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Chinese Literature Challenge buttonToday I’m on a hike in National Park De Hoge Veluwe with my fellow Wandelgrrls. Chinoiseries is among them and she put the screws to me with her Literary Blog Hop Giveaway rules… I’ve thought about joining the Chinese Literature Challenge she’s hosting ever since it started early February and now she finally got me to! So here’s a quick post about my –ahem– ‘list’.

Level of participation: Merchant (read 1-3 books from Chinese authors or about China).

  1. Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma

I may add a second and third title in the future but I’m wary of creating ‘reading stress’ ;) Because I also joined the 5th Japanese Literature Challenge that started this month!

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logoThat’s not really much of a challenge because I’ll be reading several books by Japanese authors anyway. Currently on my night-stand: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. I haven’t read anything by him before and I’m impressed so far: a Story with a capital S. It’s the June read for the Japanese Book Group on In Spring it is the Dawn and I also plan on reading along Thousand Cranes, Kokoro and 1q84 (I-III). Then there’s my readalong of The Elephant Vanishes with Elsjelas coming up. Counting my recent review of All She Was Worth (Miyuki Miyabe) that makes… 6 books. And there are plenty more on my shelf that I’m dying to read! Of course the difficult part in my case is never the reading, but reviewing.

1st Literary Giveaway Blog Hop ButtonIn case you haven’t noticed yet: there’s another Literary Giveaway Blog Hop going on at Leeswammes’, from June 25th-29th. There are over 70 participants! Although I joined the first hop around my birthday in February, I decided to let this one pass since it’s a busy weekend. Would have been fun to do another giveaway though, ’cause this time it’s Mr Gnoe’s B-day! ;)

Other bookish news

Cover Zeitoun (Dave Eggers) 9789048806577I started and finished reading Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun this week, nonfiction about a family living in New Orleans during Katrina — the June read for the Boekgrrls book group. I’m probably not going to review it on Graasland. You can always check out my notes on Goodreads! The one thing that I must add is that it was translated to Dutch by one of the Wandel-/Boekgrrls and she did a GREAT job! Kudos MaaikeB!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. You can post about the task on your blog. Or if you don’t have a blog, you can leave a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month.

November’s topic:

We’re going to do things a little differently this month. Instead of a general topic to post on, I have five questions about Japan for you to answer. A kind of short Japan meme, if you will, just as a fun way to talk about some of what we like about Japan, and perhaps get some suggestions from each other of other things to try.

1. My favourite Japanese cinematographer is Hirokazu Koreeda because years ago I fell in love with his movie After Life (Wandaafuru Raifu). It is set in a waystation where the souls of the recently deceased are processed before entering heaven. They have to choose one single memory from their lives before being able to proceed: keeping that one memory is heaven. Such a simple, moving and thought-provoking idea! All filmed in a naturalistic way. Since then I have seen more of Koreeda’s works and was often moved by them. Maybe you have seen Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai), a film based on a true story in which four children (each by a different father), are abandoned by their mother in their Tokyo apartment. As a director Koreeda often uses amateur actors and his stories derive from things that have happened in real life.

2. The best Japanese sake I’ve drank this year is Kizan Sanban Junmaiginjo. There was a time when I thought all sakes would taste the same… Not. This rice wine has a light ‘fruity’ taste and is great for aperitif. The blue bottle looks awesome too ;) I was supposed to write a post about the sake tasting we did for Hello Japan’s summer topic: Doubles, but alas.

3. What Japanese author(s) or book(s) have you enjoyed that you would highly recommend to others?

I could say Haruki Murakami of course. We’ve got a whole shelf of his books at home, sometimes both in English as well as Dutch. But that wouldn’t be much of a recommendation — although it was at the time when I read my first Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, in 2004.

Murakami book shelf

A more ‘recent’ discovery is Yasunari Kawabata, whose 1962 novel The Old Capital was on the agenda for the November 2009 Japanese Literature Book Group. It turned out to be the second best book I read last year! You can imaginge how disappointed I am not to have been able to join this year’s book group read of his novel The Sound of the Mountain. Thankfully I have Snow Country on Mount TBR to look forward to :)

4. What is something Japanese that you’d like to try but haven’t yet had the chance?

Watching the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan :)

5. You’re planning to visit Japan next year. Money is not a concern. What is on the top of your list of things you most want to do?

Sakura fabrics, ice cubes and onigiri moldOMG: shop! Normally I’m not much of a shopaholic but once I’m set loose in Japan I won’t be able to restrain myself. It would be awesome to pick my own bento boxes & gear, instead of being dependent on what is offered on-line. I’m addicted to lovely fabrics and paper (origami, wrapping paper, stationary), can’t resist fine tableware (tea cups, sushi dishes, chopstick holders), could use a low mahjong table (or other furniture as well) and would love some Japanese artwork on my walls. Hey, when money is no concern I can have my own plane to ship it all back to Holland! ;) Dream on grrl…

But something that’s as high on my list and less expensive: to watch the cherry blossoms in spring! You felt that one coming, didn’t you? ;) I’d also like to see the colouring of leaves in fall. And it would be awesome to go hiking in Japan — so much gorgeous land to explore! But I’d be afraid to as long as I don’t speak nor read Japanese. Better not get lost in the ‘Land of the Thousand Autumns’ ;)

This tells you a bit of who I am: I can be materialistic in certain areas but essentially I only need nature’s beauty & silence to be happy.

* Bonus question * What was your favourite Hello Japan! mini-challenge topic?

I love all Hello Japan! mini missions! But if I had to name three favourites, it would be A celebration of spring and sakura (have a look at what kind of goodies I like to buy!), Japanese food (although it’s true I didn’t really challenge myself by submitting a Flower Bento post) and Summer Double — even though I failed to participate in that one. I guess I prefer foodie topics and those in which we can be creative ;)

Now you know even more about me! And that’s what this topic was about, right?! :)

My pile of books for the 24 hour readathon in October 2010

These are the books I’ll be picking from next Saturday, when I’m participating in the fall 24 Hour Read-a-thon (starting at 14:00 local time).

As you may notice it is an a-typical pile in that they’re mainly Dutch titles! The bulk of my yearly reads is in English but I decided to make it easy for myself since I haven’t been reading much lately and I may be easily distracted the coming weekend as well. Juno, one of my kittehs, is very ill and last Sunday we didn’t even think she’d make it till readathon weekend. But this tough old gal is still fighting to get better! So instead of her keeping me company in my reading chair and bed (like previous RaTs), I might go sit with her on a pillow in a corner of the room. Less comfy, but darn well cosy and I’d be so much enjoying her presence! Of course if worse comes to worst I might drop out of the challenge to read for 24 hours. But let’s not think about that yet!

Now, which books are you looking at in that picture (clockwise)?

  • Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma
  • Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro (short stories)
  • Het volgende verhaal (The Following Story), Cees Nooteboom (novella)
  • Isabelle en het monster and Allemaal monsters! (Adèle and the Beast / Adèle et le bête & Monsters All! / Tous des monstres!) from the series Les Avontures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, Jacques Tardi (graphic novels)
  • Sneeuwlandschap / Snow Country (雪国, Yukiguni), Yasunari Kawabata
  • Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (The Pillow Book), Sei Shōnagon (short autobiographical entries)
  • Modelvliegen (‘Model Flying‘), Marcel Möring (audiobook)

24 Hour RaT buttonI feel like starting these books RIGHT NOW — all at the same time! LOL But I guess I’m most excited about The Following Story because it was recommended by David Mitchell and I will be buddy reading it with tanabata from In Spring it is the Dawn. That’ll be so much fun! It’s a story about Herman Mussert (a former teacher of Latin and Greek), who falls asleep in Amsterdam one evening only to wake up in a hotel room in Lisbon with the fear that he is dead.

