The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Japan Beat
The Agenda
Dining Out
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
About Us
Distribution Points


Start brushing up on your kanji to prepare for the annual Japanese Language Proficiency Test, this year taking place on Sunday, December 3 throughout the country. Passing the coveted ikkyu (level one) is considered the ultimate mark of achievement for a non-native speaker, indicating a comprehensive level of fluency and a guaranteed boost on a resume. Those who want to take the test must apply in advance by September 5, and application forms can be picked up for ¥500 at many bookstores (see www.jees.or.jp for a complete list). Results will be announced mid-February.

For more information, call the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services at 03-5454-5577. NU

776: Tokyo Fiancee
774: Japanís Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity
772: Sparkling Rain: and other fiction from Japan of women who love women
768: Population Decline and Ageing in Japanóthe Social Consequences
766: The Diving Pool
764: Showa Japan: the Post-War Golden Age and Its Troubled Legacy
762: Exhibit C
760: Art Space Tokyo
758: Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess
756: Lala Pipo
754: The Erotic Odes
752: Travels in the East
748: Translucent Tree
746: Japanese for Daydreamers
744: Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
742: Tokyo Guidebooks
740: America & Other Poems
738: Losing Kei
736: Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White
734: A Wild Haruki Chase: Reading Murakami Around the World
732: Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
730: Noon Elusive and other stories
728: Midori by Moonlight
726: From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who Was Responsible?
724: Erotic Haiku
722: Vibrator & Sayonara, Dream-eater
720: Love Poem to Tofu & Other Poems: Poetry & Calligraphic art
718-719: A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics
717: The Astro Boy Essays
714: Mrs Fergusonís Tea-Set, Japan and the Second World War: The Global Consequences following Germanyís sinking of the SS Automedon in 1940
712: Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman
710: Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom
708: Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku
706: Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangsterís Daughter
704: The Swordless Samurai: Leadership Wisdom of Japanís 16th-Century Legend Toyotomi Hideyoshi
702: Tokyo Year Zero
700: Japonisme: Cultural Crossings between Japan and the West
698: The Pillowbook of Dr. Jazz
696: Kamakura
694: 69
692: Border Town: A Novel
690: A Diplomat in Japan
688: Glory In A Line: A Life of Foujita, the Artist Caught Between East and West
686: Crossfire
684: Japan-ness in Architecture
682: Nectar Fragments
680: Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan
678: Shutting Out the Sun
676: The Passion of Phineas Gage & Selected Poems
674: Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne
672: Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US
670: Autobiography of a Geisha
668: Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People
666: Bedtime Eyes
665: Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822
664: Skin Museum
662: The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film
660: The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan
658: Last of the Red Hot Poppas
656: Lost Girls and Love Hotels
654: In the Pool
650: Wrong About Japan
648: Japan Modern: New Ideas for Contemporary Living
646: The Couch Potatoís Guide to Japan: Inside the World of Japanese TV
644: My Handís Tired & My Heart Aches: Letters from Japan 1995-2005
643: Kamikaze Diaries
642: The Blue-Eyed Salaryman
640: Certainty
638: Modern Japanese House
636: Native American in the Land of the Shogun
634: The Reindeer People
632: Undercurrents: Episodes from a Life on the Edge
630: The Snake that Bowed
628: The Black Lizard & The Beast In The Shadows: Two Classics of Suspense and Detection
624: Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women
622: Modern Asian Living
620: Japanese in Mangaland
618: Do You Know What it means to Miss New Orleans?
616: A.A. Gill is away
612: JRock, Ink.
610: Toppamono: Outlaw, Radical, SuspectóMy Life in Japanís Underworld
608: Mao: The Unknown Story
606: Japan Houses
604: A Hundred Years of Japanese Film
602: Sai Kon Tan: 100 All-time Precious Proverbs
600: Shadow Family
598: Dr. Noguchi’s Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery 596: Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
594: Inspired Shapes: Contemporary Designs for Japan’s Ancient Crafts
592: Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game
590: The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan’s Finest Ryokan and Onsen
588: Chibikuro Sambo
586: The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan 1933-1945, Japan’s 21st Century Vision
584: Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers, The Stadium: Architecture for the New Global Culture
582: Snakes and Earrings, The Very Small Home

