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A Dark Night's Passing
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Carol (carolfromnc) | 1304 comments This is our discussion thread for our July book club read, A Dark Night's Passing A Dark Night's Passing (Japan's Modern Writers) by Naoya Shiga by Naoya Shiga.

message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments Reserved from the library today... see how long they take, and if I can get my article written to free up my time...

message 3: by Swathi (new) - added it

Swathi Shetty (swathishetty) | 20 comments Will start in a day or two!❤

message 4: by Alan (new)

Alan Hoping to start today, though it may take some time - the book looks quite dense, 480 pages in my copy of quite small print. May need to take a break half-way through!!

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Eliestal | 3 comments First group read in this group for me! I have my copy already so I just need to finish the one I am currently reading.

Agnetta | 300 comments i have mine bought second hand and includes even stamps of former owner who donated it to a library... i wonder how it then arrived to the online second hand book shop!! but need to get thru mishima first, as i did not make it for june :(

or i may take a mishima break. i guess i COULD TOTALLY USE a mishima break. The man is dense.

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Swathi Shetty (swathishetty) | 20 comments Agnetta

How are you getting through Sea of fertility series? Liking it?

message 8: by Agnetta (last edited Jul 02, 2018 08:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Agnetta | 300 comments Swathi wrote: "Agnetta

How are you getting through Sea of fertility series? Liking it?"

sigh.... i find it all rather oppressing. For sure the man can write...but his thematics are of little interest to me. As a whole, as a big monumental construction, the work does captivate my interest and provokes my admiration, but I find it hard work ploughing thru. Then once done, I can look back and say, yes, rather grand, well done this part, up to the next... but I have to force myself to keep going thru all the petty thinking and acting of all those rather disappointing characters... almost all are petty or cruel or hypocrites or dumb... except little Moonlight in book 3, the little fairy :).

I am reading in challenge teeth-gritted mode, to be honest. almost done with book 3 !!!

Bill | 780 comments I was unsure of this book at first. I've read too many Japanese stories about wastrel Japanese authors who never seem to write much or make ends meet. Around the time this book was written, everyone was writing one of them. But I stuck it out and was rewarded.

It only turns away from that slowly, like in chapter nine where he states what he really wants to do, if only he had the willpower to do it. Then he does turn himself around and leaves Tokyo for an extended period of solitude and writing.

I've reached the point where he receives the long, bombshell letter from his brother. It's quite a moving part of the story.

Here's hoping he returns to Tokyo and doesn't resume the life of a wastrel!

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Swathi Shetty (swathishetty) | 20 comments @Agnetta
Oh! So sorry you're not enjoying the books. And when you're forcing to finish a book I know the happiness when you're finally done with it. I hope the last book is better and you enjoy it. I had started book 1 but got busy so couldn't continue and now I don't know if I should :P

message 11: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments Got mine from the library today... thick... shall do my best this month!!

message 12: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill | 780 comments Yeah, 400 pages. And not the sort of book where you read a hundred pages at a sitting, either. I suspect we'll be discussing it well into next month.

Agnetta | 300 comments Swathi wrote: "@Agnetta
Oh! So sorry you're not enjoying the books. And when you're forcing to finish a book I know the happiness when you're finally done with it. I hope the last book is better and you enjoy it...."

I am almost there and so happy. For sure I think it is worth it for me to have read it, and as it sinks in I will enjoy the aftertaste. It is just hard work. I am looking forward to seeing the movie "Mishima , a chapter in four lives" and learn more about this extraordinary man, I hope i can find it soon. In none of the platforms I know I can rent it...

