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book review by hikari sawada - vol. 1




Do you enjoy reading? Since I was little, I’ve always been a homebody -- I always preferred to play indoors than outdoors. Amongstt my hobbies, reading was one of my favourites. I have always been into novels and stories, but a little while back I started to explore non-fiction and slightly academic books as well. Let me tell you about these books I’ve read recently.

1. 『村上春樹、河合隼雄に会いに行く』河合隼雄・村上春樹 / Haruki Murakami Goes to Meet Hayao Kawai by Hayao Kawai and Haruki Murakami

小説家である村上春樹と、臨床心理学者である河合隼雄による対談。両氏それぞれの専門分野である文学と心理学の専門的なことに触れながら、1990年代後半の頃の日本の社会問題(阪神淡路大震災や、オウム事件など) について対話し、考えを深めるといった内容です。


This book is a conversation between the author Haruki Murakami and the clinical psychologist Hayao Kawai. They discuss social issues in Japan in the late 1990s (like the Great Hanshin earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo incidents) whilst relating it to their respective fields to further our understanding of these issues.

As Murakami says in the prologue “The book takes the form of a casual conversation, drinking beer, eating good food, making silly jokes (I feel like I laughed a lot), saying anything that came to our minds. I took care to not use words that were too technical,” it was a suuuper easy read. The book itself is thin too, so I think someone who doesn’t usually read would find it easy to tackle.




What I found especially interesting was that in the aftermath of the Great Hanshin earthquake, Japanese people showed less symptoms of PTSD than Europeans. Kawai states that one reason is that “Japanese people don’t face the tragedy on an individual level; they face it on a community level. So symptoms manifest [not as individuals experiencing symptoms but] in [communal] forms like minor quarrels within the household. At the same time, it is uncommon for someone within that household to show any clear signs of mental illness.” He also says that ideas about responsibility are different in Japanese and European culture. In Europe, responsibility is seen at an individual scale, whereas in Japan, responsibility is seen at a communal scale, which I found quite interesting.

This book really is an easy read. Check it out if you’re interested.

* PTSD(Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)とは、強烈な心的外傷体験をきっかけに、実際の体験から時間が経過した後になっても、フラッシュバックや悪夢による侵入的再体験、イベントに関連する刺激の回避、否定的な思考や気分、怒りっぽさや不眠などの症状が持続する状態を指します。日本語では「心的外傷後ストレス障害」といいます。

-- Medical Note

* PTSD = Post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental disorder triggered by a traumatic event which causes one to relive the trauma in the form of flashbacks or nightmares and/or show behaviours like avoidance of reminders of the trauma, irritability, and insomnia.

2. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit / 『説教したがる男たち』レベッカ・ソルニット


Do you know the word “mansplaining”? It describes a common experience that women have when men assume the woman has no knowledge on the topic in conversation and patronizingly explains or lectures to the woman. I’ve been on the receiving end of this a lot recently, and I’m really tired of it. I came across this word when I was googling how I should handle these types of people, and discovered this book. I started reading it looking for advice.



This book uses the example of mansplaining to point out that small setbacks that women experience in their everyday lives are not individual matters, and they are in fact connected to greater authorities and greater crises, such as social issues like violence and murder that targets women. To support this hypothesis, Solnit gives a lot of examples of recent crimes, historical facts, and lots of data as evidence which makes her argument very strong and convincing. Rape crimes come up often, which was tough to read about, but I felt strongly that we have the need to know about it. Perhaps the situation we are in is more unfair and serious than it seems.

Also, this book incorporates a lot of female writers’ works and essays so I was able to find out about authors that I hadn’t heard of before, and it gave me ideas on what books I should read next which was great.

3. 『ジェンダー写真論 1991-2017』笠原美智子 / Essays On Photography from Gender Perspective 1991 – 2017 by Michiko Kasahara

日本で初めてのフェミニズムの視点からの企画展「私という未知へ向かって 現代女性のセルフ・ポートレイト」展(91年)を皮切りに、ジェンダーの視点からの企画展示を多数されている笠原美智子さんが、展示会図録に記した多くのエッセイがまとめられています。


Starting with the first feminist exhibition in Japan “Exploring the Unknown Self — Self-portraits of Contemporary Women” (1991), Michiko Kasahara has curated numerous exhibitions from a gender perspective. The essays she wrote on the pictorial record for each exhibition has been compiled in this book.

This book is separated into the global section and the Japan section. Each section features many artists and discusses from a feminist perspective. Especially in the Japan section, Kasahara manages to verbalize the hard-to-explain difficulties and discomfort we face in everyday life as broader issues that Japanese society carries, by using artworks and artists’ messages. Her putting it in words made me feel like the cause of these difficulties and discomforts had been revealed, which allowed me to organize my ideas and think deeper.


The part that particularly left an impression on me was her criticism of the contemporary artist and photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. Was there anybody who criticised his work of being misogynistic* before his muse KAORI, a dancer, accused him of his disrespect and prejudice against women? Kasahara states in her 2017 essay, “Advocates of Nobuyoshi Araki applaud him as the ultimate artist that encapsulates the theme of Eros and Thanatos**. In his work, even when depicting cities or flowers, it is heavily coloured with the smell of life and death. However, the Eros and Thanatos expressed in Araki’s photography is solely of Araki [and not a universal view], and we need to understand that it is a limited to being a Japanese, Showa-era, heterosexual view of it.”

*ミソジニック = 女性に対する嫌悪や蔑視のことである。(ミソジニー)

*misogynistic = prejudiced against women

**エロスとタナトス =どちらもフロイトが提唱した概念で、エロスは生の欲動、タナトスは死の欲動と言われている。

**Eros and Thanatos = Freud’s theory of what fundamentally drives humans. Eros represents the life instinct, and Thanatos represents the death instinct.


And at the end, Kasahara writes “It would’ve been great if Araki was a woman. The woman, Araki, draws the man, Yoko*. Isn’t it fantastic? Would men describe those photographs as embodiments of Eros and Thanatos? What do you think?”

*陽子さん= 荒木経惟の奥さんで長年彼の中心的な被写体であった。また、エッセイストでもある。

*Yoko = The wife of Nobuyoshi Araki, and the main subject of his photography. She is also a writer.


The more you read books, the more you can make the knowledge and ideas yours, and enjoy deepening your understanding, and coming across thought-provoking things. In this day and age, we can easily look things up online; but I sometimes doubt its reliability. On the other hand, book authors have expertise and professional responsibility, and have been based on a lot of research so I feel that it is more trustworthy. Reading books is a great way to learn about things systematically.


I’m still inexperienced and unwise, so I hope to continue to read lots of books and learn. Learning to deepen my understanding and enrich myself is fun for me, and it also helps me stay stable mentally. Please let me know what books you would recommend! Let’s keep learning together. ♡

Images by Hikari Sawada and

English Translated by Kiara

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