Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Review of Movie Grandmaster

Posted: January 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am never a fan of Kung Fu movies. But a good writer friend who has fine taste in film and documentaries, persuaded me and invited me. While she appreciated the movie greatly, I found it a big disappointment.

Grandmaster (一代宗师), directed by successful HK film director Wang Kaiwei (Wang Kar-wai), it is supposedly about the marshal art master Ip Man, who trained Bruce Lee, among others. I said supposedly, because the film features several other marshal art masters. Apart from Ip (ye), starred by Tony Leung, there’s Gong Er, (played by Zhang Ziying) and her father, Ma Sang, a baddie and another one played by comedian Zhang Bengshan. I had little idea what’s the film is about. Kong Er steals the show with lengthy fights. Okay, it can be a film about a group of Ku Fung masters in the 40s and their different approach to life. I still have a big problem with the plot and the narrative. It is not illuminated how Ip becomes a master or what drives him or what is his struggle.

One of the key fighting scenes takes place when Gong Er challenges Ip inside some exquisite Chinese style house. Why would she do that? I am not sure. The fight itself is well done and sexually-charged – that’s when something happened between the two, though their love is never consummated.

The film is beautifully shot and the 3 D visual effect dramatic. Both the lead characters are stunning to look at. But all these can’t change the fact that it is a frustrating film, for me anyway. Maybe I just didn’t get it, as my friend told me.

From time to time, the director throws in some Chinese wisdom. For example, towards the end of the film, the character played by Zhao Bengshan talks about what is life all about: life and death, glory and humiliation; gains and loss. In the end, it is all about ‘I’. Interesting touch. Without the substance of the movie, however, such wise remarks feel like a little pretentious.

It is reported that the director spent eight years researching on marshal arts for this film. Yet I don’t feel I have the insight of a ku fung master. Wang is a highly talented director,with successful movies such as In the Mood for Love and 2046 under his belt. They are all stylish and atmospheric. I loved these two in particular.

Just the other day, I went to an interesting talk about Hollywood and China. One of things being discussed is why so few Chinese films are marketable in the west. Fingers are pointed at the way of story-telling in Chinese films. I think Grandmaster is the case in point, even though Wang is an international director.

China’s savvy young women begin to tear down the walls of gender discrimination

Lijia Zhang says a landmark court ruling is just part of a wider movement

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 4:44pm

UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 7:29pm

Lijia Zhang

SCMP

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Huang Rong (not her real name) made history by winning China’s first court ruling relating to gender discrimination in employment. But the verdict, though hailed as groundbreaking by Chinese media, wasn’t enough for the 23-year-old. She has filed a follow-up lawsuit, demanding a formal apology from the
New Oriental Cooking School, a company that rejected her job application last year on the basis of her gender.

The second hearing took place last week in Hangzhou .

The newly graduated Huang had applied for a clerk’s position with New Oriental. Her application, however, wasn’t even considered: the position was reserved for male applicants because the job required travelling and some physically taxing tasks such as carrying suitcases for the headmaster, Huang was told when she phoned the school.

She made it clear she didn’t mind travelling and that she was strong – all to no avail. Inspired by a similar case in Beijing several months earlier involving another young graduate, Cao Ju (also a pseudonym), Huang decided to take the employer to court.

Last November, a Hangzhou court ruled that the culinary school had violated her right to equal employment and must pay her 2,000 yuan (HK$2,500) in compensation for mental distress. Though the sum was less than the 30,000 yuan Cao received, this ruling was significant as the award was made by the court, rather than in an out-of-court settlement, as in Cao’s case.

Sex discrimination is widespread in China. According to a survey by the All-China Women’s Federation in 2011, nearly 92 per cent of female students said they had experienced gender discrimination in employment. One 2010 survey conducted by the China University of Political Science and Law discovered that, during recruiting, some 69 per cent of employers had gender requirements.

The vast majority of victims of gender discrimination keep silent. I am delighted that young women like Huang and Cao have had the courage to break that silence. It is risky; if their real identities are exposed, they’ll probably never get a job in China again. In addition, it is expensive, the process is long, the outcome uncertain and the legal system isn’t geared to cope with such cases.

Sex discrimination is rooted in gender inequality, which is ingrained in Chinese culture. Baby girls are not as welcome as baby boys, and girls often have to get better grades in school to be accepted into university. This unfair treatment continues into the workplace.