I’m also looking forward to The China Lover, of which The Independent writes:

Reading Ian Buruma’s novel is like your first visit to a sushi shop with a knowledgeable friend. Everything is unfamiliar, some of it unpalatable, but your companion ensures you finish sated, delighted and feeling that bit more knowledgeable yourself. [..]

The story traces the real-life career of a Manchurian-born Japanese movie star, known variously as Ri Koran, Shirley Yamaguchi and Yoshiko Yamaguchi. Her three incarnations act before very different backdrops: the colonial experiment of “New Asia” in the 1930s and 1940s, the post-war MacArthur administration, culminating in the student protests of 1960; and the armed resistance of the Japanese Red Army in Palestine in the 1970s.

But Yamaguchi merely guest-stars in her own biopic, for each section is narrated by a different man: a China-loving mentor, a restless American expat, and a pornographer-turned-terrorist.

This year’s graphic novels are from Tardi’s series about Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec. I’ll be rereading these because part of the adventures take place in Paris (France) and Mr Gnoe and I have been photographing the very same places when we were there a month ago. Our plan is to make a thematic Google map! Having graphic novels at hand for a change of palate is one of the great tips I got when I first joined the readathon. Although I was completely wrong in thinking that reading comics takes less time… It rather doubles it: reading the story and looking at the pictures!

Something special about this year’s readathon is that I actually know 2 other Dutch participants: Leeswammes and JannyAn. I hope this will make me feel less lonely in the dark hours of the night, when it’s still daytime at the other side of the globe. Although I do not plan to go completely without sleep, because I tend to get depressed if I do so ;) These grrls even live in the same state as I do (Utrecht province), so maybe next year we’ll be holding a pyjama party during the readathon?! ;)

Juno keeping me company during 24 Hour RaT in September 2009

Cover The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet (David Mitchell, 2010)May has almost ended and I have read just 1 book this month (next to the The Pillow Book read-along, that is). But it was FABULOUS! I’ve been reading the long expected new novel by David Mitchell: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de ZoetCover Blind Willow, Sleeping WomanI already told you a little about it in a Sunday Salon earlier this month and you can find a quote in my post about new bento goodies. I’m working on a review but it’s not the only blogpost that needs to be written and I don’t seem to have enough time on my hands. It’s #3 on my todo list: first I need to focus on a buddy-review of Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman with Elsje and next is somethingIcan’ttalkaboutyet ;)

Things I’m looking forward to this week

JLC4 logo gicleeOn Tuesday a new Japanese Literature Challenge is setting of! I’ve been looking forward to it very much since I finished the 3rd edition in January :) Er.. I am a bit embarrassed to admit I still haven’t written 2 of my reviews, nor a wrap-up post :\

I hope to finish Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book during those 6 months of JLC4 (150 of 342 pages left) and I also plan to read the next 5 books:

  • 'Pinball, 1973' has arrived!Silence by Shusaku Endo (Japanese Book Group Read for June 28th) – 306 pages
  • The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (JLit Read-along from July – September) – 530 pages of small print
  • Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (a gift of velvet) – 142 pages
  • Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami – 130 pages
  • Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami (acquired this week through a bookswap with tanabata from In Spring It Is The Dawn, one of my favourite weblogs) – 179 pages

This means I need to read a book a month (amounting to 1437 pages in total)… Gotta speed up!
ETA: the challenge will run from June 1st – January 30th 2011 so that gives me 2 months extra ;)

If you’d like to join the challenge as well (you actually only need to read one book by a Japanese author!) I can recommend Be With You (Takuji Ichikawa), one of my 2 favourite reads of 2009: The Old Capital (Yasunari Kawabata), The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa) and any book by Haruki Murakami or Kazuo Ishiguro.

