The Stationmaster by Jirō Asada

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It might not be a style the Western World is used to, but having read a few Japanese to English translations of different authors when I lived in Okinawa, I easily related. The  Stationmaster is a beautiful story. Having lived in Okinawa, there is a pride Japanese have in their work and their lives. They put their heart and soul into everything they do and certainly Otomatsu is grieving for his life as a stationmaster. With the loss of a wife and child, the loss of joy his job brought him the reader awaits beauty to arrive in his life again, seemingly coming to an end. Asada’s stories all contain a sprinkle of the magical but nothing fantastical. There is a difference in culture that is evident in Japanese stories, sometimes the Western World misses out on the details that give the stories heart.

The Festival of Lanterns is also a story in this collection that I really enjoyed. Chieko is raised by her paternal grandparents when both her mother and father decide to basically abandon her for ‘new lives with different partners and children’- fresh family so to speak.  When her grandparents pass away, maybe her grandfather isn’t as ‘gone’ as she thought. The Obon or Bon Festival is a  Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestor. We knew Americans with Japanese spouses that weren’t even allowed to attend them, going from house to house, visiting and cleaning graves, reuniting with family- it’s a beautiful tradition. We would see paper lanterns on the water and floating in the sky, in this story Chieko is unfamiliar with the tradition and her grandfather crosses great lengths to come to her rescue so to speak, from her husband’s family. Family is vital in Japan and in marriages. I think this is my favorite story next to  The Stationmaster.

They are sad with small miracles, and it’s a lovely collection. Different from American short stories and yet just as enjoyable. Because the supernatural bend isn’t outrageous it makes the stories more grounded. Lovely 

Shueisha
Publication Date: Jun 10 2016  
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