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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps you do just what the title says!
I love this book! It presents you with 6 short stories (each one around 12 pages long or so, but the last one is only about 2 pages). On one page it presents the Japanese text, and on page opposite of it you will find a translation of the phrases. Towards the back of the book, you will find another 50 pages or so of additional notes, which explain things such as words or...
Published on July 24, 2008 by Zarxrax

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A interesting way to improve your Japanese reading proficiency
I've only gone through the first story of this book, but it's really well put together. You get the feeling of really being able to read a Japanese short story with the kanji and the vertical right to left format. Furigana(small hiragana characters above the kanji) allow you to learn the proper way to say each kanji. It's only listed the first time you see the kanji,...
Published on August 26, 2010 by Sally A. Martin


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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps you do just what the title says!, July 24, 2008
By 
Zarxrax (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
I love this book! It presents you with 6 short stories (each one around 12 pages long or so, but the last one is only about 2 pages). On one page it presents the Japanese text, and on page opposite of it you will find a translation of the phrases. Towards the back of the book, you will find another 50 pages or so of additional notes, which explain things such as words or grammatical patterns and other such things. There is also a japanese-english dictionary containing the words that you find in the stories. I love this format, because everything you need is right here in the book, so you don't have to constantly be looking up phrases on your computer or electronic dictionary. You can just lay back, relax, and read! However, the format of having the notes in the back of the book make it a little annoying, since you have to keep flipping back and forth, but you should be alright if you use two bookmarks to keep your place.
The stories themselves are real Japanese, just as the title says. These aren't watered-down stories designed to be easy for beginners. I've only read the first story so far, and I found it extremely challenging. The translations and notes and everything really helped out a lot. Although it took me over an hour to read the first page, as I continued on, I found that my speed was increasing quite well. I've completed advanced classes in Japanese in college, and I could hardly understand any of the sentences in the first story. However, the notes are all so helpful, I feel like I learned enough from just one page of this book to make the price worth it. If something is difficult to explain in English, the author will sometimes provide you with additional sentences for the purpose of helping you understand how a certain phrase or grammar point is used. There is furigana over the kanji the first time a word appears. I really like this, since it forces you to learn the reading of the words when you encounter them again later in the stories. The included cd is also very helpful, since it lets you hear how to say everything naturally.

This book assumes you have about an intermediate (or higher) level of knowledge with Japanese. For someone who has only completed intermediate classes, you may find the book fairly slow to work through, but as long as you actually study and try to learn from the material, I don't think you will have a problem.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent learning tool but only for hard-wrokers, September 28, 2008
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This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
The other reviewer have already praised the book enough and I agree wit their assessment. This is a must have book for Japanese learners.

Something that might discourage some buyers: the texts chosen are not simple at all, they are very challenging. The audio recording is natural but very fast, you need to work hard to be able to understand the text by listening. it's a big jump in difficulty from reading/listening to Genki, Japanese for everyone, Minna-no Nihongo and other popular textbooks, which was exactly what I was looking for.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Japanese reader I have seen, October 28, 2008
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
This is the Japanese reader I have been hoping for! I can hardly believe that such an excellent book has finally been made available after suffering through sub-par readers for so long. This book is just awesome, and if you are studying Japanese then you are going to want it as soon as possible.

Japanese has always suffered from a dearth of good readers. Some, like A Japanese Reader are so dense and academic as to put off all but the most dedicated student. Some, like Mangajin's Basic Japanese Through Comics, are fun to begin with but don't get you very far. The biggest problem has always been that middle ground, that 2-kyu level where you need some help getting over the hump from constructed text and into the real world.

I had the previous edition of Read Real Japanese, and this release is a vast improvement. The old version relied far to heavily on romaji, which anyone reading at this level should be long past. This new edition eliminates this problem, using only the kanji and hiragana character sets. All kanji are initially presented with furigana, but afterwards appear on their own so you have to work for it. The stories are presented with the right hand being the original text, then the left hand presenting translations on difficult passages. In the back, there are more detailed translation notes and a dictionary of all the words used. The system works excellently, and it is a good challenge to mentally create your own translation then flip to the back and see what the editor translated the passage as. A CD is included as well for pronunciation, and I have found it is helpful to put on the CD and read along to increase your speed.

The selection of authors is also enjoyable, with only the ubiquitous Yoshimoto Banana making a repeat appearance from the previous edition. There are horror stories, magical realism, "slice-of-life"...one of my favorites was a scary tale about a solitary boy late at night and a mysterious sandbox with something lurking underneath. They are graduated in level, with the earlier stories being simpler to read, and then slowly gaining in difficulty. The goal is to eventually wean you off of readers, and the editor gives several suggestions of follow-up stories on each level that you can seek out and try on your own.