Program guide & tickets opera WakeThe other MAJOR EVENT I’m looking forward to is a trip to Teylers Museum in Haarlem next Saturday, where I’ll be listening to David Mitchell talking about his inspiration for Dr. Marinus in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

Of course I’ll also have my copy signed, together with our program guide of the opera Wake for which Mitchell wrote the libretto. I hope I won’t be tongue-tied this time… As a non-smoker I need to ask him not to draw a joint — he did that twice before when we got our books signed LOL.

The Pillow Book

Arrived at entry: 85/86
Entries read since last time: 25
Edition: 1986 Dutch translation of Ivan Morris’ Penguin edition: Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (transl. from English by Paul Heijman)

I’m enjoying Sei Shōnagon’s book more than before. Although I’m really more of a plot-reader I like to learn about the culture & court life of 10th century Japan. I was surprised to find out that Shōnagon was not just writing her journal out of her own initiative but that ‘people’ were expecting her to write everything down and not leave anything out… (entry #67). Also, there are more ladies called Shōnagon among the courtesans: Gen Shōnagon and Shin Shōnagon. Does the name mean something special relating to court? Do the women get a new name (pseudonym) once they enter the Empress’s circle? I hope to find out someway! Maybe you can tell me?

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Easter eggI began this Easter Sunday reading in bed. Cuddling up to Mr Gnoe with cats & coffee; can’t get any cosier than that :) Yeah well, the dwarf hamster prefers to stay in her cage ;)

I’m still enjoying Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Only a hundred pages to go until the end of the book. So far my favourite stories are The Ice Man and The Seventh Man. The latter I read at least a week ago, but yesterday I feared the ocean I saw in Nowhere Boy because of it… :\

You might remember I was already reading ‘Blind Willow’ during my previous Sunday Salon 3 weeks ago. I don’t seem to get much reading done these days; I’m also slowly progressing in Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book (see below). Still, there’s no need to worry, because there’s a new 24 hour read-a-thon coming up next week! I had great fun in October, even though I got so over-excited I really couldn’t get much reading done… LOL Why don’t you join us this time?

Things I’ll do differently:

  • I’ll start a few hours early because 2pm is not a good time to begin the read-a-thon.
  • Butoh dancer Taketuru KudoCompensation for my early start will be taken Saturday night: I’m going to see butoh dancer Takateru Kudo perform Go-Zarashi.
  • I will not put my laptop directly beside my reading chair…
  • I will check in every two hours on the dot so I can do some cheering, join in mini challenges and get the community feeling, but won’t get too distracted. Maximum pc time allowed: 15-20 minutes.
  • Mini-challenge entries will be short (at first; I might make ‘em more fancy after the read-a-thon has ended).
  • Maybe I’ll even let Mr Gnoe guard my new iPhone because it’s such a distracting device ;) LOL
  • I’m not buying any books especially for the read-a-thon; there’s enough on my shelves to choose from.
  • I have no need for excessive snacks & sweets… Really I don’t. Cross my heart and hope to die.

24 Hour Read-a-thon logoAlthough I’m free to pick anything of my liking of the shelves, I actually have a small pile of books set aside already. Last time I really benefited by the advice of some ‘old-timers’ to have a selection of different genres at hand. So my book stack contains novels and short stories, fiction next to non-fiction in both English and Dutch, plus comics and a graphic novel. I even have some audio books available for when my eyes get too tired :)

DA BOOX:

  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Haruki Murakami; or, if finished:
  • a choice of the following short stories: De arm (One Arm) by Yasunari Kawabata, The January Man by David Mitchell, Helen and Julia by Sarah Waters
  • Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (The Pillow Book), Sei Shōnagon; just the journal entries to keep up with my read-along
  • Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
  • Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma
  • Geketende democratie: Japan achter de schermen (‘Democracy in Chains: Behind the Scenes of Japan‘), correspondent Hans van der Lugt: a belated birthday present — that’s what happens when you flee the country at the actual day: gifts pouring in for a while afterwards ;)
  • Mutts: Dog-eared, Patrick McDonnell
  • Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story, Ari Folman & David Polonsky

So, how do like my ‘short’ list? :) And do you have any good advice for the read-a-thon?

