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The Great Passage

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  7,988 ratings  ·  1,084 reviews
A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry
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Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by AmazonCrossing (first published 2011)
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Mike _____As a non-Japanese reader with no experience in translation myself, it hadn't even occurred to me that there would be multiple ways to have naviga…more_____As a non-Japanese reader with no experience in translation myself, it hadn't even occurred to me that there would be multiple ways to have navigated this decision. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and didn't experience any awkward pauses in confronting the Japanese words. My assumption was that the Japanese words were left in because the word itself was the subject of discussion and also out of a respect for the subject matter, similar to the idea of calling it Firenze instead of Florence, or calling someone Juan instead of John.
_____This was a book about words, about their meaning, and compiling a curated collection of them into a pleasing final product - a dictionary conveyed their passion for words. It helped me feel like I was a part of that in a way that I think I would have missed out on if the translator had just rendered everything down to English.(less)

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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  7,988 ratings  ·  1,084 reviews


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Always Pouting
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Kohei Araki has worked on dictionaries for all of his life and has a deep love for words and their various meanings. With his impending retirement, Araki must find a replacement to work on the dictionary that he has helped to start, an ambitious project undertaken by a department that is understaffed and underfunded. He soon meets Mitsuya Majime, discovered by another one of the staff members, who's quirks and eccentricities make him ideal for the job.

I'm not sure if it's because this book is a
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Helen
How can a book about a small department at a publishing house creating a dictionary be so wonderful?

Wrapped up in the main story about the creation of the dictionary there are three different stories about the people in the dictionary department. One is about a man who learns to connect with people, one is a woman who learns not to judge others, and the other is about a man who learns that it's ok to show that you care about things.

The translator has done a great job. There is a lot of discussi
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Melki
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
A dictionary is a ship that crosses the sea of words.

This is the surprisingly fascinating story one man's nearly impossible feat - to assemble a comprehensive dictionary. While I loved the bits about the planning of the dictionary: which words to cut, the choice of paper - not too thick, and not too thin - the story became bogged down with too much backstory, and too many characters' love lives. I'll mostly remember this one for the fantastic quotes I jotted down:

Words and the human heart that c
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Tim
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese, 2010s, reviewed
Warning: While I don’t go into many plot details, there are a few lines that hint at some developments. So, those wanting to know nothing about character development can consider this a slight spoiler warning.

A while back I started my review of The Nakano Thrift Shop with the following: “This is the type of book that pretty much all my friends would expect me to hate, but that I always love. A slice of life novel, more on the humorous than serious side and with little to no plot. Strange for som
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Sandra
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-lit-wd
This definitely was an unusual read from my World Literature section on my Kindle.
Set in Japan this was about a publishing company’s, ever decreasing dictionary department. The type of dictionary a company publishes has kudos, is shows them as a serious concern, even though it may not be a money spinner.
The story opens with Kohei Araki on the brink of retirement trying to find his replacement to carry on his passion to put together a new dictionary called The Great Passage.
This dusty little d
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Saadia B. ||  CritiConscience
3.5 Stars

Araki loved dictionaries and bought them from his pocket money. He wanted to become a physiologist or a scholar of the Japanese language so that his name could also come on a dictionary. Worked at Gembu Books for the last 37 years making dictionaries. Araki was retiring soon hence started looking for his replacement.

He found one in the form of Majime from the Sales Department. Araki requested for his transfer which was approved instantly, so Majime became part of the Editorial Departme
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Ashley
"Gathering a huge number of words together with as much accuracy as possible was like finding a mirror without distortion. The less distortion in the word-mirror, the greater chance that when you opened up to someone and revealed your inner self, your feelings and thoughts would be reflected there with clarity and depth. You could look together in the mirror and laugh, weep, get angry."

Words are powerful tools and The Great Passage wields them well.
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Peter
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the benefits of owning a Kindle and having an Amazon Prime membership is that they give you a free book each month (from a selection of six). This month, I downloaded The Great Passage and was pleasantly surprised at its depth and sincerity. If you had told me that I'd enjoy reading a book about writing a dictionary, well I'd probably believe you. But this book is so much more than that.

