Spring Garden is an Akutagawa Award winner book and, unfortunately, a short one. Although it is not one of the best and most beautiful examples of Japanese literature, I loved it because I had no such expectations, and it naturally contains lots of cultural representations from Japan. It had already conquered my heart because it contained so many Japanese elements, and I didn’t want the book to end because I loved the house the author beautifully described.
Spring Garden is a book about the divorced and lonely Taro and the blue house. While Taro is introverted, minding his own business kind of man, he forms a strange friendship with one of his neighbours, a woman named Nishi. Nishi will introduce the blue house to Taro’s life. Along with it, dreams and hopes. Spring Garden is a novella about friendship, nostalgia, change, old, new and many other things. Enjoy!
Winner of the Akutagawa Prize, a sharp, photo-realistic novella of memory and thwarted hope
‘He’d come to realise that it was a mistake to grind up his father’s remains with such a thing. The mortar was lined with narrow grooves, a little too perfect for ashes to get stuck in.’
Divorced and cut off from his family, Taro lives alone in one of the few occupied apartments in his block, a block that is to be torn down as soon as the remaining tenants leave. Since the death of his father, Taro keeps to himself, but is soon drawn into an unusual relationship with the woman upstairs, Nishi, as she passes on the strange tale of the sky-blue house next door.
First discovered by Nishi in the little-known photo-book ‘Spring Garden’, the sky-blue house soon becomes a focus for both Nishi and Taro: of what is lost, of what has been destroyed, and of what hope may yet lie in the future for both of them, if only they can seize it.
Tomoka Shibasaki (柴崎 友香, Shibasaki Tomoka, born October 20, 1973) is a Japanese writer from Osaka. She has won the Noma Literary New Face Prize and the Akutagawa Prize, and two of her works have been adapted for film.
Shibasaki was born in Osaka. She graduated from Osaka Prefecture University and held an office job for four years while writing fiction. In 1999 she published her first short story, “Reddo, ierō, orenji, burū” (“Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue”). Her first novel, Kyō no dekigoto (A Day on the Planet), was published the next year. In 2003 Kyō no dekigoto was adapted by Isao Yukisada into a film of the same name.
In 2006 Shibasaki won a MEXT Award for New Artists for Sono machi no ima wa (Today, in that City), which was then nominated in 2007 for the Akutagawa Prize, but did not win. In 2010 she won the Noma Literary New Face Prize for Nete mo samete mo, a first-person story about a woman who falls in love, loses her boyfriend, then meets a man who looks identical to her disappeared boyfriend but acts completely differently. In 2014, after having her work nominated three more times for the Akutagawa Prize, Shibasaki finally won the 151st Akutagawa Prize for her novel Haru no niwa (Spring Garden).
In 2016 the Japan Foundation sponsored her residency in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The following year, an English translation of her Akutagawa Prize-winning novel Haru no niwa was published by Pushkin Press under the title Spring Garden. In 2018 Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s film adaptation of Nete mo samete mo, titled Asako I & II, entered the competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: