Masao Yamakawa (山川方夫) is an author whom I stumbled upon a few months back. While he hasn’t had much exposure yet to Western readers (except for a single story published in Life magazine back in 1964), he was nominated for both the Naoki and Akutagawa literary prizes, and one of his works has been printed in national Japanese textbooks (presumably as an example of good literature).
But, perhaps more importantly, after reading/listening to a few of his stories, I really appreciated his style and the types of stories he wrote. Sometimes I have a hard time describing a writing style accurately, but his Wikipedia page describes his style as 繊細で都会的, literally “delicate and urban”. I like how he depicts character emotions, often by leveraging elements of the natural world (the weather, seasons, etc.) and how he uses imagery to good effect. While I haven’t lived in Japan during the period these stories were written, his dialogue feels very raw and realistic to me. By the way, much of his style reminds me of Hayashi Fumiko, and since they lived during roughly the same period perhaps they influenced one another.
One of my colleagues even compared Yamakawa to Haruki Murakami. Because the characters, settings, and plots of these two authors are so different, at first I was doubtful about this. But after some consideration I agree that stylistically there are indeed some similarities. In any case, there’s definitely a chance Murakami read Yamakawa’s work and was influenced by him in some fashion.
After translating a few of Yamakawa’s stories I found I was able to convey his style in English to the point where I really enjoyed reading my own translations, which made the process of iterating for quality much easier. His sentimentality continued to grow on me, and I decided that this author really deserves to get the full book treatment by Arigatai Books (my publisher). Initially I decided to publish seven of his short stories in ebook form, but I have a few more stories planned for follow-up project(s) and am hoping someday to make a paper book as well. One of the stories in this release is “The Summer Procession” (夏の葬列), which has been published in Japanese textbooks, a tale about a man struggling to make peace with a wartime accident of his youth. (Note: some places have referred to this same story as “Funeral Procession in Summer”.)
Even though I do have a series of books that are published in bilingual Japanese/English, most of my other books are English-only. But I decided to release the Yamakawa stories in “Summer of Strangers” in bilingual Japanese/English for those studying Japanese because I think his writing style is relatively easy to follow and has less difficult kanji than some other works of that time period. The stories are also listed in English for readers who prefer that.
You can find the book on Amazon below, or use this link to get you to your nearest Amazon page.