Monday, November 21, 2011

J-Boys: Kazuo's World, Tokyo, 1965

Oketani, Shogo. J-Boys: Kazuo's World, Tokyo, 1965
Translated from the Japanese by Avery Fisher Udagawa.
Nominated for the Cybils, copy received from Stone Bridge Books.

Kazuo and his younger brother have all sorts of ordinary adventures in Tokyo. They have to buy tofu from the vendor who still cooks it over a wood fire, they try to befriend wild dogs because they want one so much, they get to go out to eat occasionally and try Western food that they have seen on television, and go to the public baths by themselves. But Tokyo is changing and growing, and all sorts of influences are changing Kazuo's world. He finds out that one of his classmates is ridiculed because his family is from Korea, and he also has to deal with the impact of WWII, which is still felt in his family and community.
Strengths: I learned more about every day life in Japan in this! Several years ago, we hosted a Japanese exchange student, and this was the sort of book I was looking for. Details, like cooking rice and sleeping on futons in very small living quarters, were fascinating. I would love to see Mr. Oketani write novels for Stone Bridge about what life is like in Japan today. The vintage pictures accompanying things like the description of students being forced to drink powered milk, were wonderful!
Weaknesses: This is more of a memoir, with not a lot of plot.


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