I started in parallel A dark night's passing. For the moment it goes ahead calmly, the characters are real enough to raise my interests and I am enjoying it.
Also I like the idea the author worked on this in several stages, taking his time, bringing it to perfection over many years , ... His one unique novel ! ... (seems he was known for his short stories). That idea appeals to me : he must have poured a lot into this ...

also very nice : I bought it second hand and it comes with an insctription and signature of a japanese business man who donated it to a library of the Sasakawa peace foundation in Great Britain, in remembrance of the establishment of the latter in the country ! how cool is that ? and now it is in my library. Cost me almost no money either :D

Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments One thing I'm finding really interesting so far is the whole geisha thing. Even though I've been interested in everything Japanese for a while, it's still a bit hazy to me what they were, really. I mean, every source emphasizes how it was not at all prostitution and that they were artists/entertainers, but surely there had to be some flirting involved, no matter how subtle (obviously I'm not talking about onsen geishas and the like) The way I've come to picture it is basically the ancestor of today's "compensated dating" like hosts and hostesses and this novel seems to confirm this point of view... they pay for their company, they play flirtatious games and Kensaku and his friends become attached to the girls, knowing full well that they're doing this for work. Basically renting people to party with.

I think compensated dating is quite foreign to most cultures, but maybe I'm wrong...? Anyway it sure is difficult for me to fully understand the appeal. I think a Dark Night's Passing makes it a little clearer though: they seem to be having a good time playing until 2 AM. It's a bit surprising that Kensaku and his friends would become attached to them though. I'm not sure if the authors wanted to portray them as slightly delusional about their chances (which means the geishas do their job well after all), or if maybe there were so many geishas (and different "grades"), that it was totally possible to occasionally go from compensated dating to actually dating/married.

message 15: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill | 780 comments I don't recall what the word for prostitute was in the time period of this novel. But geisha certainly had a different meaning, someone skilled in the arts of conversation and music, and willing to entertain privately for a fee.

Some geisha would choose to sleep with one special customer on a regular basis, in a long term affair. There must also have been those who had several such special customers at a time. They wouldn't have slept with just anyone, and not on the first 'date'. They probably did not charge extra for it, but were required to bill their time by the house or person who owned their contract.

The contract existed because it was very expensive to train and clothe a geisha, and the house wanted to make sure it got its money back before the woman was married off.

A geisha might hope to acquire a patron after she's been on the circuit. Someone who would buy out her current contract and then support her either as a geisha or as head of a new geisha house. The geisha would then have an obligation to sleep with her patron and only her patron. Some patrons would buy a geisha only to keep her as a mistress, or to make her his wife.

I was fortunate to be able to visit a geisha house in the late 90s (customers never visit the house, but only meet geisha at inns and banquet halls) because a childhood friend of one of my Japanese friends was in training there. That particular house had a code of conduct that their geisha were never allowed to provide such extra services to clients. I don't know if this applied to all of Gion. On their days off, the women were allowed to go out in western clothes (and weren't likely to be recognized by anyone), go on dates, etc. but never with anyone they met at work.

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Ian Josh | 271 comments I think to understand Geisha you need to understand the value of appearance and separation in Japan.

It is valuable to be around the greatest women in the world and be entertained and engaged with them, especially in view of others. Sex isn’t necessary.

If the man wanted sex, he would go next door to a brothel later... with no one watching.

Compensated dating is difficult. Men often go out with hostesses, but sex is often withheld until every cent is extracted... but again, the men find the value in the public display of a young woman on their arm.

But, real compensated dating is often just prostitution with maybe dinner beforehand, and likely shopping as a form of tipping. It’s gross, (maybe all of this is, but this one the most) and involves ladies far too young to be excused to be accepted.

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Swathi Shetty (swathishetty) | 20 comments Agnetta wrote: "Swathi wrote: "@Agnetta
Oh! So sorry you're not enjoying the books. And when you're forcing to finish a book I know the happiness when you're finally done with it. I hope the last book is better an..."

Totally! Sometimes even though getting through the book is a trouble the aftertaste sure is lovely:) oh i didnt know about the adaptation. Hope you find it soon. And hoping i too will find it once i finish reading the series.😊
Wow! I had no idea A Dark Night's passing is his only novel. I love these tidbits about the author.😍 Japanese books are so interesting. And its so cool you got that donated copy. The story behind a used copy makes reading that even more interesting. I love when i find little messages or singature or information like these in used copies. I'm yet to begin reading it. Will start next week.💙

Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments @Bill Lucky you! That must have been quite impressive... were you allowed to take pictures?

