This moment of daybreak, and this singing back and forth

Dear Sarashina, I must confess that I have read your diary – and I did it twice. In my defense, I guess I could say that it is not exactly a diary, as we nowadays conceive of it; that it is highly imaginative rather than objective; and that it was meant to be a public…

Lady Sarashina

Sugawara no Takasue no Musume (菅原孝標女, also known as Takasue’s Daughter, c.1008 – after 1059) was a Japanese author known for her classic Heian period travel diary, the Sarashina Nikki. “Sugawara no Takasue no Musume” means daughter of Sugawara no Takasue. Her real name is unknown, so British scholar Ivan Morris, who translated her diary to English, referred to her as Lady Sarashina. Books…

The secrets inside her mind are like flowers in a garden at nighttime

Dear Fumiko, Your novel Masks, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter (女面, Onnamen, 1958) reminded me of an intricate structure one is made to peel off, layer by layer, only to find out later that the layers only made more visible the core that they were to be hiding – they were, after all, the very things…

Fumiko Enchi

Fumiko Enchi (円地 文子 Enchi Fumiko, pen-name of Fumiko Ueda, 2 October 1905 – 12 November 1986) was a Japanese writer. She was taught English, French and Chinese literature through private tutors at home. From 1918 to 1922, she attended the girl’s middle school of Japan Women’s University, but later abandoned her studies due to poor health. She died of heart attack in 1986. Books Novels Kaze…

But time flows in many streams,

  Dear Kawabata-san, I first read your novel Beauty and Sadness (transl. by  Howard Hibbett) in 2010, and I remember I was not very impressed nor particularly touched by it at the time. I had to reread the book this month, for a Book Club discussion, and I must say I can now best appreciate…

Yasunari Kawabata

Yasunari Kawabata (川端 康成, 11 June 1899 – 16 April 1972) was a Japanese writer. Born in Osaka, into a well-established family, Yasunari was orphaned when he was four. Having lost his grandparents when he was fifteen, Kawabata moved into a boarding house near his high school. In 1917, he moved to Tokyo, and on the following year…

Can I remain indifferent to those birds on the water?

Dear Murasaki-san, I guess you could never have imagined that your diary, like a cryptic letter left inside a bottle, would travel space and time and end up, centuries later, in the hands of a common reader like me. Not exactly the diary you wrote, but pieces of it, reorganised and filtered into a language…

Murasaki Shikibu

Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式部, English: Lady Murasaki) (c. 973 or 978 – c. 1014 or 1031) was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. Murasaki wrote The Diary of Lady Murasaki, Poetic Memoirs (a collection of 128 poems), and The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese, between about 1000…

The words we speak leave small bruises on the skin,

Dear Hiromi, Your book draws a lot on inter-generational conflict and cultural assimilation. Chorus of Mushrooms centers around  the lives of three generations of women in a Japanese Canadian family living in a small town. Set in Nanton, where the Tonkatsu family owns a mushroom farm, the story is told in alternate fragments, flipping between the grandmother…

Hiromi Goto

Hiromi Goto (1966, Chiba-ken, Japan) is a Japanese-Canadian editor, writer, essayist, and teacher of creative writing. She immigrated to Canada with her family in 1969. Goto earned her B.A. in English from the University of Calgary in 1989. She is the current Writer-in-Residence of the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. She was also the…