JAPAN 431: Readings in Contemporary Japanese Literature

Kanehara Hitomi, Horie Toshiyuki, Ikezawa Natsuki, Aoki Jungo

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 12:30-1:50pm
Loew 206
Professor Ted Mack

This term we will focus on four works of contemporary short fiction that appeared in recent years: Kanehara Hitomi's "Minku" (January 2007 Bungakukai), Horie Toshiyuki's "Kassôro" (January 2007 Shinchô), Ikezawa Natsuki's "Herushinki" (February 2007 Shinchô), and Aoki Jungo's "Hizuke no kazu dake kotoba ga" (2007 Waseda bungaku). All four stories were reprinted in Bungaku 2008 (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2008), a collection of some of the best stories of the year.

The following are recommended. We will discuss how to order them from Japan on the first day of class.

  1. This grammar reference is extremely handy.
  2. A good collegiate Japanese-English dictionary. One of my favorites is this one.
  3. A medium-sized Japanese-Japanese dictionary, such as this one.
  4. You should consider investing in an electronic dictionary.

On occasion, elaboratons and clarifications of classroom discussions will be posted to my course blog, Reading Japanese.

The reading schedule below is tentative, and will adjust based on the progress of the class. Class dates marked with an asterisk (*) will be taught by guest instructors.

Reading Schedule

9/24 (Wednesday) Introduction
9/26 (Friday) Kanehara Hitomi "Minku," pp. 17-18.
9/29 (Monday) "Minku," pp. 18-19.
10/1 (Wednesday)* "Minku," pp. 20-21.
10/3 (Friday) "Minku," pp. 21-22.
10/6 (Monday) QUIZ #1; "Minku," pp. 23-24.
10/8 (Wednesday) "Minku," pp. 24-25.
10/10 (Friday) "Minku," pp. 26-27.
10/13 (Monday) QUIZ #2; "Minku," pp. 27-28.
10/15 (Wednesday) "Minku," p. 29.
10/17 (Friday) Horie Toshiyuki "Kassôro e," pp. 30-31.
10/20 (Monday) QUIZ #3; "Kassôro," pp. 31-32.
10/22 (Wednesday)* FE "Kassôro," pp. 33-34.
10/24 (Friday) "Kassôro," pp. 34-35.
10/27 (Monday) QUIZ #4; "Kassôro," pp. 36-37.
10/29 (Wednesday) "Kassôro," pp. 37-38.
10/31 (Friday) "Kassôro," p. 38.
11/3 (Monday) QUIZ #5; Ikezawa Natsuki "Herushinki," pp. 39-40.
11/5 (Wednesday)* JH "Herushinki," pp. 40-41.
11/7 (Friday) "Herushinki," pp. 42-43.
11/10 (Monday) QUIZ #6; "Herushinki," pp. 43-44.
11/12 (Wednesday)* SP "Herushinki," pp. 45-46.
11/14 (Friday)* YS "Herushinki," pp. 46-47.
11/17 (Monday) QUIZ #7; "Herushinki," pp. 48.
11/19 (Wednesday)* SS Aoki Jungo, "Hizuke no kazu dake kotoba ga," p. 113.
11/21 (Friday) "Hizuke no kazu dake kotoba ga," p. 114.
11/24 (Monday) QUIZ #8; "Hizuke no kazu dake kotoba ga," pp. 114-15.
11/26 (Wednesday) "Hizuke no kazu dake kotoba ga," p. 115.
11/28 (Friday) HOLIDAY -- Thanksgiving
12/1 (Monday) QUIZ #9; "Hizuke no kazu dake kotoba ga," p. 116.
12/3 (Wednesday) REVIEW
12/5 (Friday) Comprehensive Final Quiz

About the Course:
This course focuses solely on developing advanced Japanese reading skills through practice. Students read through contemporary Japanese fiction on their own and then meet to go over that reading, focusing on grammar and vocabulary but also discussing literary devices and effects. Unlike most other language offerings, this course is made up of readings that have not been tailored or selected for ease of comprehension. Students read celebrated stories of recent years, regardless of difficulty, in their complete form. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the real complexity and beauty of literary Japanese, while providing them with the tools necessary to read even the most challenging fiction. The hope is that the course will begin students on a lifelong path of reading Japanese literature – whether professionally or recreationally.

A grade of 2.5 or higher in JAPAN 313 or its equivalent is an absolute requirement. A high level of Japanese reading ability is required; expect the gulf between third-year Japanese readings and these stories to be substantial.

The syllabus below will be in flux throughout the semester as we move through the stories. Watch the online syllabus and talk with your classmates about where we are for any given class meeting.

Required Materials:


All texts are available online.
Bungaku 2008 (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2008) may also be available at the Seattle Kinokuniya bookstore.
Many of the texts for this class require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Participation and preparation (50%):

All class members will be expected to complete assigned readings before class meets. Class meetings will involve recitation in Japanese, translation, and discussion of grammar in either English or Japanese. Every student will be called on at every class meeting; likely each will be called multiple times. Inadequate preparation will result in a reduction of one's participation grade. Late arrivals disrupt class; therefore you are expected to arrive on time. Please turn off all beepers and cell phones before class begins.

Weekly Short Quizzes (30%; every Monday, unless otherwise noted):

Quizzes will be made up of translation questions involving sentences chosen from the previous week's reading.

Final Comprehensive Quiz (20%; Friday, 5 December 2008, 12:30-1:50 pm):

The final quiz will be made up of translation questions involving sentences chosen from among all the readings.

Recommended References:

Japanese-Japanese dictionary: Shinmura Izuru, ed, Kôjien. Fifth edition. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998.

Japanese character dictionary: John M. Haig, et al., ed. The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary. Tokyo: Tuttle, 1997.

Japanese-English dictionary: Watanabe Toshirô, et al., ed. Kenkyûsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary. Fifth Edition. Tokyo: Kenkyûsha, 2003.

Fair Use:

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

Page last updated on October 22, 2008