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?! :)