Bookish posts

This week’s bookish posts on Graasland:

The Pillow Book

Arrived at entry: 41/41
Entries read since last time: 10

It’s been a while since I last read in Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book and not much comes to mind when I try to think of something to say about it. I guess it’s not making much of an impression :( Maybe the pace is too slow for me (not really getting a feel for the narrator), or or it might have to do with my recent discovery of preferring plot-driven books. I will admit I’m looking at 7 post-its sticking out of my volume: quotes that I should copy into my own journal but that I haven’t gotten round to. Once I’ve done so, maybe I’ll have more to say.

Unfortunately I had to cancel my visit to the Sketches from the Pillow Book theater play in Amsterdam. But blogging-buddy-to-be Marion went and wrote a short post about it. Feels a bit like I’ve been there anyway ;)

Now, back to my leisurely Easter Sunday. I’m going to read some more, have a nice dinner of cannelloni and mandarin tiramisu dessert (recipe will follow later), and will finish watching the first season of Damages. What are you doing today?

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

2009 was a good year for reading. I completed 35 books (5 more than last year) and I didn’t put any aside because I found them too disappointing. My eyes have goggled a total of 10.038 pages ;)

2009 FIRSTS:

I’m afraid I have a lot of ‘wrapping up’ to do on my challenges — writing reviews and wrap-up posts — so thank god for next weekend: it’s Bloggiesta!

Now, the highlights of 2009…. (drum roll)

BESTEST book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (published in 1939)

I would never have guessed it would end as my best read of 2009. I had a hard time getting into the book, especially because of the ‘epic’ chapters intertwining the story of the Joad family during the Great Depression in the US. But it really got under my skin. And looking back The Grapes of Wrath definitely made the biggest (and a long lasting) impression.
I still need to review it so I guess it’d better be one of the first to tackle. (Review added)

SECOND best book: The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata (1962)

I had never heard of Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata, even though I’ve been reading Japanese authors for a while now. So I’m really glad I got to know him thanks to the Japanese Literature Book Group that started this year. Again, I haven’t reviewed this book yet :\ But I absolutely loved the detailed descriptions of Kyoto and Japanese culture. It reminded me of last year’s favourite: The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery. But The Old Capital is way more subtle — Japanese, where The Teahouse Fire is recognizably American in comparison. So, another review that’s high on my to-do list.

Worst book: Butterfly in the Wind by Rei Kimura (2000)
What do you know, I do have a review of this year’s worst read on Graasland! ;) That’s because it was the first book I read for the Japanese Literature Challenge (for which I actually only needed to read 1 book, but why stop, especially after such a disappointment? ;) I read Butterfly in the Wind in Dutch (Vlinder in de wind) and found the content, the way the story was told ánd the translation all h o r r i b l e.

I have thought of listing more books especially worth mentioning, but I had many good reads this year so I’ll just give you the whole lot of them. The first title (Silk) was read last, the last of the list my first book of 2009 (Falling Angels). Are there any of these you would have picked as your best read?