These recent lawsuits come as China witnesses a rise in women’s rights activism. In November 2013, 10 university students, wearing giant paper pants over their winter coats, protested in front of a local government building in Wuhan against invasive gynaecological examinations imposed on women applying for civil service jobs. Earlier that year, 20 women across the country shaved their heads in protest at discrimination in university admissions standards.

Since December 2013, dozens of female university students from various cities have written to their local authorities and labour bureaus to report job advertisements which they suspect were examples of sex discrimination.

I applaud such activities. Compared with the older generation, these educated young women are more aware of international norms. They are internet-savvy and know how to use modern technology to get in touch with like-minded people and seek help.

Huang told me she wouldn’t have made it this far without the help and support from many women, almost all strangers, who share her interest in promoting women’s rights. Among them was Cao, the other plaintiff, who not only funded Huang’s legal costs but also organised an online petition in support of her action.

Huang’s case has attracted a fair amount of attention in both domestic and international media, which is a welcome development. Hopefully, it will make people more aware of gender discrimination, make employers think twice about excluding women applicants without sound reasons, and encourage more women who suffer sex discrimination to put up a fight as well.

Lijia Zhang is a writer, journalist and social commentator

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as China’s savvy young women begin to fight the gender bias

Eulogy to My Father

Posted: January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

My father Zhang Songshou passed away at 4 am on 9th of January after a long illness. He went peacefully at a hospice in Nanjing where he spent his final 102 days. He was 87.

In the past three years since he had taken ill with a heart problem, he had experienced quite a few near-death encounters. Nevertheless I still felt greatly saddened and a little dazed when I received the news. I rushed down home from Beijing to say the final goodbye.

As I neared my parents’ flat in New Wuding Village, in the southern outskirt of Nanjing, I heard noises and commotions. Strangely I thought I heard my father’s amateur Beijing opera-singer’s voice. Father was famous for his very loud voice. Back in the good old days, for each of my home visit, he would find out the rough time of my return and wait for me around the corner from building number 50. Upon spotting me, he would should, in a thundering voice loud enough for my mother and half of the village to hear: “Little Li has returned!” I used to feel embarrassed and dash to the house as soon as I could.

I walked into the open house and discovered that it had been transformed. The sitting/dining area became a mourning hall. An enlarged flattering photograph of him – father was an exceedingly handsome man – sat in the middle, surrounded by bouquets of flowers. The wall was decorated with pretty red brocade, a special type of silk produced in Nanjing. Stream of visitors, mostly neighbours and my sisters’ colleagues, were coming in and out of the flat.

I lit incense and bowed. For a long while I starred at the color picture. It was strange to be home but he was no longer here.

Three months ago, his situation made a turn for worse. Some doctors, friends of my sister, advised us that there was no point in trying to save him with any radical treatments or wasting so much medicine on him – until that point, he had been taken a dozen of pills every day – because all of his major organs were failing. That was then that he was transferred to Chengguan hospice, attached to the hospital ran by my former rocket factory.

In the end of last September, I went to India to attend Bangalore Literature Festival. After a few days, I was called back as my sister believed that the final moment had come. I rushed back to his bed side. Indeed it looked like that way. The big man had shrunk to a scarecrow. His lifeless face looked like aged wax and he threw up even a little bit of water fed to him. He suffered from chest pain and had trouble breathing. We all had to take turns to pat his back in the hope of easing his pain.

One day, he told my mother that he was not going to live through the day. He cleared his throat and said in a loud and formal voice: “I’ve saved 6000 yuan, which I hid in a box next to the TV set. That’s my Party membership fee!”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, we all burst out laughing. My father was never a Party member! I think he might have watched too many revolutionary films in which the revolutionary martyrs always hand over their life savings to the Party. Or he had secretly wished to become a Party member, a common aspiration for men of his generation.

‘The Party membership fee’ was one of his few muddle-ups. Otherwise, he reminded conscious right till the end.

It was a miracle that father somehow recovered a little from mid October, though he remained bed-ridden and require full-time care. This extra time seemed to have helped him to come to terms with his final destiny. When I nursed him, after my return from India, he said openly that he was scared of death. (who could blame him?) When I last went to Nanjing in the end of November, however, he appeared calm and resigned. When I asked him if he had any unfulfilled wishes, he said none. “I am a lucky man,” he asserted, “I have a great wife and three wonderful children.”

During my last visit, I bought him a down duvet to place hospital’s heavy old one. He said: “This warmed my body and my heart.”

