What is JETAABC Yomi-Kai?

JETAABC Yomi-Kai is a reading club created for JET Alumni, JETAA Friends and community members to gather to discuss and discover short stories by Japanese Authors in translation or by Japanese Canadian authors.

We always start by sharing first impressions and questions that we have and let that guide the evening. From exploring characters, plots, point of views, to the general theme of the work; these are just some of the angles we will talk about with each reading piece.

How to join?

We have a rolling registration system. Sign up here.

When you sign up you will get access to the readings, next meeting updates, and access links. Next month’s dates and readings will be decided by the attendees of the previous meeting.

For our next Yomi-Kai meeting

July 23, 2024: “The Detective” by Kyotaro Nishimura

“Just that? Didn’t you think it was odd? Were you a little doubtful as to whether a six-year-old child would commit suicide?” The teacher clammed up at Tasaka’s barrage of questions. He turned to the middle-aged headmistress. “What do you think?” he queried. “Is there any record of a six-year-old child having committed suicide?”
If you are interested in just joining for this month’s meeting, click here to get the Zoom link.

Previous Reads

May 2024: Conversation with Author Terry Watada

This year’s Asian Heritage Month special where we have invited Terry Watada to discuss his writing and inspiration, and all his work in documenting and sharing the Japanese Canadian story. He is a sansei (third generation) writer based in Toronto who has written in various mediums from plays, novels to even songwriting. With exciting works in progress this year, one particular recent publication of his to check out is The Mask, which plays on the image of the pandemic mask and the traditional Japanese theatre mask through a collection of poetry.

Recap post to be posted soon.

April 2024: JETAABC & JETAA Ottawa present conversation hour with Author Clara Kumagai

JETAA BC and JETAA Ottawa hosted a special online event where we get a chance to talk to author Clara Kumagai. Kumagai has feet in Canada, Japan, and Ireland and has written a number of short stories for the Banshee Press and Stinging Fly. In 2023, she published her first YA novel, Catfish Rolling. We will dive into what inspired her to explore space and time through Sora.

Click here to read the recap post

March 2024: “Dried Fish and an Electrical Leak” by Takashi Atoda

The fact that the Setagaya house and the present one had the same number of rooms was a coincidence and not something that she had sought. It had happened naturally in the course of looking for a similar place. Mrs. Sugita briefly explained the particulars of her past residence to the collector.

February 2024: “Mr English” by Genji Keita

Mogi was not a college graduate. In fact, his only education after primary school was the training he received at Dr Saitō’s English Academy. Nothing much is known about his subsequent efforts to learn English, but he presented himself as an expert, and was in fact quite good at the language. As long as they had Mogi, the company was never at a loss in its negotiations with foreigners. That a man of such ability could never convince them to raise his status from temporary to permanent was certainly due in part to his truncated academic career, but the main reason should be made clear by the following episode..

January 2024: “The Carlyle Museum” by Natsume Soseki

Taking up my cherry-wood stick, I head back to my boardinghouse. As I walk, I invariably recall the story of Carlyle and the orator. This place buried in thick, dark fog is Chelsea, where that provincial scholar once lived.

December 2023: “Igor Nocturnov” by Satoshi Kitamura

He was born a musician, a prodigy. He had the ability to draw a tune out of whatever he lay his hands on. For Igor Nocturnov the world was music, and anything could be a musical instrument.

November 2023: Excerpts from The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

Awkward Things… Someone sobs out a pathetic story. One is deeply moved; but it so happens that not a single tear comes to one’s eyes, most awkward. Though one makes one’s face look as if one’s going to cry, it is no use: not a single tear will come. Yet there are times when, having heard something happy, one feels the tears streaming out.

October 2023: “The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture” by Edogawa Ranpo

For one fleeting moment he appeared to be some unholy foreign magician, and gradually a terrible fear began to gnaw at my heart. When there is no distraction to alleviate it, fear is an emotion which steadily grows in intensity.

September 2023: “To Khabarovsk” by Yoko Tawada

Lake Baikal looks like a gash in a wall. If you peek through that chink, you just might see an ancient world waiting on the other side.

August 2023: Excerpts from Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton

I found it extraordinary that a word which seemed to me both so infantile sounding and so evocative could be defined in this way – an equivalence posited between it and fragments of English which seems so factual and bland in comparison.

July 2023: “As Told by a Nocturnal Witness” by Aoki Jungo

No matter how you look at it, the mother was the only one with enough patience to deal with such behaviour. Thus they seemed to fall naturally into their respective familial roles — the outraged father concerned for his daughter’s well-being, and the mother trying to console him.

June 2023: “Cavities and Kindness” by Nao-Cola Yamazaki

I don’t like you because you’re smart or interesting, you know. I really like how you put your toothpaste in the refrigerator.