  • Zijde (Seta / Silk), Alessandro Baricco
  • The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson (online reading group)
  • I am a cat (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru), 2nd volume, Natsume Sōseki (Japanese Literature Read-along, JapLit Challenge)
  • The Old Capital (Koto 古都), Yasunari Kawabata (Japanese Literature Reading Group)
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen audio book
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (November Book Group read; What’s in a Name)
  • I am a cat (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru), 1st volume, Natsume Sōseki (Japanese Literature Read-along, JapLit Challenge)
  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman (graphic novel)
  • De pianoman, Bernlef
  • Be With You (Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu), Takuji Ichikawa
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck ((multiple) challenge book) TNX to boekenxnl for this rabck!
  • Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates (Classics challenge; online reading group)
  • Het Pauperparadijs, Suzanna Jansen (non-fiction)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Bookcrossing bookring / (multiple) challenge book)
  • Vlinder in de wind (Butterfly in the Wind), Rei Kimura (Japanese Literature challenge book)
  • Away, Amy Bloom (online reading group)
  • The Mapmaker’s Wife, Robert Whitaker (Bookcrossing bookring / What’s in a name challenge book)
  • What came before he shot her, Elizabeth George (What’s in a name challenge book)
  • With no one as witness, Elizabeth George
  • Zo god het wil (Crossroads / Come Dio Comanda), Niccolò Ammaniti
  • De inboorling, Stevo Akkerman
  • Ten zuiden van de grens, ten westen van de zon (Kokkyo no minami, Taiyo no nishi / South of the Border, West of the Sun), Haruki Murakami
  • De kleine keizer (‘The Little Emperor‘), Martin Bril (What’s in a name challenge book)
  • Nikolski, Nicolas Dickner (ring)
  • Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh ((multiple) challenge book / bookgroup)
  • Slam, Nick Hornby
  • Notes from an exhibition, Patrick Gale
  • Rivier der vergetelheid (Meuse l’oubli), Philippe Claudel
  • Dans dans dans (Dansu dansu dansu / Dance dance dance), Haruki Murakami
  • The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro ((multiple) challenge book)
  • Grijze zielen, Philippe Claudel (What’s in a name challenge book)
  • The National Trust for Scotland: Brodie Castle (non-fiction)
  • De ijdele engel, Godfried Bomans
  • The End of Mr Y, Scarlett Thomas (TNX to rapturina for this rabck!)
  • Vallende engelen (Falling Angels), Tracey Chevalier

The ‘stats’ (for real geeks like me ;) will have to wait until another day. But here’s what I read in 2008 and in 2007 — for those of you who haven’t had enough yet (are you also from the Eighties generation, too fond of making lists? ;)

My Google map will show you my Bookcrossing releases of all-time. Making a sidebar button for it is one of my wishes for next week’s Bloggiesta! As is, maybe, a special page where I can bring my year lists together?

Coincidently (dôh) this week’s Booking Through Thursday wants to know exactly what I’ve been talking about today!

The Hello Japan! mini-challenge for December was a direct consequence of our first Japanese Book Group read: The Old Capital (review pending). The ‘old capital’ of Japan is Kyoto — the Japanese title, Koto, referring to that name.

The task for this month is to choose a temple or shrine in Kyoto and share what you learned about it.

A virtual visit, so to say. I started looking for the temple that could have been described in Ellis Avery’s marvelous book The Teahouse Fire; my favourite read of 2008.

When I was nine, in the city now called Kyoto, I changed my fate. I walked into the shrine through the red arch and struck the bell. I bowed twice. I clapped twice. I whispered to the foreign goddess and bowed again. And then I heard the shouts and the fire. What I asked for? Any life but this one.

I found out there are three main temples or shrines with red arches as entrance: Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari Shrine and Heian Shrine. Since I wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact spot and tanabata herself had already picked the latter, I was left to choose between Kiyomizu and Fushimi Inari. But what happened? While roaming the web I fell in love with pictures of two other temples! Kōdai-ji 高台寺 京都 and Jizō-in 地藏院.

KŌDAI-JI
Photo courtesy of Filmmaker in Japan

Photo courtesy of BornPlayDie.com

Photo courtesy of Realmonkey

Kōdai-ji temple was founded in 1605 by Kita-no-Mandokoro (a title for the wife of a ruler) in memory of her late husband. That’s something else than an ‘In Loving Memory‘ bench along the road, isn’t it? I’m especially curious about the teahouses on the property, designed by the famous master of chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony), Sen Rikyu.