By Roy Mustang

Sai Kon Tan: 100 All-time Precious Proverbs
By Shintaro Tsuji, translated by Kimiko Ishi
(Sanrio, ¥680)

According to an introductory note,
the original Sai Kon Tan was a collection of Chinese aphorisms written by a Ming Dynasty philosopher who grew frustrated with his emperor’s autocratic rule. This new English translation, intended for children, offers practical advice and lessons to combat “the distortion of modern society” in the hopes of creating a world “where everyone cares for each other and helps one another.”

The adages are for the most part simple and easy to understand, and many will be familiar to Western kids. Though numerous Tao-flavored entries are included (“Find happiness in everyday life”; “Let go of a problem and move on”), others are reminiscent of Buddha (“If you’re too close, you can’t see clearly”), the Bible (“Cherish your father and mother”), a New Age self-help guide (“You need some quiet time”), or Western psychologists (“Express your feelings out loud”). Some seem like exhortations to salarymen-in-training (“Always feel you can still do more”), while others are inscrutable (“I’m happy that you’re happy for me”) and a few are hampered by translation issues (“Small good things, not small bad things”). On the whole, though, the proverbs impart a consistently upbeat message by encouraging modesty, honesty, industry and self-reliance.

Another appeal of Sai Kon Tan lies in its format. Each col-orful and uncluttered page shows a single proverb with a brief explanation, a colorful illustration, and a Chinese character related to the particular lesson; there’s even a Japanese-language section in the back. Pocket-sized and made of sturdy glossy paper, the book will stand up to constant handling by young children—and by older readers looking to remind themselves of some essential truths. Steve Trautlein


Guri and Gura’s Spring Cleaning
By Reiko Nakagawa and Yuriko Yamawaki, translated by Richard Carpenter
(Tuttle, ¥1,900)

Guri and Gura’s Picnic Adventure
By Reiko Nakagawa and Yuriko Yamawaki, translated by Peter Howlett and Richard McNamara
(Tuttle, ¥1,900)

Having been brought to its knees by the irresistibly cute rodent Mickey Mouse, Japan looks to return the favor with these new translations of classic children’s books. The characters Guri and Gura, two mice who originally appeared in the ’60s and whose simple, lyrically told adventures continue to be favorites here, should now claim a wider audience in the English-speaking world.

Like many successful books for beginning readers, this series shows its characters solving simple (and often fantastical) problems and making exciting discoveries. Illustrator Yuriko Yamawaki’s drawings are uncomplicated and full of color, and serve as expressive counterparts to Rieko Nakagawa’s sing-song prose, whose lilting qualities are ably rendered into English by the translators of the current editions.
Picnic Adventure (originally written in 1979) follows Guri and Gura as they trek through the woods on a warm sunny day. Exercising before lunch, the pair stumble on a bit of thread and decide to see where it leads—an undertaking that soon draws them farther and farther into the woods and into the home of a big bear, whose sweater has become unraveled. The bear is grateful and winds up joining Guri and Gura for lunch.

Spring Cleaning (2002) shares many of the same themes—physical activity, friendship and the enjoyment of food. Here, Guri and Gura are having breakfast when they realize that their house, long shut up for winter, has become filthy. Unfortunately, their cleaning tools are in disrepair, so the two don old clothes and use themselves as brooms. A snooping rabbit mistakes the dressed-up pair for ghosts, and soon the whole rabbit family comes to see what’s up. Invited inside, they admire the spotless rooms and partake of a hearty snack.

The Guri and Gura series comprises seven books in all, and each features a simple-to-follow story complemented by colorful drawings—excellent for all ages. Tuttle’s English versions also come with an audio CD. ST

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.