by 辻村 深月（つじむら みずき）
Author: Mizuki Tsujimura
Genre: coming of age, drama, (light) fantasy, novel, award winning
Great for: Intermediate (JLPT N2)
Length: 554 pages
Amazon Japan: かがみの孤城
Japanese Synopsis (from Amazon Japan)
English Synopsis (translated by JTalk Online)
Truants Chasing A Mystery in the Mirror World – A Story of Salvation for Both Children and Adults
“This novel began as a story that would comfort and encourage both myself when I was a child and myself as an adult now.” The latest novel from Mizuki Tsujimura, Kagami no Kojou.
Kokoro is a first-year middle school girl who spends all her time indoors, unable to go to school after a traumatic event. One day, when she’s home alone, her mirror starts to glow, and when she steps through she is transported to a castle inside. Seven middle school children, including Kokoro, are brought to the castle. All they have to do is solve a mystery, which they can only do while they are able to access the castle from 9AM to 5PM, for one year. Although confused the seven children slowly start to get to know each other but… [can they solve the mystery of the castle in the mirror?]
Why You Should Read かがみの孤城 (Kagami no Kojou)
Mizuki Tsujimura is a prolific Japanese author having won multiple awards for her novels, including the top prize for the 15th Japan Booksellers’ Award (第15回本屋大賞受賞) in 2018 for Kagami no Kojou.
After reading Kagami no Kojou I can see why! Character interactions and emotions feel realistic: I found myself easily empathizing with the frustration, anger, and confusion of, not just the protagonist Kokoro, but all of the characters.
The story is a hard one to explain and is worth experiencing yourself, but to give a general idea it’s a coming-of-age with a fantasy twist. The narration mostly follows Kokoro in the third person, which I found to be a refreshing change from most Japanese novels which seem to be written in the third person. It’s a beautifully written story with an engaging plot that keeps you hooked.
One think people might struggle with (especially if they haven’t read a lot of novels) is that this book is 554 pages long. Considering light novels are about 200 pages and regular novels are about 300, this is a pretty long novel.
However, with the clear Japanese, large fonts and smooth flow of text you’ll probably find yourself reading more than you thought you were able to. I know I struggled to finish simply because I didn’t want to stop reading!
Why Japanese Learners Should Read かがみの孤城 (Kagami no Kojou)
Although a fantasy, this novel is based in reality, which means there are many phrases and terminology you’re likely to come across in real life.
On the other hand, as this is a beautifully written piece of literature, the author uses a number of flowery phrases too. I found that the majority of the more advanced flowery language had furigana and it was just a matter of looking up the meanings of these terms (which are listed below). Most of the grammar used also seemed to be around JLPT N2 level.
As this is such a long novel with more advanced vocabulary and grammar, I would not recommend this to anyone under JLPT N2 level of Japanese. (Unless you really enjoy light fantasy and want a challenge to read a long book.) The story is aimed at Japanese middle school children to adults, after all.
Saying that, at least you only have to worry about a few names as most of the characters names use hiragana and katakana. There are probably about three or four characters who’s referred to using their kanji but the readings are only mentioned once, so I recommend making a note of these!
This is a fantastic book that I recommend to every Japanese learner.
If you are interested but are unsure if you’re at the right level I suggest reading the first few pages via BookWalker Japan.
Also, Check out this great review by 文学YouTuberベル!
You can also study this vocabulary here on Memrise!
|かいきんしょう||perfect attendance award||皆勤賞|
|かっちゅう||armor and helmet||甲冑|
|はくせい||stuffing; stuffed animal||はく製|
|みえをはる||to show off||見栄を張る|
|どぎもをぬく||to scare someone out of wits||度肝を抜く|
|なじむ||to fit in, become familiar with||馴染む|
|そろう||to all be present||揃う|
|とっさ||(in an) instant||咄嗟|
|けんせい||(to) restrain, constraint||牽制|
|ちっそく||(to) suffocate, choke||窒息|
|なだめる||to soothe, calm||宥める|
|かなしばり||be paralyzed, bind hands and feet||金縛り|
|かたずをのむ||to hold one’s breath||固唾を飲む|
|たんかをきる||to speak sharply||啖呵を切る|
|うずく||to throb, ache||疼く|
|もらす||to let leak||洩らす|
|ゆかにみずをたらす||to spill water on the floor||床に水を垂らす|
|なごりおしい||regret (in parting)||名残惜しい|
|かたひじ||shoulder and elbow||肩肘|
|たゆたう||to sway to and from||猶予う・揺蕩う|
|いらだつ||to be irritated||苛立つ|
|はばかる||to hesitate, afraid of what others think||憚る|
|おとなびる||to become grown up||大人びる|
|こびる||to flatter, curry favor||媚びる|
|りんかく||outlines, contours, features||輪郭|
|おたけび||roar, war cry||雄叫び|
|ぜんしょ||(to) handle carefully||善処|
Check out other recommendations here!