In summer and autumn the temple gardens are illuminated at nighttime by multicoloured spotlights. It must be a wonderful sight! The temple grounds actually interest me more than the buildings of worship… Oops — being a museum employee I shouldn’t have said that out loud! ;)

But looking at the pictures for some time the colours start to resemble Christmas lighting. Of course the bamboo forest by daylight does not loose its magic. But I don’t want to be visiting a fairground attraction when looking for a place of contemplation. And there you have the reason why I haven’t chosen any of the 13 Kyoto temples or 3 shrines that are on the Unesco World Heritage List. So, off to the small and not so popular Jizō-in with its beautiful moss garden!

JIZŌ-INJizo moss garden by Frantisek Staud

Jizō-in is a Zen temple that was founded in the 1367 by the monk and garden designer Musō Kokushi, posthumously renamed to Musō Soseki (no relation to the author of I Am a Cat). It is commonly known as the Bamboo Temple but can also be called the poor man’s Saihō-ji because it is only a few minutes’ walk away from the better-known Saihō-ji temple with its heart-shaped garden that was (really) designed by the before mentioned Musō Kokushi, and that can only be visited after official reservations by mail… The garden at Jizō-in was actually designed by Sokyo Zenji (1291-1374) and attributed to Musō as a founder; probably because of his importance. In it you’ll find the 16 disciples of Buddha ((a)rakan 阿羅漢 羅漢).

The temple of Jizō-in was destroyed by fire during the Ōnin civil war (1467-1477) and restored more than a hundred years later, in the middle of the Edo period (1603 -1868), when Japan was closed to Westerners and Christianity. Saihō-ji and Jizō-in are in the same atmospheric bamboo groves and because of that they remind me of the convent where Chieko’s father retreats in The Old Capital.

I really hope to visit some of the Hello Japan! temples in Kyoto in real life some time soon! Including “Mishima’s” Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 :)

The Buddha concluding this post can not be found in any of the temple gardens; this statuette appeared before me someday on a Wandelgrrls hike here in Holland.

Usually I don’t win any prizes… But lately I’ve been really lucky!

Velvet from vvb32 reads gave me not one, not two, but four awards!

Click on the award pics to go to the different blogposts on vvb32 reads. From left to right: I received The B for Beautiful of the The BINGO Award, the Ohh la la! I love your blog Award, The Lemonade Award (a ‘feel good’ trophy that shows great attitude or gratitude), and the Honest Scrap Award for bloggers who write from the heart.

I’m so honored! I have to answer a few questions to actually pick two of them up, so I’ll do that at the end of this post.

But my luck does not end here. I also won the cutest maki-e stickers (shiny things are excellent for a magpie like me) and mobile phone charm in the Japanese Literature Challenge at Dolce Belezza. I’m not linking to the post because I want to show them to you once they’ve arrived ;) Now I definitely need to buy an iPhone so that I can personalize it with my new goodies! ;) In situations like these I’m always thinking of Ren & Stimpy: HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY!

Won: Traditional Framer's Gouda Cheese

Now for those of you who are wondering what that cheese is doing in this blogpost… It was a prize also! We’ve got a fabulous new cheese shop in our shopping center and although we missed out on the first prize, a garden kitchen, we were lucky enough to win the 2nd: real Gouda farmer’s cheese. Yum! We are actually happy to have come second because we wouldn’t have been able to fit the kitchen on our balcony anyway! LOL

Now that we’re feeling lucky we’ve bought a ticket to the New Year’s Lottery..! Keep on dreaming eh? ;)

As promised, here’s my acceptance speech for the awards…

Ohh la la! award
J’adore your blog!

Where is your favorite place to read a book?
Actually… while commuting by train! And in my reading chair at home, cosying up with da kittehs.

Bookmarks or dog ears?
Bookmarks.

What is the best book you have read so far this year?
It’s almost time to compile my top list for 2009… Best read so far is either John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath or Yasunari Kawabata’s The Old Capital. Both classics..!

Do you like to snack while reading and if so, what is your favorite snack?
Not especially, just when I feel like snacking. I have a taste for salty — but potato chips & reading do not go well together… (no grease spots in my books please ;)

Book borrower or book collector?
In 2009 I was mostly a book collector.

