(Hachijojima to, Neko to, Otona no Natsuyasumi)
by 五十嵐 雄策 (Yusaku Igarashi)
Author: 五十嵐 雄策 (Yusaku Igarashi)
Japanese Level: JLPT N3 ~ N2
Genre: Slice of life, travel, fiction
Why You Should Read
This novel is one of those rare Japanese stories that slowly reveals the plot throughout, rather than all at the end. Each chapter is slightly episodic, but it still reveals hints to the mystery of why the protagonist, Hoshiko Kawase is there. That is, if you don’t read the blurb! (Seriously, what is it with Japanese blurbs wanting to ruin the endings to their novels?!)
This is why I didn’t include the blur in this review, it spoils the ending! So here’s my own blurb:
Hoshiko travels to the island of Hachijojima for a month over the summer to write a blog for the local tourism board. She experiences the welcoming warmth of the people while experiencing all the wonders it has to offer, including a mysterious treasure? A heart-warming tale about getting away from it all.
Another reason you should read this novel is because it will probably make you want to visit Hachijojima Island yourself! Hachijojima is a tiny island out in the Pacific Ocean that’s technically a part of Tokyo. It’s a few hours by plane or (as our protagonist discovers) and 10-hour boat ride from the city itself.
Igarashi’s descriptions of what Hachijojima Island has to offer makes me think he either visited the island himself, or did a lot of research on it. Each chapter covers a main tourist attraction of the island, fishing, scuba diving, the beach, whale watching, BBQ, and onsen. Not to mention a number of local food and drink I had no idea was a thing before!
I love exploring Japanese, especially places out of the traditional tourist spots, and this story really made me want to go visit!
Why Japanese Learners Should Read
Hachijojima is a comfortable challenge. It’s not an incredibly difficult high fantasy novel, but it’s also not an incredibly simple high-school romance. It’s the perfect balance of easy to relate to situations and natural advanced Japanese.
I think this is a great novel for people with JLPT N3 level Japanese as well as people who haven’t read many novels in Japanese before. Almost all the character names use katakana instead of kanji (although a few do use kanji for some reason.) And the scenes are clear and the conversations natural, while the language is frequently used advanced Japanese. I spotted a lot of N2 and N1 vocabulary and kanji that I come across all the time in novels, perfect if you want to get into reading more!
The topics of specific tourist attractions also taught me a lot of new vocabulary I hadn’t come across before, specifically to do with scuba diving, weaving, food, plants, and animals.
This is not a groundbreaking novel with an amazing story, but it is a short, simple, and sweet slice-of-life novel. The slow-paced narrative reminded me of my time travelling around Japan (in the ‘before times’) and, as I said, really made me want to visit Hachijojima Island. Highly recommend this to everyone who enjoys stories about the simple life!
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