by 武田 綾乃 (Ayano Takeda)
Author: 武田 綾乃 (Ayano Takeda)
Genre: novel, slice of life, high school, club, rowing
Great for: Advanced (JLPT N1)
Length: 332 pages
あらすじ ・ Japanese Synopsis (from Bookwalker)
English Synopsis (translated by Japanese Talk Online)
When Maina, a first year high schooler, moves after her parents divorce, she meets Erika, a beautiful young girl canoeing in the local river. Maina’s the type of person who gets caught up in the moment and she invites this girl to join her in the Nagatoro High School canoe club.
The senior club members Kie and Chiho have been rowing together as a pair in tournaments for years, but their feelings towards canoeing have already started to clash. But Kie’s resolve is only strengthened when she sees how incredibly naturally talented Erika is. A novel about youth as bright as the glistening water.
Why You Should Read 君と漕ぐ (Kimi to Kogu)
Kimi to Kogu is about four girls, Maina, Erika, Kie, and Chiho, and their sports canoe club.
It’s hard to describe the story of Kimi to Kogu (honestly the blurb doesn’t really sell this book). The story’s not complicated but it doesn’t go the way you might expect.
The novel starts from Maina’s perspective as the new girl who just moved to the area. She tends to get carried away and has a habit of taking people along with her, including Erika, who she randomly meets on her first day. Erika is an incredibly talented rower, but she’s also a loner. So when Maina is inspired by Erika to start rowing herself (even though she has no idea how) she drags Erika with her to join their school’s canoeing club.
But from chapter two the story is more about the senior club member Kie and her relationship with Chiho and canoeing. The other members are involved but Maina is used more as a way to explain competitive canoeing to the reader, and her role as narrator takes a backseat while the story takes place with the other girls.
It’s nice laid back story with a tiny bit of drama but not much.
Ayano Takeda is also famous for her novels 響けユーフォニアム (Sound! Euphonium)
Why Japanese Learners Should Read 君と漕ぐ (Kimi to Kogu)
The story might be a relaxing paddle down the river but prose is more like a slalom down some rapids. In other words, it’s a surprisingly difficult read that advanced (N1+) Japanese readers will probably get the most out of.
Why the advanced level for Japanese? Because this novel uses a lot of flowerily language and imagery. It’s not thick with flowery language in every moment, but Takeda uses words like 八つ当たり (やつあたり “burst of anger”) and 煌々 (こうこう “dazzling.”) She really likes the word 瞠る (みはる “to watch.”) I made not of over 80 new vocabulary and kanji!
There’s also a lot of canoeing and water sport related vocabulary, such as 紫吹 (しぶき “a splash”) or 犬掻き (いぬかき “doggy paddle.”) And of course 漕ぐ (こぐ) which can mean “to row” (a boat) or “to pedal” (a bike.)
But despite the challenging read I found it very educational! Not just the new Japanese words and kanji I’d learned but also about canoeing in general. (Although I’m still suspicious that it would take three to six months for a beginner to not capsize every time they get into a sports canoe.)
A slow paced slice of rowing life novel that’s beautifully written prose. Nothing to really dramatic to hook you and drag you along, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Other Japanese Novels for Advanced Learners