I am really happy that "Read Real Japanese" was published, and I hope that more follow suit. There is a companion book, "Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included", which is of the same high quality, and students of Japanese will be wanting that as well. Highly, highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful addition for the intermediate learner's library, September 21, 2008
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
There really is a market for this kind of book; and Kodan-sha have been at the vanguard of providing hands-on instruction for advanced students looking to take a serious plunge into the realms of 'real' Japanese writing.

The emphasis here is on 'real', in that these are fresh from the magazines with little editorial intervention. They are not 'watered' down nor stripped of their colloquialisms, erratic grammar, or other aspects that make them authentic examples of Japanese prose. Indeed, the selections here are all contemporary, mainstream (if also faddish) authors who enjoy a popular readership in today's Japan.

Michael Emmerich, an active translator, has culled an interesting selection of authors here. I must say that my tastes don't necessarily match his own: the authors here, to my mind, depict the kind of über-hipness that has defined the Akutagawa Prize over the last ten years. To my mind, you could find better examples of Japanese stylistics and the kinds of literary praxis that makes Japanese literature unique, but you can't fault Emmerich for going with the current herd of award winners. At the very least, you'll be reading the same laureates who fill the pages of GQ Japan and other trendy storytellers.

Emmerich's notations vary from the fascinating to the disposable. His command of Japanese syntax, undoubtedly, is superb -- but his annotations more often come across as 'close readings' in the mode of lit criticism than useful grammatical explanations. By and large, more grammatical explanations would have been useful. Often, we're given translations (which are always well done) but little in the way of analysis as to the particulars of the example. And, sometimes, when a grammatical explanation is offered, Emmerich slips into dense meditations on 'temporal flexibility' and other such discourses on time and space. They're interesting, to be sure, but I think they would have better suited an essay, as they can often digress too far from the task at hand: explaining the mechanics of grammar. One often things, 'Just the facts, sir', rather than the kind of metaphysical acrobatics that really would suit a book with a different agenda.

All and all, though, you can't go wrong with this book. For more 'classical' selections, I recommend Giles Murray's _Exploring Japanese Literature_ which surveys more canonical (and quite frankly more accomplished) authors such as Tanizaki and Mishima. I would love to see another book specifically address 'newspaper' Japanese.

Considering the demise of Nihongo journal, and the like, more books like Emmerich's would be appreciated. Indeed, for French or Italian you can subscribe to services that provide you with a book each month of an annotated novel from the bestseller's list. Something similar in Japanese would be wonderful indeed. Until then, books like this challenge and instruct, taking your Japanese to the next level.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A interesting way to improve your Japanese reading proficiency, August 26, 2010
By 
Sally A. Martin (De Pere, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
I've only gone through the first story of this book, but it's really well put together. You get the feeling of really being able to read a Japanese short story with the kanji and the vertical right to left format. Furigana(small hiragana characters above the kanji) allow you to learn the proper way to say each kanji. It's only listed the first time you see the kanji, so you're forced to remember. This makes it really difficult if you don't take good, easily searchable notes. The glossary is in alphabetical order in the back of the book, so I broke it up by searching for the unknown words after each page. I know some books like this give you the new vocabulary right on the page, which is a little more convenient. Also, I would like to see a full translation... After going through the definitions and passage notes, I feel like I have a good idea of what the story is about, but I'm not 100% sure I got it all because of the way it's broken up.

This book really pushes you to take detailed and organized notes, which is great for learning, but not as easily readable as it claims to be. The CD with audio files is a great feature, but the voice actress is really fast, so if you don't have a computer program to slow them down a bit, I'd only recommend this for advanced Japanese learners.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Roller Coaster Ride Through Japanese Contemporary Literature, July 20, 2011
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
Michael Emmerich has chosen well. The six short stories are absolutely marvelous and leave a taste for more. Hence, the book accomplishes its self-proclaimed goal: serving as a gateway to reading contemporary Japanese fiction in the original language.

But those who do no like anti-climaxes should be forewarned: about half of the stories end in a way that is neither happy, sad, modern, post-modern or much of an ending at all. Of course, for this, Emmerich is not to fault. Rather, it may well be a feature of much contemporary literature. The authors take you on a roller coaster ride and as the coaster makes its way up the slope, the landscape is breathtaking and you bubble with excitement. But at the top, just when you expect things to get even better, the ride ends. You are left feeling slightly dizzy and wondering whether the experience was really all that great.

At 2,730 yen, the book is not exactly cheap. True, it is 255 pages long. But the actual literary content is a fraction of that. The rest are notes, translations and an introduction by Emmerich. All of them are meticulously written and they do a good job in making the Japanese texts accessible. You won't catch Emmerich writing trite sentences such as "Tawada Yoko has received a multitude of awards". Instead, he makes it "Tawada has received more well-deserved awards than there are pockets in a fisherman's vest".

But one does wonder whether the fifty-page dictionary, containing everything from aa (why, thank you, who would have thought it meant "oh, ah"), over ookii, to wanruumu, was really a necessary addition to the book. Virtually all difficult sentences are translated in English, on the page opposite to the Japanese text, so readers will likely find the translation of a word there, rather than flip to the dictionary at the back.

