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Reading List for Japanese Culture!

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All of the books below I have read in part or whole (some I have written about) and highly recommend if you are studying Japanese literature or even the language, after all, language is culture.



Joe's Top Ten Must Reads:
Ki no Tsurayuki's Tosa Nikki (土佐日記) 935Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji Translated by Royall Tyler (源氏物語) 11th centuryMori Ogai's The Dancing Girl(舞姫) 1890Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (心) 1914Tanizaki Junichiro's Naomi (痴人の愛) 1924-1947Kawabata Yasunari's Snow County (雪国) 1935-1937Mishima Yukio's Confessions of a Mask (仮面の告白) 1948Dazai Osamu's No Longer Human(人間失格) 1948Oe Kenzaburo's The Catch (飼育) 1957Murakami Haruki's A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険) 1982Supplementary Material
Donald Keene: Donald Keene the godfather of Japanese literary criticism. Arguably, there is no one who has contributed more to the interpretation of Japanese literature than this man.Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day (1956)Anthology o…

Train Your English Podcast

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A Japanese friend of mine and I have been working hard recording episodes for our new Podcast, Train Your English. The podcast features three levels of English instruction; beginner, intermediate and advanced. The advanced level may appeal to those of you who regularly read my blog as it's conducted entirely in English and we discuss very similar topics relate to Japanese culture that I post on my blog here. Definitely check it out!

Website: www.trainyourenglish.com iTunes Podcast Android Podcast

Japanese Spirituality

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Before diving into spiritualism, I need to discuss the foundation with which spiritualism is build upon in the West and in Japan. And before I get too far it would be appropriate to define what I mean by "the West". For the sake of convenience, when I talk about the "West" I am talking about cultures who embrace and have a rich tradition in or relation to Greek philosophy as a frame work for rationalizing nearly everything (Americas, Europe, parts of Eurasia and the middle east). Okay, so lets get into it.
In the West when we try to rationalize the world around us, we often do so through the lens of Dualism. Dualism is the idea that there are always two opposing or contrasting concepts for nearly everything. For example, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, man vs. nature, etc. It also explains why westerners, and very much the English language, is geared for discussion and debate. Conversely, pluralism is very dominate in the Japanese world view. Pluralism is the idea t…

Wabi_Sabi Wrapping it Up!

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Wabi_Sabi What a ride! The last two and a half months have been a roller coaster ride to remember. As Wabi_Sabi's drummer, I'll be wrapping up the year with a collaborative live show in Hadano (秦野) AEON mall. The performance will feature Wabi_Sabi and another up and coming jazz pianist, Jacob. 
So far we have played 18 live shows, traveled over a 1000km all the way from Niigata in the west to Hamatsu in southern Shizuoka and as far north as Sendai. We stayed in hotels, campers, manga cafes, cars, you name it. We played gigs in front of 100's of people on the street, and live shows in front of empty seats. So goes the life of a performer.
While there have been a lot of things I've taken  from this experience, there are two things in particular I'll write about in this post. First is my Japanese, and second is my personal growth as a foreigner in Japan.
Being with Benny and Hiro on the road for days at a time has given me an opportunity to grow as an individual in ways I…

A New Chapter: Wabi_Sabi

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Wabi_Sabi I have been given an extremely rare opportunity to be a part of a project that I can honestly say not many foreigners have had. Starting this month I will be touring with a professional band all over Japan as a their drummer. I'm super excited for this opportunity and because of the rarity of the situation I thought it would be an interesting topic to share with you all. With this shift in blogging I'll get a chance to publicize my band overseas and also give some of you who may be interested in playing in a band in Japan an inside look at the industry.
Last month I accepted an offer to play with Wabi_Sabi, a band that's been active all around Honshu, Japan for the last 5 years. You can visit the website here and listen to our music and find out where we are playing. We are currently working on an English page which should be available soon. If you can't read Japanese and want to come see us live then go ahead and friend me on Facebook and you can get event inf…

How to Improve Your Japanese: Survival Situations

I was in the hospital attending to my father-in-law who, at the time, was suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). By this time, my father had lost the ability to speak and was on a life-supporting respirator machine. One morning I walked into his room to check on him and saw a panicked look on his face. I could hear wheezing from the tube providing oxygen to his lungs, and his faced started turing red. I noticed there was a nurse in the room attending to another patient, but I wasn't quite sure what to say or do so I just started speaking anything and everything I knew in Japanese. It got her attention and she quickly attend to my father by clearing out the obstruction in his breathing tube and the situation was under control.

Again, I was in a hospital at midnight with my wife who had been suffering from a high fever for almost a week. In the moments before heading to the hospital she began to lose feeling in the right half of her body, and I immediately starting thinking …

Batman V Superman: Comic Book Hipsters

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This has nothing to do with Japan by the way...

*Spoilers ahead*

I'm gonna just get it out from the get go: Is anyone else sick and tired of the completely ridiculous reviews of hero movies by folks who read comics religiously? They remind me of the hipster culture who thinks they can crash anyone's party just because they know better. Or more pointedly, they remind me of the comic book guy from the Simpsons.

Daredevil is a great example of a failed production. It was fairly criticized by both the comic book reading population and movie critics for it's lack of character development and terrible acting (Ben Affleck at his worst). That said, I watch Batman V. Superman and I really liked it. Okay, I understand there are quite a few storylines that go astray from the comics, but this is to be completely expected, which is why I can't understand why all these comic fans have their feathers in bunch about it. As a movie, it wasn't that bad (rotten tomatoes 29% and fall…