Japanese bilingual literature book release: “Tokyo: City of Illusions” by Muro Saisei (室生犀星)

By | February 6, 2023

(Jump right to the book’s page here)

One of the fun parts of being a publisher of Japanese literature is hunting down through countless stories to find something that is truly great, and can be appreciated easily by a Western audience.

I stumbled upon Muro Saisei’s “Tokyo: City of Illusions” (幻影の都市)a few years ago, a story about a poet wandering through the streets of some of the seedier parts of Tokyo, seeking out an alluring woman with strange powers. At the time I was left with an impression of it having a compelling mysterious atmosphere, yet I didn’t quite understand everything (the text is quite difficult, and I was aiming for a quick read-through). I put down a few notes so I wouldn’t forget about it, but to be honest the impact of this story was so strong it hung around in a corner of my mind for quite a long time until I finally decided to give a more careful reading.

My second read through (about two months ago) really changed my perspective on this story from being about some mysterious city to what is arguably a piece of societal criticism being set in the real Tokyo, with several places and landmarks taken from back when it was written, around a century ago. After doing a bit more research, I began to see the depth of this story and even form theories about what it all meant. Despite not normally being much into history for its own sake, I ended up doing a lot of research about Tokyo in the early 1900s, which uncovered a whole new side of Tokyo for me.

After my second reading I knew that I had to translate this story, and I am happy to say I have just released the e-book of this story on Amazon. To help put the story in context I added a several-page essay where I detailed some of the things I discovered, and also some of my personal interpretations about the story.

I decided to publish the book in bilingual Japanese/English so that Japanese learners can attempt to read through the challenging text and then check their understanding. I also included the story in English-only format.

As usual, thanks to Kaimai Mizuhiro (開米瑞浩) for helping confirm some of the meanings of the tricker passages. Also thanks to Jim Miles (of Annotranslate) for help proofreading the stories.

You can find the book on Amazon here.

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