Book clubs have come to Japan
Reading groups seems to become popular among foreigners in Tokyo
One cold night, 10 gaijin women are gathered at a house in Shibuya-ward, Tokyo. They are wives of foreigners who work at companies in Japan. They have variety of backgrounds including American, English, French, German and Danish. Some came out after they took their babies to baby-sitters.
They use English in this group. After saying hello to each other, they were all settled on chairs and cushions with glasses. Now the Book club is underway. The book is “fear and trembling” by Amelie Norton, which is translated into Japanese by Sakuhinsha publishing house.
A Belgium woman wrote her working experience in a Japanese trading company. The book has an irony on strange “company culture”. It was awarded the French literature prize and became bestsellers in Western countries.
They asked me, who is a Japanese.
“The book reads that it is worth award that Japanese women are brought up not to express themselves and to live for others, not for themselves. Is it real?”
I asked back,” Don’ t you have sexual discrimination and feudalism in your countries?”
They think and discuss again.
“But the senior’s scold on the heroin in a loud voice in public is rude. It may become lawsuit in the U.S.”
Comments Cindy, Filipino-American lawyer.
I find many of the members had career as bankers, designers and teaches, etc.
They often suggest other books, chat and exchange information. The discussion continued till midnight.
Book clubs are burgeoning in the U. S.. In 1990, there were about 50,000 book clubs in the U.S., by the turn of the millennium that number had just about doubled, a journalist says. Some are gathered among friends and colleagues. School, libraries, bookstores hold others. Many book club guides are published.
Opra Winfrey, Comedienne, holds one, which is famous. Her online club has more than 110,000 members’ sign up. Once named by her, the book will often sell well: more than hundreds of thousand whether it is new or classic.
There are tens of book clubs attached to American schools and churches in Tokyo gaijin community. Cheryl started Shibuya group two years ago. At the beginning of the year each sends 3 reading suggestions and choose one for every month by voting. They have read a variety of books for example, “ Tale of Murasaki”, “Wild Swans” , autograph and detective story.
They take turns in hosting. They decided to keep it simple: the hostess prepares only cheese, chocolates and wine and other members are not allowed to bring flowers or presents .The emphasis is on books and chatting.
Esther, who came from England, the hostess says, “It's amazing to discover how differently we are affected by what we read...”
Anita from Germany smiles, “I joined to make friends because I was alone when I came from abroad. And I need a break from Eveready’s duty as a mother and a housewife. I also love the time of brainstorming”
Susan, American, participated in the group in San Francisco to read Prust. Patty, also American, joins three separate clubs in Tokyo.
Reading was an individual sole fun, but it could give us a chance to meet new friends. If book clubs become popular in Japan, too, we might get closer social bonds and intellectual fun back.