The Great Passage has two primary themes: the complexity of language and being passionate about a proje
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Satomi
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I downloaded this book with using the benefit of "Kindle First" in May 2017. I was curious how it is translated into English, since this book cannot be discussed without Japanese words and phrases.

Brilliant!! The translation is so great and flawless. I read this one with both in original Japanese and the translation, the feel is the same.

I want to recommend this book to all the non-Japanese people, and I would like to hear what they think!!
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Lauren
"However much food you ate, as long as you were alive, you would experience hunger again, and words, however you managed to capture them, would disperse again like phantoms into the void."

From THE GREAT PASSAGE by Shion Miura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter // 2011 Japanese, 2017 English.

A team of lexicographers work together to achieve a dream: to compile a definitive modern Japanese dictionary. The Great Passage follows their work, and their personal lives over 15 yea
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Calzean
A fascinating and entertaining story of a small group of dedicated people who worked over 15 years to produce a new Japanese dictionary. I especially enjoyed the sections where there was a debate about a specific term or word, which highlighted the nuances of the Japanese language, are truly gobsmacking. I now fear writing any word knowing how easily the meaning could be misunderstood.
The complexities of producing a Japanese dictionary including the five proofs, type of paper, editing to fit def
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Jeanne
I downloaded Shion Miura's The Great Passage from Amazon's 2018 World Book Day selections, but I didn't feel like reading a book about a Trail of Tears-like mass exodus, which is what I believed it was from the title. The Great Passage sat on my "shelf" for months, unread. It actually has far too much good company on that shelf. (So many books, so little time.)

The Great Passage is actually a charming novel about writing dictionaries, which was translated from the original Japanese. It dovetails
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Kaora
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
However much food you ate, as long as you were alive, you would experience hunger again, and words, however you managed to capture them, would disperse again like phantoms into the void.

A beautifully written book that makes me wish that I could read and understand Japanese to truly appreciate the masterpiece that this is.

In Japanese like English, words have many different meanings and we rely on things like context to give us clues. This book follows several people in a department trying to make
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Stephen
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quiet read but fascinating for its peek into a slice of Japanese culture I was unaware of--a fondness for dictionaries. The Great Passage traces the work and lives of employees of the fictional Gembu Dictionary Editorial Department. It is about passion: for words, language and craft. Passion that spans a lifetime.
Words are necessary for creation. Kishibe imagined the primordial ocean that covered the surface of the earth long ago--a soupy, swirling liquid in a state of chaos. Inside every per
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Bri
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy flipsicles, this is probably going to be one of my favorite books of the year, and I literally stumbled across it on accident. I was looking around NetGalley for my "second" (the real second title was a bust) title to review, and I liked the description of this book, so I picked it up.

The book is narrated by multiple characters, each story revolving around the creation of The Great Passage, a "comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language." My favorite narrator is by far Mitsuya M
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Deanna
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 uneven but not unhappy stars.

I enjoyed the central “plot” and details of creating a bold new dictionary. And I would say this book is specially and only for word nerds.

The characters are likable and interesting-ish but lacking the strength to carry a book.

The plot lines around the characters as separate from the dictionary project—and it’s not easy to separate them are gentle rather than gripping, though the author did get me to care in some way about each of them.

I would have found the
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Karolina
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
I really liked the plot itself - the making of dictionaries. However, the way book handles the important topics such as love, attitude to work and friendship is really naïve. It's a good Sunday read, but unfortunately even though it talks so much about the beauty and meaning of works, the way it's written is just okay.

There is quite a lot of attention placed on human interactions - be it between the boss and the employee, between co-workers, between lovers, but the way it's described just made m
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Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
The Great Passage is a Japanese book first published in 2011 and translated in English in 2017 by Juliet Winters Carpenter. The dictionary department of Gembu Books is undertaking a new mammoth dictionary project, The Great Passage—but the one capable full-time employee Kohei Araki (whose interest in words was piqued at a young age) is about to retire (and thus can come in only part time), and the only other employee, Nishioka is not a really committed lexicographer. But on Nishioka’s recommenda ...more
Vishy
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have wanted to read Shion Miura's 'The Great Passage' ever since I discovered it last year.

