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“Modern Japanese Short Stories” edited by Ivan Morris


Over the last 10 months, we’ve read and discussed short stories of the Tuttle anthology. You could not only discover many great stories and authors but also enjoy various translations by noted translators: Ivan Morris; George Saito; Geoffrey Sargent; and Edward Seidensticker.

I’d like to thank all the participants for their wonderful participation. With every discussion, new aspects or hidden facets of a story are unveiled and unearthed, which was such an enriching experience. For me, the following 5 works were particularly memorable (be free to talk about your favorite ones!).


  1. “Machine” by Riichi Yokomitsu This story was a dagger to me. Experimental with sort of a “fourth” person point of view. Some parts were literally aching to read, and yet definitely worth the pain to find this hidden gem by a genius writer.

  2. “The Handstand” by Mimei Ogawa Another memorable piece of work dealing with the theme of proletarian literature. The last scene of a man being left with nothing still lingers in my mind. The act of the handstand itself is symbolic.

  3. “The Moon on the Water” by Yasunari Kawabata This is a very beautiful story by Kawabata. One of my favorite short stories of his so far. “Reflection” is the key: reflection of the world in a mirror, reflection of the Moon on the water. In the small world of a mirror, the world of a couple develops incessantly and boundlessly.

  4. “A Man’s Life” by Taiko Hirabayashi The story unfolds in a prison followed by a terrible incident. The dynamics of the inmates and their interactions with one another leave a deep impression on readers. Hirabayashi is one of the most representative proletarian woman writers.

  5. “The Camellia” by Ton Satomi Only 4 pages long. Eerie and perturbing, and yet such a beautiful sketch of a two women’s dialogue and their silence. A camellia falls. Slap. A masterful translation by Seidensticker.


I will start a new term with the only remaining story of this book by Yoshiki Hayama and will move on to a new book: Granta 127 (featuring Japan)! If you haven’t taken my classes yet, a free trial is also available:)


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