Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge is well under way, and I am really enjoying my reading and film watching for this challenge! I’m always fascinated by the connections that happen when you start reading about a particular topic or theme. The more I immerse myself in the literature and culture of Japan, the more interconnections I run into. But that’s what “immersion” is all about, so I am enjoying this year’s dive back into all things Japanese. Here is a part of my winding path of connections so far:
I started the month by reading Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata, and watched a beautiful film made of the book. In that book and film, I learned about the day to day life of a geisha living in a small rural village. The geishas, however, were trained in the city. This week, I found a new Japanese nine-part series on Netflix, The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House. It is a lovely story of two teenage girls, best friends all their lives, who move to Kyoto to become apprentice geishas. They move into the school, the “maiko house,” and start their training. One of the girls excels in all the classes with obvious talent in the art. The other girl is slow and somewhat clumsy in her attempts to learn the art form, but reveals a passion for cooking, so she instead becomes the cook for the school. It was so interesting to see the traditional training of these young women, and to see what life is like in Kyoto with the combination of tradition and modern life.
At the same time, I had started reading another book by Pico Iyer. This one was about Japanese culture, and in particular about a year he spent in Kyoto with the intention of learning about Zen Buddhism. It was called The Lady and The Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto, and was a very interesting deep dive into the Japanese culture. So as I continued reading that book, and watching this new series, it created a visual experience that connected the stories of Pico Iyer’s year in Kyoto with the beautifully filmed story of two young apprentice geishas. The connection enriched both stories!