'The Great Passage' is about the making of a Japanese dictionary. The main characters work for a publisher which brings out dictionaries. The editorial department decides to bring out a new, big dictionary of the Japanese language. They recruit a person called Majime from the sales department, who is unsuited for his current job but who is a word-nerd. The rest of the book is about how the dictionary pr
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Suanne Laqueur
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a weird but wonderful book. My sister in law recommended it, saying it was different and odd. I agree, but I totally dug it.
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
The Great Passage is a book about words and their place in our world. Language is close to the heart of any reader and for that reason alone I thought I might love this book. Unfortunately id didn't work for me. I felt it was clunky, and lacked emotion. I believe it could be due to the translation, or the fact that I am not Japanese and do not know enough about how the literature of that area is written and what it is trying to impart. But, I never connected to the story or characters.

The story
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Diana
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short, adorable story with quirky characters. The author is very descriptive about the process of dictionary making and clearly has done her research. For my taste, there was a bit more about the dictionary process than required and I would have liked more of the interaction among the characters. Beautiful cover.
Jemppu
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was surprised how familiar this felt from the very beginning; easy to listen narration from start to finish, on educationally/occupationally/preoccupationally close topics of book making, and linguistic peculiarities. Plus, in Japanese setting, which has also always been near and dear fellow culture and language of interest for me.

The romance plot, I must admit felt a bit thrown in - didn't move, or bother one's focus one way or another. But, that might be just because my mind was quite adequa
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Kathy
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Considering the topic of the book, words fail me to adequately describe it. The creation of a dictionary and the team of individuals it took to manage the undertaking provides amusing and entertaining reading.
For me it was a delightful departure from my usual choice of book.
Stacia
May 24, 2018 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
At the 20% mark, I'm finding it stilted & boring. Time to stop. ...more
Ms.pegasus
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in a light book on Japan
Surprising relationships emerge out of the recondite labors of a team of dedicated lexicographers editing a new comprehensive dictionary dubbed THE GREAT PASSAGE (Dai tokai). The minutiae of new entries to consider, old entries to be re-evaluated, etymologies to be verified and mini-encyclopedic nuances of usage to be detailed are surprisingly appealing in the hands of this author. Such details consume the characters in this book 24/7. Is it possible that such an obsession can fill the deep-seat ...more
Breslin White
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good story with some spoilers of other books. I dislike it when authors do this to one another. Beware of it if you like Natsume Soseki's books, because you get the ending of it in this novel. ...more
Marie-Therese
About as deep as a puddle an hour after a brief spring rain, this is still a very sweet and moderately engrossing novel.

Miura clearly spent a lot of time learning what lexicographers do and the technical bits of her book are surprisingly interesting, although some of the specifics are inevitably lost due to the vast differences between Japanese and Western orthography (same with some of the puns and misunderstandings that occur between characters because of too rigid notions of language-the tra
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Donna
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Great Passage" follows the story of the creation of a new Japanese dictionary that is years in the making. The amount of time and effort involved in doing so and the detailed tasks required were surprisingly quite interesting and things I hadn't thought about before. A sweet, innocent romance, as well as themes of friendship and loss, are on display in this novel.

The book seemed to be moving at a steady pace but then was suddenly missing a span of years toward the middle, making it feel ra
...more
Dara
Things that are good about this book are I received it for free on Kindle years ago and I am trying to get my list of TBR down on that and It covers a topic on the 2019 Read Broader and Popsugar reading challenges. However, once again, it wasn’t a great translation. But in this case, it wasn’t just that. I guess no surprise but a book about the group of people absorbed in writing a dictionary for years IS as boring as it sounds.
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Shion Miura (三浦しをん) (1976–) , daughter of a well-known Japanese classics scholar, acquired her love of reading at a very young age. When, as a senior in the Faculty of Letters at Waseda University, she began her job hunt looking for an editorial position, a literary agent recognized her writing talent and hired her to begin writing an online book review column even before she graduated. Miura made ...more

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“A dictionary is a ship that crosses the sea of words,” said Araki, with a sense that he was laying bare his innermost soul. “People travel on it and gather the small points of light floating on the dark surface of the waves. They do this in order to tell someone their thoughts accurately, using the best possible words. Without dictionaries, all any of us could do is linger before the vastness of the deep.” 13 likes
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