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The Cake Tree in the Ruins

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  352 ratings  ·  71 reviews
In 1945, Akiyuki Nosaka watched the Allied firebombing of Kobe kill his adoptive parents, and then witnessed his sister starving to death. The shocking and blisteringly memorable stories of The Cake Tree in the Ruins are based on his own experiences as a child in Japan during the Second World War.

They are stories of a lonely whale searching the oceans for a mate, who sacri
Paperback, 160 pages
Published August 2nd 2018 by Pushkin Press (first published 1975)
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Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Gazing at the sharp blade glinting in the summer afternoon light, he told himself that if he wanted to keep the horse's trust he must quickly follow it in death."

The 15th of August 1945 - the day the war ended.

The Cake Tree in the Ruins is a beautiful, profound and heartbreaking collection of short stories by Akiyuki Nosaka. These very well-written stories are filled with instances of selfless love, sacrifice, honour, loyalty, innocence and hope. All the stories culminate the day the war ended.
Susan Budd
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Until I read the stories of Akiyuki Nosaka, I would not have thought World War II a suitable topic for fables. But it is eminently suitable.

The twelve stories in The Cake Tree in the Ruins have everything I like about fables, fairy tales, and children’s literature at its finest. There is the unadorned narrative style, the characters’ childlike logic, and the occasional breaks from third-person narration to address the reader directly.

Moreover, as in the best of children’s literature, Nosaka str
Oct 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Told in a childlike tone, some of these stories begin all puppy-dogs and sunshine, and then turn dark. Most of them feature a relationship between two beings, often one human and one animal (“The Parrot and the Boy,” “The Old She-Wolf and The Little Girl, “The Elephant and Its Keeper,” etc.,). All of them take place on August 15, 1945, the day Japan surrendered to the Allies. Most take place in Japan at that time.

My favorites were “The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine,” and “The Cake Tre
I haven't watched Studio Ghibli's Grave of the Fireflies yet, which was adapted from Akiyuki Nosaka's story. But I've heard so many good things about it. So when I saw this collection of stories by Nosaka in NetGalley I had to request it. These are simple stories with a deceptively whimsical tone. Infused with magic realism and the extraordinary, they read like fables, and land as lightly as butterflies. But each bears the weight and trauma of the Allied war on Japan, which the author lived thro ...more
This is a series of short stories centered on the day the Emperor of Japan officially surrendered to the Allies in WWII: August 15, 1945. It was a good week after the atom and hydrogen bombs laid waste to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but this history-making event is not mentioned in this book.

The author died a few years ago so this collection has been lovingly put together and added to by the press. A version was published some years ago but this has more stories. The main form of attack on Japanese

I have never read anything quite like The Cake Tree in the Ruins by Akiyuki Nosaka and the sheer power of these stories – all of them set on the day of Japans unconditional surrender (August 15, 1945) brought me to my knees.

Deceptively simple, these stories read like children’s fables, dominated by innocent animals and children. But gradually, the horror of war permeates the pages and they become positively heart-wrenching and haunting.

An oversized and lonely blue whale falls in love with a Jap
Kasa Cotugno
A huge shoutout to Purshkin Press and to translator Ginny Takemori. This exquisite small volume introduces the work of Akiyuki Nosaka, virtually unknown to English readers. He was born in 1930, and so was able to remember life before and during World War II as a teenager in Japan.

