Read Real Japanese Essays

Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors

  • Janet Ashby
  • Narrated by Reiko Matsunaga
  • Jacket art by Yoshitomo Nara
Read Real Japanese Essays

Size: 210×140 mm, 330 g
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 240
1 free CD included, built-in Japanese-English dictionary
ISBN10: 1-56836-414-8
ISBN13: 978-1-56836-414-8
Release date: May 25, 2012

List price: $24.00

Buy online:

  • 8 stimulating essays with translations of all the complex passages
  • Japanese-English dictionary for quick lookup, tailored to your needs
  • Notes explain subtleties of nuance, usage, grammar, and culture
  • Free CD with audio narrations performed by a professional actress
  • Profiles of the individual writers place the works in context

There is a world of difference between reading Japanese that has been specially contrived for students and reading real Japanese—that is, real-world Japanese written for native speakers. The contrived variety might be called schoolmarm Japanese: standard to the point of insipidity, controlled to the point of domestication, restricted to the point of impoverishment. The Read Real Japanese series, comprising one volume each of essays and fiction, provides the real thing—lively writings by contemporary authors.

Read Real Japanese Essays presents short works by eight established writers, including Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto. The essays are by turns humorous, insightful, and biting; all are stimulating works that will teach you a wealth about Japanese writing and motivate you to read more.

Following the form of real Japanese writing, the text runs from top to bottom, right to left. To guide you in your reading, each double-page spread features translations of nearly every sentence or phrase, making it possible to understand the meaning at a glance. Moreover, in the back of the book is a tailor-made Japanese-English dictionary covering all the words appearing in the essays, and a series of notes that elucidate issues of nuance, usage, grammar, and culture. Best of all, the book comes with a free audio CD containing narrations of the works, performed by a professional actress. This will help you to get used to the sounds and rhythms of Japanese, as well as the speed at which the language is normally spoken.
For intermediates and beyond; for the classroom and for the car; for the intellect and for the ear: Read Real Japanese Essays is your gateway to the pleasures of reading first-rate nonfiction by Japanese authors—in the original.


About the Author

Janet Ashby is a freelance writer and translator who has lived in Japan since 1975. She has written a long-running column in the Japan Times on Japanese books and has a particular interest in Japanese popular culture. She is the translator of Japanese: The Spoken Language in Japanese Life (Japan Times, 1987) and the editor or the original Read Real Japanese (Kodansha International, 1991). She has also served as a translator and editor on various reference works, including the multivolume Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan and Kodansha's Communicative English-Japanese Dictionary.

Reiko Matsunaga was born in Osaka. She is a stage and television actress who regularly performs for the troupe Nylon 100ºC. She is also active as an essayist and a rakugo performer. She has starred in the plays Frozen Beach, Disappearance (both Nylon 100ºC productions), and Distress Call (by the Motoya Yukiko Theater company); in the NHK television series Chiritotechin; and in the film The Suspect: Muroi Shinji. She has a personal website at