May 2023: Asian Heritage Month special conversation with Erica Hiroko Isomura

JETAABC Yomikai invited essayist, poet, and multi-disciplinary artist, Erica Hiroko Isomura for a special hour of discussion of literature for May Asian Heritage Month. During this time, we shared thoughts on media forms, language, Asian Canadian representation and intersectionality for May Asian Heritage Month.

Recap post here.

April 2023: “For The Dreamers” by Erica Hiroko Isomura

I practise saying my ancestors’ names aloud, slowly, so I do not forget, but I have never learned to speak Japanese and am self-conscious about my pronunciation. I realize there is a third colour of these cards – white – that I am missing. White was only assigned to those who were born in Canada.

March 2023: “Mr Carp” by Mukoda Kuniko

The fish had no facial expression. His round eyes looked as if they had been cut from black vinyl and pasted in, like the eyes on the paper carp pennants used for Boys’ Day in May. The profile was dignified but from the front the fish looked exactly like former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

February 2023: “The Pomegranate” by Yasunari Kawabata

Then the fruit had been hidden in the leaves. Now it stood clear against the sky. There was strength in the fruit and in the circle of leaves at the base. Kimiko went and knocked it down with a bamboo pole. It was so ripe that the seeds seemed to force it open. They glistened in the sunlight when she laid it on the veranda, and the sun seemed to go on through them.

January 2023: “Lemon” by Kaiji Motojiro

I was absolutely taken with that lemon. The color, pure and simple, like lemon yellow pigment straight out of the tube, solidified. And perfectly shaped like a squat weaving spindle. I decided to buy just one. Then where and how do you think I walked?

December 2022: “A Once Perfect Day for Bananafish” by Mieko Kawakami

In our eyes, the old woman has lived for so long. So very long. No matter when now is, it can’t be stopped from being now somewhere — and that has become one of the few friends she has left.

November 2022: “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Ranpo

Dear Madam: I do hope you will forgive this presumptuous letter from a complete stranger. What I am about to write, Madam, may shock you no end. However, I am determined to lay bare before you a confession— my own— and to describe in detail the terrible crime I have committed.

October 2022: A Conversation with Hiromi Goto

We invited author Hiromi Goto to share insight about her anthology, Hopeful Monsters. We appreciated hearing about her focus on the body in literature, as well as her diverse representation of elderly protagonists and characters caught between cultures.
Recap post here.

September 2022: “Home Stay” by Hiromi Goto

“Married a white girl, got divorced. Now I’m a cowboy.” Just as well, Jun thought. He’d started noticing that things he’d thought were matter of fact, concrete, weren’t necessarily so. A wife. A home. What was solid could turn liquid. It confused him and made him terribly absent-minded. Probably break his neck if he was on a horse.

August 2022: “The Priest and his Love” by Yukio Mishima

In the twinkling of an eye the present world had wreaked its revenge with terrible force on the priest. What he had imagined to be completely safe had collapsed in ruins.

July 2022: “Mambo” by Hitomi Kanehara

Don’t you think it’s odd saying something is either psychological or physical? Because I don’t think they can be divided or separated that easily. It’s like, Utsui, your shoes and shoelaces being classed as separate things… look, take mammals, right? Dolphins and whales and people are the same – they are all mammals. It’s like you can ignore the size and weight – it makes no difference because we’re all the same, you know.”

June 2022: “The Cafeteria in the Evening and a Pool in the Rain” by Yoko Ogawa

“Children get obsessed with the strangest things.” The man smiled for the first time in my presence–not the smile of a cult member, of course, but something much simpler and more natural.

“I’m not sure I see the connection between a sweet little boy like this and a cafeteria.”

“Perhaps it’s some strange complex circuit that’s impossible for us to imagine,” the man murmured.

May 2022: “Scheherazade” by Haruki Murakami

Enthralled, Habara was able to forget the reality that surrounded him, if only for a moment. Like a blackboard wiped with a damp cloth, he was erased of worries, of unpleasant memories. Who could ask for more?

April 2022: “Stinky Girl” by Hiromi Goto

“Oh my god!” someone finally gasps, from far beneath us. Another person screams. Fathers faint and an enterprising teenager grabs a camera from a supine parent and begins to snap pictures. None of it matters. Tears drip from my eyes and the liquid jewels float alongside us like diamonds in outer space. I burst out laughing and the children laugh too. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or the day that follows but the possibilities are immeasurable.

March 2022: “Tilting” by Hiromi Goto

“The smell was just awful. And that was that. There wasn’t a thing I could do and now everyone will go away thinking, ‘It’s true. Oriental people. They smell funny,'” Mom said.
“You shouldn’t say Oriental, Mom. You should say Asian.”
“Asian, Oriental, it doesn’t change the way takuwan smells,” she said.

