Free Japanese literature limited-edition ebook: “The Gift of Loneliness” by Masao Yamakawa.

By | December 22, 2021

Update: this book is no longer available for download, but this story has been published in this book.

I spend much of my time on searching for little gems of Japanese literature, especially classic authors that I feel have something special about them, and it’s satisfying to take such discoveries and publish English versions of the stories so more people can appreciate them.

But the tradeoff with unearthing authors mostly unknown to the West is that it can be hard to drum up interest. Marketing efforts help a little, but authors nobody has heard of generally don’t sell as well as those who already have a strong presence in Western readers’ minds.

Recently I learned about Masao Yamakawa (山川 方夫), an author from the middle of the 20th century who doesn’t seem to have much popularity in the West (very few of his works have been translated into English). This is despite a much higher level of popularity in Japan, at least to the degree that some of his stories are listed in elementary-school Japanese textbooks and considered to be classics.

Popularity aside, I personally found several of Yamakawa’s stories to be very compelling and enjoyable, and could really associate with his sensibilities––especially the raw, bitterly-realistic conversations between the characters in a few stories (which sometimes remind me of Hayashi Fumiko’s works).

From what I have read so far, one of my favorite works by Yamakawa is “The Gift of Loneliness” (一人ぼっちのプレゼント), a tale of a couple struggling with a devastating loss. It just happens to have a Christmas theme (somewhat rare for Japanese classic literature) so I thought now would be a good time to release a translation of this story. Besides the realistic dialogue I really enjoyed the descriptions of the environment and how they fit with the story.

Because of what I said earlier about the difficulty of finding an audience for unfamiliar authors, I have decided to make this short story available to everyone free as a special-edition ebook that you can download below. I realize that many readers would probably prefer for me to post the entire story here for easy readability, but I have decided to forgo that because of problems I’ve had before with piracy. (Technically it is still possible for people to steal the ebook file and distribute/sell it, though I think it will be more difficult as opposed to simply copying a web page.)

Besides making this a little end-of-year gift to my readers, I am hoping to get some feedback on this story, especially in terms of whether you would like to read more by this author. You can comment on this page, or email us directly at arigataibooks [at] gmail.com. You can also email if you have any issues with the ebook files, and one of the reasons for the project is to experiment with how I can easily deliver ebook files from this site.

I haven’t figured out the exact timing, but depending on the interest of this story I may publish a longer ebook on Amazon including this story and a few others by the same author. 

But for the time being if you want more to read in a similar vein, I would suggest checking out our paperback release of stories by Hayashi Fumiko here (currently discounted on an end-of-year sale), or if you prefer ebooks check out this series. (Check out this page for our full list of books.)

I want to thank Jim Miles (of Annotranslate) for being a beta reader, and Kaimai Mizuhiro (his web site is here, and books are here) for helping to confirm the meaning of the Japanese text in a few places.

Here is a quick teaser of the beginning of the story if you are debating whether to download the file or not:

The hotel faces the sea, but in front runs a wide paved road and a nature reserve with a tiny coastal park. Beyond that stretches the ocean, where stylish foreign steamships of white and lime green, along with countless flat barges and debris from the port gently bob up and down in the indigo-colored water.

Beside the hotel is a small flower shop. The clear, airy light of a late autumn afternoon illuminates a rainbow of cut and potted flowers, painting a vivid explosion of colors. Two people who look like a young married couple leave the flower store. Wearing thin, traditional clothes made of wool, the woman raises her hand above her eyes as if shading them from a bright light; sporting long pants, a sweater, and a dress shirt, the man casually twirls a hotel key around his finger. The couple walks leisurely, crossing the pavement right into the park as if it is simply too much trouble to stop or change directions.

Download links:

Download ebook (EPub file) [no longer available]

Download ebook (MOBI file) [no longer available]

If you click on either link, you be given the option to export/save the file on your local device. Also, depending on the device you are on, you may be given a visual preview of the book. You can read the entire book that way, but generally you will get a better experience by saving the file and opening it in a proper ebook reader.

Note: How you will view the file depends on your device, but here is an example set of steps if you have an iPad or iPhone:

  1. Click on the “MOBI” link
  2. Click “Export” on the bottom
  3. Click “Kindle” app on the list of apps that appears (it has an icon of a person sitting down in front of a blue background). This will export the book into the Kindle app.
  4. You will see the “Send to Kindle” screen. Click “Send”. (Note: If it has a blank author field you may need to enter in something there first. You can put in “Masao Yamakawa”, or anything you like.)
  5. Open the Kindle app where you can read the book as normal.

You can also use the EPub file in the Apple iBooks app, but I prefer how it looks on the Kindle app. On desktops, you should be able to use these files to view the book in apps such as the Kindle app.

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