This past week, I’ve been working on a project involving Japanese short stories. Reading short stories in Japanese can be frustrating for a number of reasons: the main problem for me is that there is very little available online. When I feel a sudden urge to read some short stories in English I can visit any number of websites and online magazines devoted to the form, while away a couple of hours and discover some interesting new authors without ever leaving my desk. I’ve never found a similar website for Japanese short stories. Literary magazines (of which there are many) offer hardly any online content – often just the titles of the stories in their latest issue, and their authors. If I lived in Japan this would be fine: I’d head on over to Kinokuniya or wherever, flick through some magazines and buy a few that interested me. But sadly, I am not in Japan. Ordering magazines to be delivered to the UK is pretty expensive, and it’s hard to figure out whether the expense will be worth it when you can’t try before you buy.
The other frustrating thing about Japanese short stories is that often they’re not all that short. The volume nearest to me at this moment (Kobayashi Yasumi’s 海を見る人, The Man Who Watched the Sea) is a little over 300 pages long and contains seven stories. This makes for an average story length of over forty pages, which is not ideal for many of my purposes (reading on my lunch break at work without losing track of the plot, submitting to translation competitions or to Words Without Borders magazine, translating for fun/practice on the days when I don’t feel like dissertating, etc). There are plenty of exceptions (I’m currently enjoying a book of very short stories by Ekuni Kaori, given to me by a friend and classmate – thanks Yumi <3 ), but the differing standards for short story lengths in Japan add another layer to the difficulty of finding suitable authors.
I would like to know more writers, more stories and more sources of information about Japanese short story writing, and I’d like to ask for your help. If you read short stories in Japanese, please have a go at answering the following questions.
1. Where do you get your recommendations for new authors? (friends, newspaper reviews, blogs, literary magazines, random bookshop browsing, etc).
2. Who are your favourite Japanese short story authors? Any genre at all – bonus points if they haven’t yet been translated and you really think they should be. Feel free to recommend particular stories/collections by these authors as well. I think the length I’m looking for is more 超短編小説 (really short stories) than regular 短編小説 – up to around 8000 characters (I don’t know what that is in pages. Fifteen to twenty?).
3. Do you know of any internet forums or similar where Japanese short story readers tend to gather? I’ve found one, but it’s not very active and I’m not sure whether my query is going to get a response there…
If you have any ideas, please feel free to leave a comment, send me an email or use the Contact Me form. 日本語でもだいじょうぶ！
EDIT: I’d like to apologise to all the people from the Philippines (and elsewhere, but mainly the Philippines) who come to this post by searching ‘Japanese short stories’. There are no Japanese short stories in this post :( But if I do find out where to get them for free, I’ll be sure to add a link here.