This is the definition of geisha as I'm familiar with through Memoirs of a Geisha (even though this is no Japanese work) but it seems to me that this novel takes place somewhere in between the classical geisha you described and the modern hostess. Ok, much closer to the traditional one, but they still feel a bit crude (drinking tea heavily, smoking, playing games involving holding hands) compared to what I had come to associate with geisha. Could it be that the definition of "throwing a party" loosened with time?

I guess the "traditional" geisha continued - and continues - to exist as a historical relic, but I feel like in essence, it has slowly evolved to hostess bars (which are also not prostitution, but a form of compensated dating/company). Oh... and come to think of it, maybe all this "health" / "soapland" lingo has to do with "onsen geishas"? Onsen are baths and are considered as good for health (as we can see in the novel too). (view spoiler) Anyway, I'm almost finished, but I really quite like the story. At some point, Kensaku explains how he came to enjoy comedy instead of the usual tragedy and I'm hoping this is going to translate in that novel itself (i.e. I'm hoping for a happy end, for once)

Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments Josh wrote: "I think to understand Geisha you need to understand the value of appearance and separation in Japan.

It is valuable to be around the greatest women in the world and be entertained and engaged with..."

Interesting point of view... I thought it was common to have geisha in private rooms (for instance, with work colleagues) etc. Not so much in public display? Maybe a part of it is pleasing for the self-image however. After all, they would laugh at your jokes, give you their complete attention, etc.

I get what you mean with compensated dating, but I think that's because the term is associated with a particular kind (involving schoolgirls and old dudes). After all, the geisha were also compensated for their presence and so are hosts. The extent of which could be considered dating is debatable though. My first impression is that I couldn't forget that I'm actually paying for this merry company, but maybe it's easier than I think to forget. The fact that there is a possibility to eventually get closer (romantically or literally), must make it very similar to "real" dating. I guess that plays a part too.

message 20: by Agnetta (last edited Jul 16, 2018 03:25AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Agnetta | 300 comments Swathi wrote: " didnt know about the adaptation"

@Swathi : no, not of the tetralogy, I refer to a movie about the author's life, which I would very much like to see...

message 21: by Agnetta (last edited Jul 16, 2018 06:18AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Agnetta | 300 comments page 76 of 408

I am myself also utterly puzzled about the appeal of those tea house geisha...

I get the attraction of the refined, luxurious, sophisticated top class geisha... they must have mastered the art of just captivating a man with their beauty and refinement.

But the ones Kensaku and his friends are visiting, I am not sure why, he even mentions he gets bored with the childish games , Koine's stories are not interesting, ... what a waste of time and money indeed. I am curious where this is going to, but for now I just wonder if half the book is going to be about losing your health, youth and money in tea houses for no particular reason at all....

I guess it is just normal human evasive behavior though. Bored young men, just looking to be entertained, and not succeeding to well in that purpose until now.

message 22: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill | 780 comments Kensaku and his friends going to tea houses to visit the women there does seem rather pathetic, but other parts of the novel hint at how deprived of female companionship they are outside of tea houses.

Consider the young man who sent a letter to Kensaku's sister asking her to meet him for a date. Everyone was scandalized, and Kensaku was sent instead to intimidate the young man into never doing such an unseemly thing again. Kensaku himself 'falls in love with' a young man in Kyoto just by seeing her on the back veranda of her house. He won't get to meet or talk to her until wedding negotiations are mostly settled (I haven't gotten far enough in to know if they'll get married).

This 'falling in love with' someone from just a glance seems like one of the low points of 19th c romanticism, but it also harks back to classical Japanese literature. At least in romanticism, the couple could meet to see if they liked each other. And in classical literature, they could write each other poems, and arrange to meet clandestinely. Here, they have to marry based on nothing more than a biography and a formal photograph.