February 2022: “The Death of the Last White Male” by Ruth Ozeki

“The death of the last white male occurred on the very first day of the Chinese New Year, and to make matters worse, it was the Year of the Cock. When Grace discovered the lifeless body, she was filled with foreboding. He was a Silkie, a magnificent bird with showy snow-white plumage, and sapphire blue cheeks, and a powder puff on the top of his head. His name was Gorgeous, but mostly they just called him ‘The Gimp’ on account of the limp he had acquired in a battle with his predecessor, Bootsie, who had been the king of the roost until he died of a mysterious flu-like illness.”

January 2022: “Mummy” by Banana Yoshimoto

What are the possibilities can one explore with the people you interact? What if…

December 2021: “The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami

A couple is suddenly awaken in the middle of the night and things take a turn for the weird.

November 2021: “The Hut on the Roof” by Hiromi Kawakami

We will be transporting ourselves to sit in an izakaya together with a divorced English teacher narrator in Hiromi Kawakami’s “The Hut on the Roof.” Through the interactions with other regulars, we get to learn everyone’s backstories and connections.

October 2021: Aoi no UeDojo-ji

Taking a step away from short stories and reading some Noh Play scripts. Noh is the oldest form of specialized dance-theatre that has been performed since the 14th century.

September 2021: “Dancing Girl” by Mori Ogai

September’s reading is the “Dancing Girl” by Mori Ogai. This was Ogai’s very first published short story. It’s based on his personal experience in Germany during the Meiji Period with strong parallels with Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

August 2021: “First Night” & “Third Night” by Natsume Soseki

August’s reading was from one of the classic modern authors Natsume Soseki’s “First Night” and “Third Night.”

July 2021: Ikebukuro West Gate Park by Ira Ishida

July’s reading will be Author Ira Ishida’s first short story out of his urban novel series, “Ikebukuro West Gate Park” or IWGP for short. These short stories have been adapted to anime, manga, and more popular cultural mediums. The series revolves the Ikebukuro neighbourhood and 20-year-old, Makoto, who frequently gets involved in highly dangerous situations, usually against his own judgment.

June 2021: “Rashomon” by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke

June’s selection is from the Father of Japanese short stories himself, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. We will be reading “Rashomon.” A classic short story that has often been referenced in Japanese and even North American pop culture. Bonus points if you have seen the film adaptations of this short story!

May 2021: Chiru Sakura — Falling Cherry Blossoms: A Mother & Daughter’s Journey through Racism, Internment and Oppression by Grace Eiko Thomson

We have invited Author Grace Eiko Thomson to discuss her memoir, Chiru Sakura — Falling Cherry Blossoms: A Mother & Daughter’s Journey through Racism, Internment and Oppression. Join us as we learn more about the Canadian Japanese History through Grace Eiko Thomson’s powerful story of resilience in the face of racism, sexism, and internment.

April 2021: “The Special Place” or “Flower Abstraction” by Yumiko Kurahashi

Choose one or both of the following short stories from Yumiko Kurahashi’s Anthology “The woman with the flying head.” Yumiko wrote these stories based on the art pieces linked beside each short story:

March 2021: “The Pregnancy Diary” by Yoko Ogawa

The Akutagawa Prize winning short story by Yoko Ogawa accumulates details to subtly yet expressively comment on the human psychology in her writing. What kind of meaning into the details of this short story can you gain?

February 2021: “The Tattooer” by Tanizaki Junichiro

A classic short story by Tanizaki Junichiro’s debut work, “The Tattooer.” This is Tanizaki’s very first published short story and really sets the tone of his future writing styles and themes. Tanizaki is one of Japan’s famous modern writers. His writing often challenged aesthetics and sexuality in an era where Japan was being introduced to “western” ideas.

December 2020: “Faith” by Sayaka Murata

“One friend gathers their old college friends in an attempt to start a cult for economic gain.” 

November 2020: “A Clean Marriage” by Sayaka Murata

This short story explores a couple who entered an asexual marriage in exploring ways to have children.

October 2020: “The Lonesome Bodybuilder” by Yukiko Motoya

This book is a collection of eleven stories where individuals who lift the curtains of their orderly homes and workplaces are confronted with the bizarre, the grotesque, the fantastic, the alien–and, through it, find a way to liberation. This collection of short stories would be a good contrast of discussion with this week’s reading. *rephrased from the Goodreads synopsis.

September 2020: “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami

Discussions will start with “Barn Burning” and then we will move to the other short stories in the book. Food for thought: What is the Elephant that Haruki is acknowledging in each short story in order for the “elephant in the room” to vanish?