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Granta 127: Japan

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  335 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Hello Kitty, earthquakes, manga, samurai, robots and sushi. These are some of the things we think about when we think about Japan. This small island nation looms large in the popular imagination, in often contradictory ways: as the epitome of refinement and tradition, and as an embodiment of a shiny, soulless future. What is Japan to those who really know it? This issue in ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published April 24th 2014 by Granta
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 ·  335 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, new-writing
3.75 stars

This is my first encounter with Granta (2014) Issue 127, a 280-page book-like magazine, because it is a collection of 20 'new writing' stories by Japanese and Non-Japanese writers having focused on something Japanese. Some color and black-and-white illustrations are also included to support some stories. There are 11 stories written in Japanese, 1 in Spanish and 8 in English; therefore, the 12 stories needed 10 translators: 9 (Japanese) [Ivan Vartanian himself has translated 3 stories]
Patrick McCoy
I went to the book launch party in Tokyo in March and was able to buy an advanced copy of Granta 127: Japan (2014) edited by Yuka Igarashi, which will be released in April of 2014. I started out reading essays by the authors I already knew best, then went back to the start and read the the rest of the entries in order. So I started with David Mitchell's short story, "Variations on a Theme by Mister Donut." I have to admit I was disappointed by his contribution, it was the story of an incident in ...more
starts extraordinarily strong with three awesome stories: A Clean marriage by S. Murata (husband and wife marry but do not have sex with each other, only outside the marriage - so the title - but what happens when they want a child together?), Breakfast by T. Okada (a man waits for a visit from his wife who left him because she didn't want to live in Tokyo anymore) and Variations on a Theme by Mister Donut by D. Mitchell (excellent sample of David Mitchell's polyphonic voice and one of the best ...more
May 10, 2014 added it
A very troubling mix of styles and stories, reinforcing for me the "otherness" of Japan and Japanese culture. The sexless marriage, the curative value of breast milk, mountains made of crumpled tin foil (ESPECIALLY the mountains) have stayed with me long after finishing the book. I read Granta because I want to try new authors and new styles, so I don't expect to always like everything. This collection gave me plenty to think about and I recommend it.
Nadia King
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some excellent reading in this collection of stories from Japan. Curious insight into Japanese culture. Like any anthology, there were stories included that less than delighted me. On the whole, glad I spent my weekend soaking this collection up.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this volume was great. new translations of japanese authors who have either barely or not at all been translated into english, whose names are not haruki murakami. shows the range of contemporary japanese fiction. my personal favorite is "breakfast" by toshiki okada.
Daniel Chaikin
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a nice little taste of modern Japanese literature, even if my favorite story was by Chinese-America author Tao Lin, where asks his Chinese parents about Japanese people. There is a lot of good stuff here, much of it apparently non-fiction personal essays.

Brief notes on each story or essay. My favorites have an asterisk.

Sayaka Murata - A Clean Marriage, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - short story
Definitely odd. A couple in a sexless marriage decide to get pregnant, to
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Although reading several rather harsh reviews of the latest Granta issue which criticised many of the stories for being unrelated and on unnecessary tangents about 'Japan', I found that this solid issue contained a good mix of topics. Many stories were originally written in Japanese and translated into English, while others are written by foreigners familiar with Japan, resulting in both interesting insider and outsider perspectives.

One of the most profound insights was by Pico Iyer in 'The Beau
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Liked David Mitchell's piece and the numerous perspectives on a single event. Toh Enjoe's "Printable" was an engaging contemplation of reproduction and simulacrum. I liked David Peace's work because it introduced me to the writer Ryunosuke and the legend of the Peach Boy. I haven't studied much Japanese literature or culture, so the entire Granta was engaging on some level. Scavengers by Adam Johnson was a great piece using a single individual's story to reveal a profound truth about an entire o ...more
Natalie (CuriousReader)
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
A few duds but overall an excellent selection, by editor Yuka Igarashi, of weird and wonderful stories, poetry, and essays! Some personal favourites include The Dogs by Yukiko Motoya, Pink by Tomoyuki Hoshino, and Blue Moon by Hiromi Kawakami (but really, most of the pieces in here are wonderful!).
Full review:
Jul 26, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting collection of short fiction and essays related, however loosely, to Japan.
Nabilah Jamal
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are some that I find very interesting, but some are otherwise. I can’t bring myself giving 3 stars, hence the 4 stars.
Paul Fulcher
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
"It's not just that surface and depth are different here; but that you can't begin to infer one from the other." (Pico Iyer, The Beauty of the Package).

