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This Holiday, Travel to Japan in Your Mind With These Book Suggestions

JAPAN Forward



With many staying at home during this holiday season, you might be stuck for what to read. You might even want to travel with your mind. 

JAPAN Forward has you covered! Here is a selection of Japan-related books we have reviewed during this past year, covering pop culture, technology, robotics, and history, for a fun way to spend your New Year’s break while immersing yourself in Japan. 

Each section features information on the book and an excerpt from our book review. 

We hope you enjoy this list, and Happy New Year! 

•  ‘No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners! My Life in Japan in the ’80s’ by Joe Palermo

Here is an excerpt of the review by Neil Day on this fun volume: 

No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners is a short 127-page easy-to-read book that provides the reader with a tapestry of engaging experiences of a foreigner living in Japan in the 1980s. The author brings you through an eight-year journey over a succession of entertaining short stories written in an easily digestible style. The book, though not complete, also provides insights and comparisons of Japan today with its recent past. (…)

The stories make for an entertaining read, getting straight to the point without being heavy or preachy. If there is anything lacking in the book, it would only be that the author must surely have more stories to tell. 

Read the full book review here


Title: No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners! My Life in Japan in the ’80s

Author: Joe Palermo

Sold By: Amazon.com Services LLC 

To learn more: To learn more and to purchase the book, click here to reach Amazon’s website. 

 • ‘Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World’ by Amy Stanley

This book is, according to the book website, a vivid, deeply researched work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo—the city that would become Tokyo—and a portrait of a great city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.

Here is a section of our review written by June Teufel Dreyer: 

Of Tsuneno herself, little remains save her letters. Her death, unlike those of her brothers, was marked only with a small slip of paper in the Rinsenji archive containing her birth and death dates and posthumous name, which ironically included the character for “obedient.” No feminist icon, her life nonetheless showed that onerous social restrictions could be overcome with grit and perseverance.

Read the full book review here


Title: Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World 

Author: Amy Stanley

Publisher: Scribner (July 2020) 

Learn More: Additional information about the book is available from the publisher, here. 

Purchase the Book: From the publisher or from other booksellers, here

 • ‘One Love Chigusa” by Soji Shimada

Here is a section of our review written by Peter Tasker: 

The best science fiction is never about the future, but the present. One Love Chigusa, the latest offering from British publisher Red Circle, is a case in point. Nominally set in the year 2091, Soji Shimada’s short novel deals with highly contemporary concerns, specifically what it means to be human in a world of advanced robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence.)  

Read the full book review here. 


Title: One Love Chigusa

Author: Soji Shimada 

Translation by: David Warren

Publisher: Red Circle  (2020)

Purchase the Book: From the publisher (in British Pounds) here. Also available from other booksellers. Check Goodreads, here, for your best options. 

Learn More: Learn more about the book from the publisher, here, and from Goodreads, here.

 • ‘Sharing a House with the Never Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli’ by Steve Alpert

Here is an excerpt of our review written by Peter Tasker: 

You can see why Steve Alpert was indispensable to Studio Ghibli’s global ambitions. He really knows what should get lost in translation and what should stay. “Sharing a House With the Never-Ending Man”, his highly entertaining memoir of his fifteen years at Ghibli, gives an insider’s view of how cultural products are translated and transformed, also how art and commerce collide in the world of cinema.

Read the full book review here. 


Title: Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli

Author: Steve Alpert

Publisher: Stone Bridge Press

Format: Hardback, paperback and e-book

For more information: Find additional information and links to multiple options to purchase the book at the publisher’s website, here, and at Goodreads, here

 • ‘How Human Is Human? The View from Robotics Research’ by Hiroshi Ishiguro

According to the book website, this work presents an overview of various androids created by its author, Hiroshi Ishiguro, along with episodes and difficulties encountered during their development. Unlike the industrial robots so commonly seen in today’s factories, Dr. Ishiguro’s androids are designed with a focus on providing new tools for human interaction and communication. 

Here is an excerpt of our review written by Earl Kinmonth: 

Overall, Ishiguro does not make extravagant claims for what his creations can do. Although it was probably not his intention, it should best be read as something of a corrective for the hype and exaggeration in both foreign and domestic writing about robots in Japan.

Read the full book review here. 


Title: How Human is Human? The View from Robotics Research

Author: Hiroshi Ishiguro

Translator: Tony Gonzalez

Publisher: Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture (JPIC) (English edition, 2020)

Format: Paperback and digital book

To learn more about the book: Read about it on the publisher’s website, here.

To purchase: The book is available through Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Kinokunya, honto and kobo, all of which may be accessed through the publisher’s website, here

With these options, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Author: JAPAN Forward

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