But let us not dwell on the trivial. In the end, the book succeeds in piloting you through six delightful pieces of Japanese literature. On the way there, the notes lucidly explain hundreds of grammar points and expressions, thereby improving your reading skills and getting you ready for your next Japanese novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners, just right for where I'm at, April 8, 2011
By 
Keith Peters (Somerville, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
Picked this up about a week ago and have been doing a paragraph a night. Although I've been studying Japanese on and off for more than 10 years, I'm still pretty weak by my own standards. This book is probably slightly ahead of my level, but with the liberal notes and dictionary, I'm making my way through it and learning a lot. Oh, and it helps to have a Japanese wife on hand for the parts that still baffle me.

As others have said, the stories are contemporary fiction, not abridged or watered down in any way. My wife has even started reading them herself because they are good, entertaining stories. There's Japanese on one page and notes on the facing page. But it took a couple of days before I noticed that there's a whole separate, more advanced note section in the back. You'll want two bookmarks for this, one for the reading, one for the corresponding note page.

Others seem inordinately (to me) upset about the fact that each kanji has furigana the first time it is shown. For me, it is highly appreciated. My feeling is that if you can read all those kanji without any help, you're probably beyond the level of this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a teacher's perspective, December 14, 2008
By 
Jordan Smith (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
Previous reviews have done a thorough job in commenting on the structure of this book, and I'll add my voice to theirs in saying that this is a well-structured and highly stimulating collection of modern Japanese short stories that, with repeated readings and careful study, is capable of transforming the intermediate/advanced student of Japanese into a reader of real Japanese.

But I'd like to comment on the text from another angle--a teacher's perspective. I taught this book this quarter to 4th-year Japanese language students (university level) and had an excellent experience with it. It will be a great tool for teaching classes of mixed ability, where some readers will not need to rely on the notes and student-oriented translations, and others will need to rely heavily on them just to understand what's going on.

The stories are interesting, even haunting--perfect for sustaining interest through the multiple reads it will take to fully master the grammar and subtlety of the language.

Kawakami's "Kamisama" begins when the narrator is invited out for a walk and a picnic by a bear who has moved into her apartment building, and evokes a magical-realist/Totoro-esquely uncertain reality where we come to see the bear as even more "human" (in traditional terms) than most of the other humans that inhabit the story world. Otsuichi's "Mukashi yuuhi no kouen de" is a frank portrayal of a child's experience in reaching down deep into the sandbox at the local park to find out how deep it goes...and bumps up against a mystery... Ishii's "Nikuya Oumu" details events surrounding the eponymous "Parrot Meat Shop," dubbed so due to the owner's uncanny ability to imitate the farm animals slaughtered for meat; a rustic, down-to-earth tale narrated partially from a child's perspective, it somehow manages to incorporate a coming-of-age tale with disability issues, musings on innocent sexuality, and the spiritual relationship between the living and the dying. Yoshimoto's "Miira" tells of a young girl's bizarre and grotesque, yet somehow oddly romantic, encounter with a young student of archeology who (sort of) kidnaps her for a marathon of sex and mummy-viewing... And so on... These stories are fantastic (I haven't spoiled any endings, and there is much more to them than these sketches reveal).

Highly recommended for serious students, lovers of literature, those on the prowl for good Japanese fiction, and teachers in need of something to breathe life into advanced Japanese courses.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars List of Stories and Authors, February 11, 2009
By 
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This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
I agree with most of the 5 star reviews above in that this is a great book to advance one's own Japanese language skills for intermediate speakers. I have studied Japanese 3 years at an University and this book (as well as the Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included have served as a transition for me to read real Japanese novels albeit at a slow pace (Note that the link above is a reference to another book: it is POPULAR authors instead of Contemporary).

Since it's hard to find a list of the actual stories and authors, I'll just kindly write them out:
1.) "Kamisama" by Kawakami Hiromi
2.) "Mukashi yuuhi no koen de" by Otsuichi
3.) "Nikuya Omuu" by Ishii Shinji
4.) "Miira" by Yoshimoto Banana
5.) "Hyakumonogatari" by Kitamura Kaoru
6.) "Kakeru" by Tawada Yoko

The short stories are arranged in increasing difficulty with vocabulary, irregular kanji usage, and linguistic play with Japanese. The collection of stories is truly served fantastically as a sumptuous 6-course meal. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did from appetizer to dessert.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Book for Those Who Want to Read Real Japanese, November 26, 2011
This review is from: Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers 1 free CD included (Paperback)
Japanese is the fastest language to read in, provided you can find a book that speaks of the nuances. This is just such a book. A great translator, Mr. Emmerich has done the world a favor in putting this book together. Some of the very best short stories of modern Japanese are here in this book, translated for the first time.
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