Granta 127, from Spring 2014, is the first volume I've read and I have mixed feelings about the format.

On the positive side, the Granta brandname is sufficiently powerful to line up an impressive array of authors - perhaps only The New Yorker has a better reach. From English-language writers, David Mitchell, Ruth Ozeki, David Peace and perhaps Ka
This was my first experience with Granta and it was such an overwhelming and interesting one. What I liked most about the anthology is perhaps what some reviewers complained was a downside – I liked how close and far the stories, and artwork/photography, were to the theme of Japan. But there was something immersive in each one, as they all created the very same twenty new Japans that I was promised from the back cover. Some stories, such as “Breakfast” and “Things Remembered and Things Forgotten ...more
Susan Emmet
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Forty plus years ago, I did my senior thesis work on Noh Drama and its (supposed) influence on William Butler Yeats.
I think often of the measure, the movement, the poetry, the masks and kimonos and music - the sense of structure and lyricism.
And now it's issue 127 of Granta.
I was hooked and torn by virtually all the photographs, stories and non-fiction. What lingers is a sense of surreal. Such a thread of history and culture maybe squashed by "Tokyo-Tokyo." All the ads, all the bustle, all the c
Sep 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
I didn't like this book. At all. And maybe that's because I don't really get in to short stories type books; however, I have read some decent ones that I didn't hate. But this one, I hated. I still am trying to understand how this was in the travel section. I thought it was going to be short writeups of places and things Japanese authors like or hate or whatever. What I got was weird fiction with no real end. Only maybe three stories had anything to do with places in Japan. For gosh sakes, one o ...more
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
The latest offering from granta is an excellent collection of short pieces themed loosely round Japan. None of the authors were familiar to me, but I will defintely look out for more writing by Sayaka Murata, Andres Felipe Solano, Kyoko Nakajima, and Yukiko Motoya.

If anythin links to pieces together other than a theme of Japan it would be a certain spareseness of writing - more is unsaid or shown and left to the reader's imagination than is tytpical in more Western writing. That's exactly what
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is an uneven collection that includes (in my opinion) just a few standout pieces. It looks to me like a number of authors "mailed it in" for a check: I'm looking at you Tao Lin. By far the best submission was Hiromi Kawakami's Blue Moon, in which she ruminates on her mortality in connection with a trip to Russia. Other solid pieces include Things Remembered and Things Forgotten (Kyoko Nakajima), Pig Skin (Andres Felipe Solano) and Scavengers (Adam Johnson). Far too many pedestrian and banal ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it
This particular issue of Granta has some pleasant stories, but they are all quite understated and for the most part, none stand out from the rest. But perhaps, for an issue dedicated to Japan, such deference and uniformity is not unexpected.

"Variations on a theme" and "Pink", the final story, are the highlights here.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Some favorites from this issue: Variations on a Theme by Mr Donut; Things Remembered and Things Forgotten; Blue Moon; The Beauty of the Package; Pig Skin; The Dogs and Pink. Interesting issue with Japan as the theme.
Bristol Bookworm
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a normal Granta collection: some things that are beautiful, some things that are sad, an done or two that are downright weird. I'll look up a couple of authors in the future to read more of their work
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful collection of writing about or from (mostly) contemporary Japan. The stories encompass a range of styles that allows you to glimpse the scope of a culture many of us know of but don't truly know!
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Overall an excellent collection of stories, interspersed with some decent photography and illustrations. A wide variety of perspectives, all with some connection to Japan.
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Not so into all the stories in this book. The tinfoil mountains are cool though.
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
It seems impossible to accurately review a collection of stories from such diverse writers. Some were good, some not so much... Some were amazing discoveries.
Elizabeth Smith
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Intriguing and unusual writing by some well known authors as well as some new names (for me at least). I will be reading more from quite a few of these authors.
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Uneven. Those that stick with me are Rebecca Solnit's description of the orange gates and Ruth Ozeki's translations of her grandfather's poems.
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked this so much I'm thinking about subscribing!
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. A very uneven mix of pieces with hardly any standouts. Nakajima's Things Remembered and Things Forgotten and Kawakami's Blue Moon were the ones I liked best.
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another great selection of short stories, essays, photojournalism and points on which to ponder. This time with a Japanese theme.
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“All translation is mistranslation. But maybe there should be a second part to that phrase. All conversation is misunderstanding. I think about the discrepancies that will always exist in the gaps between languages whenever I go anywhere outside Japan, anywhere where Japanese, my native language, isn’t spoken. But even when I use my native language, the same thing does apply. All language is misunderstanding. In degrees.” 1 likes
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