a young 9 year old, Isaku, who is now charged with looking after his family (mother, and younger brother and sister) as there father has sold himself into bondage for two years to earn the family/village some much needed money.

So our young lead has to quickly learn how to grow up, fish and protect his family and other
Wiebke (1book1review)
I struggle with this, it was very slow and repetetive and nothing much happens. But after some time all the repetition starts to make sense and make you think about the monotony and repetetiveness of the life of the people in that village. It also made me think about how different my life today is and how little I could bear life in that village. Which is completely opposite to the main character's thoughts who couldn't live anywhere else.

Yeah, I think it was one of those books that is not that
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Poignant novel told through the eyes of 9-year-old Isaku, whose village in medieval Japan relies on the wreckage of merchant ships to survive. Depictions of medieval life and customs amidst the harshness of peasant life make this a compelling, entrancing read. Surprisingly this is Yoshimura's only novel that has been translated into English.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A small fishing town in Japan is starving and chooses to purposefully lure ships onto the rocks so that they can salvage whatever they can from the wreckage. This behavior leads to frightening consequences.
May 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Een fantastisch mooi boek over een Japanse familie. De schrijver weet je mee te nemen in een verhaal, dat op zich niet zo spectaculair is misschien, maar zo mooi verteld, zo boeiend, zo Japans.
Jammer dat er van deze schrijver niet meer in het Nederlands vertaald is.
Ben Loory
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
historical fiction from a world so strange and desperate it could almost pass for fantasy. i only wish i hadn't read a blurb about it first and had the entire ending ruined.
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The World's Liter...: Lesley's choice: Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura 3 26 Aug 17, 2012 09:30AM  
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Prize winning Japanese writer. Akira Yoshimura was the president of the Japanese writers union and a PEN member. He published over 20 novels, of which in particular On Parole and Shipwrecks are internationally known and have been translated into several languages. In 1984 he received the Yomiuri Prize for his novel Hagoku (破獄,engl. prison break) based on the true story of Yoshie Shiratori.
More about Akira Yoshimura...

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