True to Japanese custom, there is a name for his generation: yakeato, generation of the ashes -- children who have lived their entire lives without knowing sweetness of taste or experience. Although the stories cover d
Paula Bardell-Hedley
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Paula by: Edelweiss.
“Too many undernourished people and animals appear in these stories, I know, but it was wartime, after all.”
Every story in Akiyuki Nosaka's collection is set on the day of Japan’s unconditional surrender, an act which formerly ended World War II on 15th August 1945. The fictional pieces in The Cake Tree in the Ruins are based on the author’s own childhood memories of living through the Allied firebombing of Kobe – a catastrophic raid in which his mother and father perished (his sister la
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Smitha Murthy
Studio Ghibli’s movie “Grave of the Fireflies” about a brother and sister who try to survive during WWII in Japan is one of my favourite movies. But the fact that it was based on a short story by acclaimed Japanese novelist Akiyuki Nosaka got lost somewhere in the massive shadow of the Ghibli brand. I didn’t know it until I received “The Cake Tree in the Ruins”, a compact volume of his short stories from Pushkin Press for a review. And I can’t thank them enough for sending me this book. I read i ...more
Jackie Law
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Cake Tree In The Ruins, by Akiyuki Nosaka (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori), is a collection of twelve short stories set in Japan towards the end of the Second World War. In 1945 the author watched the Allied fire bombing of Kobe kill his adoptive parents. He subsequently witnessed his sister starving to death. These stories are based on his experiences. They are dark and at times savage but this seems apt given the subject matter. Most end on the 15th of August 1945 when Japan surrender ...more
it's hard to review this without talking about how painful it was to read it. it is nightmarish as well as one of the softest ways i've ever seen war depicted. it's hard to believe someone who lost so much in the catastrophe of humanity that is war (any war) managed to compose such beautiful pieces while staying in the message at all times. what i received from this book was especially a sense that we don't talk nearly enough about war as we should as a society. at the same time, we also don't t ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received a digital advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Akiyuki Nosaka is best known as the author of “Grave of the Fireflies,” an award-winning short story that was adapted to film by Studio Ghibli, becoming one of the most critically acclaimed animated films of all time. The stories in this collection are diverse, but like “Grave of the Fireflies,” they also concern the tragedies of World War II, particularly as seen through the eyes of children and animals. This
Sarah Booth
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the saddest book I’ve ever willingly read. It was also incredibly beautiful. Growing up WWII was a major talking point in my family since both my father, uncle and maternal grandfather had been in it. Here is the story from the perspective of the people of Japan. The stories are almost all tragic of a people devastated by a war and the suffering of losing loved ones and experiencing starvation. It is hard to realize that this wasn’t that long ago.
My favorite story I think is the first o
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simple tales with a big impact: re-imagining the genuine horrors of a terrible war's end. Death cannot be avoided in a world of fire and starvation, but innocence, love and loyalty hold true to the end. ...more
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully edited little book by The Pushkin Press, containing 12 stories by the Japanese author Akiyuki Nosaka. In this deeply moving anti-war book 12 short stories are told, all ending on The 15th of August 1945, the day Japanese surrendered. This goes from a whale falling in love with a submarine to an American pilot hiding in the firebombed remains of a Japanese city, but every story plays in a Japan that is virtually reduced to a landscape of... nothingness when the B-29's fire-bombed almo ...more
Joey Bishop
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-lit
You wouldn't think a setting like world war 2 in rural Japan would make for any good fables but this book delivers. It opens your eyes to the awful things that happened within not only Japan during these times but all around the world. There were a few stories here that I liked more than others. The dragonfly and the cockroach was really good. Akiyuki Nosaka definitely has a way with his writing that makes it so easy to read and understand and gain meaning from. ...more
Chris Dino
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A poignant recollection of a time fallen into the dark gaps of history. Stories although heartbreaking, had delivered soft and tender moments of solace amidst the destructive appetite of war and chaos. The book is rich with feats of a melancholic celebration and a triumphant display of the human spirit at the brink.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a sad, magical, profound book
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
War-time stories.
Touching, sad, fantastical.
There's something for everyone.
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Really, wow.
What a sad, moving, lovely mixture of reality and fantasy in a collection of short stories all dated Aug of 1945, when Japan lost the war.

The first story was so sad and touching, before I knew it a teardrop was rolling down my cheek.
All the stories were touching and sad and I am glad I stumbled upon this book.

Books on Asia
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
Reviewed by Suzanne Kamata for Books on Asia

As an American reader, conditioned to expect happily-ever-after endings, or at least those in which justice is served, I found this to be an odd and disturbing book. From the titles of stories such as “The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine,” “The Mother That Turned into a Kite,” and “A Balloon in August,” one might expect whimsy or fantasy. While they do contain a bit of whimsy, these tales, rendered in highly readable English by translator Ginn
Sadie-jane (Say-dee-Jane) Nunis
It is beautifully... even hauntingly written but it is way too depressing a read for me during these times...
Katya Kazbek
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweiss, japan, war
J IS FOR JAPAN: Akiyuki Nosaka, The Cake Tree in the Ruins, 2015/2018
Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori 

Akiyuki Nosaka is perhaps best known for writing the short story that became the basis of studio Ghibli’s tragic cartoon “Grave of the fireflies” about a Japanese boy who dies of starvation right after the end of World War II.
I often don't read book descriptions afresh when I dive in, so I had no idea of the connection to the "Grave of the fireflies, or of Nosaka’s own harrowing experiences a
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book belongs in the hands of every hawk and every dove. Might be the best exploration of the effects of war on a "system" I've ever read. There are no stories of military heroism--fighting-age men are nearly absent from any of the stories, other than as ghosts to their left-behind spouses and children--only stories of the ways war twists and distorts and destroys.

All of the stories are set on "The 15th of August 1945"--the day the Japanese surrendered--and most begin with "zeal for the glo
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
As all anthologies go, The Cake Tree in the Ruins is also a collection of stories which are different from one another and yet have a common thread. In this case, it is the horror that war leaves behind. Almost every story is extremely sad, and fair warning it will make you miserable. My second most favourite story of the bunch is the titular story about a generation of children who grew up solely on war rations and hence do not have the remotest idea about what decadent food is. But the one tha ...more
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Cake Tree in the Ruins is an incredible collection of short stories all set on August 15,1945, the day Japan surrendered to the Allies in World War II.

Some of the themes tackled are war and its effects, survival, loss, love and kindness in the most difficult situations. Several of the stories highlight on how useless wars are and its effects on common/ordinary people who are the actual victims.

Most of the stories are extremely sad and heartbreaking and The Whale Who Fell In Love With the S
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
A collection of 12 short stories that all take place on the day that the Japanese surrendered to the Allies during WWII (August 15th, 1945). Each story has a fairy tale-vibe to it, with lots of anthropomorphized animals and children too young to fully understand the extent of the war going on around them. While the stories are quite whimsical (e.g., a whale falling in love with a submarine, children coming across a tree that tastes like cake), they are also very very sad. The innocence of the ch ...more
Emi Bevacqua
I was gutted by this Japanese collection of short takes dated at the end of World War II, from the perspective of the little and defenseless, including a romantic whale in love with a submarine, a parrot and his boy, an AWOL zoo keeper. Somehow Nosaka conveys the effects of a brutal six-year war with whimsy and lyricism.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking stories about how war affects children and animals, set in Japan at the end of the second world war. This sounds like it could be grim reading, but the stories are told with such a lightness of touch that though they are sad, they are never heavy or depressing. Love and kindness continue to thrive in the worst of situations.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
An immensely sad series of stories that all take place in Japan on the last day of the Pacific War. Quite varied and thoughtful. Published as a book in 1980, although some stories are earlier. A sign, perhaps, of how long it takes to digest the pain of a war; how long it takes to turn terror and defeat into literature.
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Akiyuki Nosaka (野坂 昭如 Nosaka Akiyuki) is a Japanese novelist, singer, lyricist, and former member of the House of Councillors. As a broadcasting writer he uses the name Yukio Aki (阿木 由紀夫 Aki Yukio) and his alias as a chanson singer is Claude Nosaka (クロード 野坂 Kurōdo Nosaka).

Nosaka was born in Kamakura, Kanagawa, the son of Sukeyuki Nosaka, who was a sub-governor of Niigata. Together with his sisters

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