It would have been even worse for these unmarried young women, unable to work, or travel on their own.

message 23: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments Part 2 Ch. 2


For anyone who doesn’t know this small city outside Hiroshima, for me, this surprise move for Kensaku brought up two strong images.

1) Long after this story, and after Kensaku boat-hopped across the Inland Sea a series of bridges was built to connect the islands named the Shana-Nami-Kaido.

If you are ever in this area and enjoy a good bike ride, give this a try. You can start or end at Onomichi, and bikes are available to rent. A beautiful look at a quiet Japan that Kensaku was looking for (less quiet these days...)

2) Onomichi was one of the areas hit by last week’s flooding. It was bad all over, but Hiroshima and Okayama were hit the worst, and hopefully none of the beauty Kensaku witnessed has been lost in the water.

Here’s an article that maybe shows the same kindness of the locals described in the book:


Glad for this change of scenery as was a bit over the tea house entertainers.

message 24: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill | 780 comments I just finished it. It seemed to go very slowly between when he returned from Onomichi and when he got married, and then the pace picked up and I rapidly read to the conclusion.

I would like to make comments on Part IV, but I'll hold off until more people get near the end.

message 25: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments (Auto-correct correction: Shima-Nami-Kaido)

Agnetta | 300 comments Josh wrote: "Glad for this change of scenery as was a bit over the tea house entertainers. "
Each time yet another boring maid or geisha is introduced I sigh a little sigh ... and continue, hoping young Kensaku will soon move to a more fulfilling life... you gave me hope !

Christian (comeauch) | 230 comments Wow Josh! I hadn't even bother looking where Onomichi was... thanks for connection & info! Adding this to my to-do list for next year :)

Agnetta | 300 comments I am still reading.

It is rather slow and I have the feeling of a "slice of life" book, but very very extended.... I mus say I can not develop any feelings towards any of the characters. they are real, but seem hardly special, so I am only mildly interested. It is interesting for the picture it paints of social interactions of that moment, culture, etc.

Question : why are some characters in part 3 only identified with one initial ?
Mr S ? Mr and Mrs N ?

Why not an imaginary name ? Is this to give it a touch of authenticity, pretending to hide real identity of certain people? But I thought this was a work of fiction ? any lights anyone?

message 29: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill | 780 comments As to "Mr S", etc. a lot of Japanese authors in the time period named characters like that. I don't know how far back the tradition goes.

It isn't just secondary characters, either. One of the main characters in Kokoro by Soseki is named just "K".

message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Josh | 271 comments You see the letter naming with areas, schools and business a lot in J-lit. I believe some of it is Japan’s rather fierce liability laws. Even though people don’t file suits often compared to the US, suggested anything that might cause a loss of income to a person or entity is avoided at all costs. Maybe with the name, it is an author’s way to hint that this is based on a real person... allowing an inner circle to get the joke, without being liable at all. (Anyone know another reason?)

Agnetta | 300 comments I like the inner circle theory, indeed.
I am confused because all characters have names... except those 3. I wonder !

Agnetta | 300 comments Spoilers!!!! Finally finished it. At some point I thought Shiga was going for a complete father/son parallel, giving Kensaku posibility yo cure in his own actions ("karma") his past , his present and dissolve the bad karma of his ancestors . then shiga moves away from the parallel...but still Kensaku and Naoko find relief from their suffering ... thru the suffering of Kensaku. Beautiful ending, not the most evident one. One understands why this is a classic. A heavy read though, but worth the effort.

Agnetta | 300 comments Mild Spoilers !!!

anybody nearing the end ??? any on-time finishers who want to share their impressions ?

It was a bit of an effort to push myself thru this slow book until the final , so I am really looking forward to your opinions :D.

Are you baffled by the ending ? I rather was !

message 34: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill | 780 comments Ending comments:

(view spoiler)

Agnetta | 300 comments (view spoiler)

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