Green tea, and stories from Japan.

I have begun reading a few Japanese novels, in translation of course, and maybe I will add a nonfiction book, because Bellezza has drawn me into her Japanese Literature Challenge 12 — Yes, it’s the twelfth time she has hosted this project! I’ve never had any thought of joining in before, until this month I read a review of one novel linked from her site. It sounded intriguing, so I checked to see how many pages were in the book  — I am lately tired of slogging through 500 or 800 pages in order to complete a story — and it was barely over 200 pages, whee!

Nosing around the body of relatively modern Japanese literature with an eye to length, I soon came up with a plan. The first three books are short, and then things get more difficult, so I might not do all five before the end of March. But I did already complete The Great Passage, and am definitely having fun. It was the coziest thing on a rainy day, to sit by the fire with a book, and green tea from a Japanese-inspired pot. My list:

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki

The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo


If the tea in the photo doesn’t look green to you, it’s because, unfortunately, the day with green tea prevented me from sleeping that night, so I switched to a more thoroughly soothing blend for the next rainy reading session. I read while waiting at the dentist, and at the doctor, and after I crawled under the blankets at night.

Now I’m in the middle of Sweet Bean Paste, which refers to a confection that I’ve never been drawn to. The idea of mixing beans and sugar puts me off, but I should probably at least try to sample it before I write a review. If I could learn to appreciate it, it sounds like a proper accompaniment for my Japanese reading — and cup of tea.

What I need to know is, if a Japanese reader can’t drink tea with caffeine, what does she drink?

22 thoughts on “Green tea, and stories from Japan.

  1. How delightful! Thanks for the book list – there are a few here I haven’t heard of and will look up, pronto! As to your sweet bean paste curiosity … may I recommend you make it a mid-morning treat: green tea (the thick bitter kind, that WILL keep you up) and pair with ‘dorayaki’ (which may well give you a sugar jolt, too. Can you get these near you? Fresh is best!). A boosting snack? Certainly, an indulgent winter favourite, I love this combination.


    1. Dorayaki is the very confection around which the drama in Sweet Bean Paste revolves! I’ll have to ask at the Japanese restaurant that is only a mile away.

      Have you ever reviewed Japanese books on your blog, Kate? I definitely need some help, some enlightenment on Japanese culture. I will browse the site. Thank you for writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. DM me, Gretchen, anytime with questions! I haven’t done any book reviews at all. I don’t know if I could even do that ‘casually’ (as an academic), but it might be a very useful practice. I might give it a go once time opens up a bit 🙄😅.


      2. Oooh… is time opening up? That sounds exciting and scary, but if it also helps me to write more book reviews, I can get behind it. I want to know what forecast you consult. 😉


      3. 😁 Narcissus, Persephone’s blooms, and the (coming) plum blossoms usually signal, for me, something along those lines … Time opens and closes like seasons of flowerings, don’t you find? In other (more mundane) words, I have 2 more weeks of classes before spring break for the students!


      4. Let me know how you get on at the Japanese restaurant. It isn’t really a ‘restaurant-y’ thing here. I mean, it’s not a dessert. It’s a tea accompaniment. I’d love to send some to you to try … ‘Research fuel’, we could call it. 😊


  2. These sound like interesting books. Reading with a cup of green tea, or an herbal tea sounds good to me.

    I want to see if our library has ‘The Convenience Store Woman’. That sounds intriguing to me, not something I would want to do.

    Happy reading and tea drinking ~ FlowerLady


  3. I’m surprised the green tea kept you awake; never have I seen such copious amounts of tea being consumed as I did in Japan. There was green tea, roasted green tea, jasmine green tea, and quite often chamomile tea. Perhaps that would suit you best.


    1. I know that green tea contains sedating and calming elements as well as the caffeine. I used to be able to drink it all day, eat chocolate all day, even. But lately I seem to be sensitized to the caffeine…? Jasmine green tea is heavenly! XO


      1. Yes, I love it, too. I have just added this post to the links going up Sunday. If I duplicated comments it was because I had a bit of trouble leaving one. Please delete superfluous verbage.😊


  4. I, too, do not often feel like picking up one 500 page book after another, so I understand your attraction to the lighter fare. I wish to read The Great Passage after reading such good reviews, and I also hope you will enjoy The Convenience Store Woman as much as I did. It was a great pleasure to me.

    So glad you have joined in this “challenge”! xo


  5. You always amaze me with your curiosity about genres not familiar to you before. I’ll skip the Japanese novels but my grandson might be interested. He has studied all things Japanese since a young teenager, language and culture. And this summer he fulfilled a long time desire to visit there for a week, wishing he’d stayed much longer.


    1. Gretchen, for some reason I wasn’t able to leave the comment as I usually do and it gave me the option of signing in through my FB account, where I am known as Mimi Defee (what my grandchildren call me and a family name). Not sure why I had to do this?


      1. If anyone else has been having problems or changes of any sort when trying to comment, would you please let me know? You can use the email address on my About page also. I have no idea what the process is, for signing in and commenting, if you don’t have a WordPress account, so I’d appreciate any details you can give me.


  6. A cuppa and a book on a rainy day – perfection! I don’t drink caffeine, so I’m a fan of decaf coffee and decaf tea – its actually really good 🙂 Enjoy your JLC12 reads!


  7. Hey, maybe we could read The Book of Tea together as it’s on my list as well!! The Sweet Bean Paste book sounds intriguing too; I haven’t heard of it before. It’s wonderful that you decided to join in this time!


    1. Hi, Gnoe,

      Have you begun reading one of the books on your JLC list? I just finished Kokoro – it was like a psychological thriller to me. I just noticed that The Gate is by the same author, and with some similar themes, so I don’t think I will start it right away. I will try to read The Book of Tea and Silence and Beauty next. So if you want to read Tea together, I think I’ll be into it soon…. 🙂


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