For the Honest Scrap award I need to disclose 10 honest things about myself…

  1. I still prefer a nickname when socializing on the web.
  2. I’m keeping my blog separated from my professional life as a museum employee.
  3. I’m a vegetarian but I sometimes crave meat.
  4. Thankfully my lust for meat vanishes when I recall why I’m a veggie.
  5. I wish I was strong enough to stop eating dairy as well — but I’m not.
  6. I feel I’m the slowest book blogger on the planet when it comes to writing reviews.
  7. Making bento’s usually takes more time than it should too :\
  8. I can’t decide on a favourite book of all-times, nor a fav author.
  9. I lied. I think David Mitchell is the best writer ever ;)
  10. I’m not very good at passing awards along.

Well, that’s pretty honest, isn’t it?! And because of confession #10 I’ll just round up with a big THANK YOU!

Like I said I am starting as a Philogynist in the Women Unbound challenge.  That means I need to read at least two books, including (again at least) one nonfiction one. What exactly is the purpose of this challenge?

Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ [..]

For nonfiction, this would include books on feminism, history books focused on women, biographies of women, memoirs (or travelogues) by women, essays by women and cultural books focused on women (body image, motherhood, etc.). [..]

It’s trickier to say what is applicable as fiction. Obviously, any classic fiction written by a feminist is applicable. But where do we go from there? To speak generally, if the book takes a thoughtful look at the place of women in society, it will probably count. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to explain in your review why you chose this for the challenge and its connection to women’s studies.

For now, my books for this challenge are:

  • The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata (read in November),
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (autobiographical graphic novel),
  • The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon, a book of observations and musings recorded during her time as court lady to Empress Teishi (my nonfiction entry for this challenge).

The Old Capital & The Pillow Book are both written by Japanese authors, so it will be interesting to look for differences and similarities in Kawabata’s male, and Shōnagon’s female view on the role of women in Japanese society. Of course the social strata in these books are very different: Chieko the merchant’s daughter in The Old Capital vs. a court lady in The Pillow Book. Well, at least I hope there will have been progress in almost a 1000 years from the year 990 (Heian Period) and the 1960’s… Let’s read and see!

You must admit that I’ve been really strong so far, not signing up for any 2010 reading challenges even though the rest of the book blogging world seemed to be doing so. Well, before you start congratulating me: today I could no longer resist… :)

Beth Fish Reads is taking over the third What’s in a Name challenge. I liked participating in #2 and I did finish reading all my entries… I just still need to review –whispers– half of them :\ Well, I’ll get to that. Someday.

Here’s the new challenge in brief: between January 1st and December 31st I need to read one book in each of the following categories.

  1. A book with a food in the title.
  2. A book with a body of water in the title.
  3. A book with a title (queen, president, sir) in the title.
  4. A book with a plant in the title.
  5. A book with a place name (country, city) in the title.
  6. A book with a music term in the title.

Ha! I am quickly going to browse my shelves for books to be admitted to this challenge! :)) Maybe I should postpone my Boekgrrls December read, The Gargoyle, to January? ;) No need: in April we’ll be reading John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River! There are two other titles on our list that would fit loosely, but I want to play fair — to begin with :)

Another challenge that I’ve had my eyes on has already started: the Women Unbound challenge, running from November 2009 until November 2010. When I was reading The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata last month I kept thinking about this challenge. So now I’ve actually made the decision to join! I just need to figure out which level: Philogynist (“read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one”) must be doable since I have already read Kawabata and will definitely pick up Sei Shonagon’s classic The Pillow Book soon, which counts for non-fiction. But it should be a challenge! Of course I could always upgrade along the way?

Since the Japanese Literature Challenge is running until February 2010, I am now officially participating in three 2010 reading challenges before the year has even started. Add the remaining three books of my personal 2008-2009 challenge to that and you’ll all think that I must be crazy. So be it. I love you too ;)

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