(Kyoto Fushimi no Ayakashi Amamijo)
by 柏 てん (Ten Kashiwa)
Author: 柏 てん (Ten Kashiwa)
Genre: Kyoto, sweets, fantasy, shinto, light novel, character novel
Great for: Advanced (JLPT N2~N1+)
Length: 283 pages
Amazon Japan (Kindle): 京都伏見のあやかし甘味帖
Bookwalker Japan: 京都伏見のあやかし甘味帖
English Summary (Translation by Japanese Talk Online)
Meet Renge, a 29-year-old workaholic. She’s suddenly told she needs to quit then when she goes home finds her fiancé with another woman!? “You can survive without me, can’t you Renge?” I don’t believe this. Heartbroken, Renge sets out on a journey to the other major, yet unexplored city of Kyoto. There she meets a quiet college boy and a talkative black fox. According to the black fox “Renge’s wish is my command. Your luck is sure to turn around!” Putting that aside, Renge gets caught up in more and more strange events… A mysterious tale about yo-kai and sweet stores is about to begin!
Why You Should Read 京都伏見のあやかし甘味帖 (Kyoto Fushimi no Ayakashi Amamijo)
Kyoto Fushimi is a キャラクター小説, a “character novel”. Character novels are actually a genre of light novel, normally aimed more at adults but they all have one thing in common in that they focus on a single character.
The character in this series is Renge, a 29-year-old who is forced to quit her job because of a shitty boss and goes home to find her fiancé cheating on her. Angry, heart broken, and frustrated, she jumps on a bullet train, beer in hand, and travels from Tokyo down to Kyoto to stay for a month just to get away from everything.
The place she finds is a cheap single room in an old house with a college student called Kotaro. He loves sweet things, especially 和菓子（わがし）Japanese sweets. Renge, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of sweet things and much prefers 日本酒（にほんしゅ）Japanese sake. As such, their opposing tastes and general interests makes for an interesting dynamic.
Then you throw in a magical fox spirit and things go crazy.
As character novels are a sub-genre of light novels they are not written with an on-going plot in mind. Each chapter might be linked to one another but each one tells a short story about Renge in Kyoto. Each chapter also ends with a short segment following Kotaro and his trips to various (real) sweet stores in the Kansai area.
I do think I enjoyed this more because I know Kyoto and Kansai, so I recognised a lot of the places the characters go to.
I really enjoyed this book more than other light novels because it gave a great sense of place and made me want to explore Kyoto more. But it still has a strong light novel vibe and the lack of on-going story left me wanting more. Honestly, if this had been more like a magical trip around Kyoto but with an on-going plot like わたし、定時で帰ります it would have been perfect!
I am, however, still tempted to buy the next one because I really like characters (and the covers)…
Wagashi, Sake, and Shrines
This story is based in an area of Kyoto called Fushimi, which, if you know anything about Kyoto, you might recognise because of Fushimi Inari Taisha. As such the story mentions a lot of real location in and around Kyoto (including Fushimi Inari).
I spent a lot of time Googling while reading this book. Not because of any particularly difficult words, but because of the names of places, sweets, and drinks (did you know Fushimi is famous for sake?), as well as terms for objects in shinto shrines. (There were a few of these I skilled because I wanted to keep reading the story…)
Here are few of the most interesting examples to save you from Googling. (Or if, like me, you’re interested in visiting these.)
Macha dango from Inafusa Yasukane (能登椽 稲房安兼) in Uji.
Kuzukiri (葛切) from Kagizen Choubou (鍵善良房) in Gion, Kyoto.
Other sweet shops include Heianden (京菓子司 平安殿) in Heian Jjingu, Kyoto; Mangetsu (京菓子司 満月) in Demachiyanagi, Kyoto; and even Kameya Iori (亀屋伊織) who have been running since 1788 and only sell one sweet which changes every month.
Why Japanese Learners Should Read 京都伏見のあやかし甘味帖 (Kyoto Fushimi no Ayakashi Amamijo)
On the one hand the writing is a comfortable low-JLPT N2 level, but on the other hand, there’s such a wide range of obscure Japanese in this novel that I’m tempted to classify it as N1+.
First of all, the Kyoto-ben. Kansai-ben is actually split into Osaka-ben and Kyoto-ben. These two are similar but also differ at times and can imply entirely different meanings depending on the context.
There isn’t much Kyoto-ben, but Kotaro does speak it. So if you’re not familiar with it it might be a little hard to understand him.
Second of all, there’s classical Japanese. The fox spirit Kuro and other spirits that appear in this novel speak in old Japanese. Not full-on Tale of Genji Japanese, but enough to give it an “olde time” feel. (So lots of words that use まい instead of ない.)
Thirdly, the aforementioned place, food, drink names/terms, and shrine terms. The combination of different field specific language and names makes sections of this novel really slow to get through. Kotaro’s short chapters where he explores local confectionary stores can be particularly hard to pass as he introduces 5 place names and 6 sweet names on one page.
But the only way to know if this a the book for you is to try it yourself! You can read a sample of 京都伏見のあやかし甘味帖 (Kyoto Fushimi no Ayakashi Amamijo) on Bookwalker!
Did I originally buy this novel because of the covers? YES!
Will I buy the rest because of the covers? PROBABLY!
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