Wang Ayi, his caretaker, was very impressed by father, thinking him a great character. Once while she was cleaning him, he farted. Partly to cover his embarrassment, he quoted Chairman’s saying: “If you have things to say, go ahead and say it; if you want to fart, go ahead and fart!”

To give him credit, father never lost his good sense of humour.

Wang Ayi asked me if father was a professor or someone like that. Sadly he wasn’t.

Father was a Nanjing native, and the eldest child of Zhang family who made a living from dubious business – involved in some sort of gangster activities and such. This politically incorrect background meant that he wouldn’t go far in life under Mao’s rule or become a Party member. He was very tall, good looking with a full forehead and strong square jaw, all auspicious signs, according to Chinese traditional belief. That was one of the reasons that grandma Na picked him to be her son-in-law. Na wasn’t savvy enough to check his background carefully.

After completing senior middle school, father was assigned to a job looking after prisoners in the notorious laogai – labour through reform system in the neigbhouring Anhui province. So we grew up without seeing much of him.

In 1958, during the ‘hundred flower movement’ when Mao invited the public to criticize the Party, father joined in the choir and made some mild critical comments. Because of this, he was later labled as a ‘rightist’ and suffered a lot in Anhui’s harsh countryside. For the past 15 years, he worked as a low-level clerk at a factory in Anhui that belonged to laogai system. It was a soulless job that required no brain.

He was pretty good at writing. Apart from occasional help with his children’s school composition, he never explored his talent. It would be too harsh to describe his life a wasted one. Apart from his lack of discipline and ambition, the social and political environment also played a large part.

After his retirement in 1986, he and his wife lived together for the first time like a normal married couple. They had a lot of difficulties in adjusting to it. And father fiery temper didn’t help either.

As he grew older, he mellowed. And he and mother become pretty good companions. Mother gave him meticulous care during his illness, sleeping on a chair by his hospital bed until she really couldn’t cope.

I used to be quite critical of my father, especially his not so caring way he treated my mother, for example, when mother gave birth to us at hospital, he was out playing mahjong. Now I am trying to think the good moments I shared with him. I remember vividly once when I was ill (some mild problem), he took me out, carrying me on his shoulder and treated me a hot bum stuff with red bean paste. In our days, children rarely enjoyed any snacks. I must also bear in mind that father was a product of his generation.

And after all, he partly shaped the way I am. For example, my curly hair came from him and perhaps my fondness for humour. Father will not become a saint in my mind just become of his death. But I know that I will miss him and his loud voice.

Scholar Who Helped Chen Guangcheng Escape Arrested

After being detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels” in October, scholar Guo Yushan, who played an instrumental role in allowing Chen Guangcheng’s 2012 escape from house arrest, has now been arrested on the charge of “illegal business activity.” Guo founded the Transition Institute, an independent think-tank devoted to helping “facilitate China’s transformation into a country characterized by liberal democracy, strong civil society, and free markets.” The organization was raided and shut down after the arrest of now jailed civil society activist Xu Zhiyong in 2013. Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee reports:

[…] Guo is an idealistic but media-shy scholar who launched campaigns that drew support from the public, including efforts to raise funds for victims of a tainted milk formula scandal in 2008.

Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Guo’s detention was “another milestone in the ongoing, severe crackdown on civil liberties” over the past 18 months.

“Although Guo has been at the forefront of China’s rights movement, he has also tried to keep a low profile, to remain in that narrowing space without being jailed,” she said.

“The fact that he’s detained signals further tightening of the authorities’ grip on China’s civil society.” [Source]

The New York Times’ Edward Wong reports on the use of the “illegal business” charge in authorities ongoing crackdown on dissent and civil society, a campaign that recently snared Guo’s lawyer, leaving him with no legal representation currently:

Chinese officials are stepping up the use of the “illegal business” accusation to silence liberal voices. Last month, a Beijing district court sentenced the maker of a documentary on the Chinese Constitution, Shen Yongping, to a year in prison on the same charge. Mr. Shen’s lawyer called the charge an outrage and said Mr. Shen had not made the film for profit. It had been posted online and was available as a free download.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president and leader of the Communist Party, has taken a tough line against political and social dissent, and many rights advocates have been detained and arrested since he took power in November 2012. His push of a leftist ideology with anti-Western overtones has also emboldened conservatives to go on the attack against liberal voices.

Mr. Guo has no lawyer at the moment because his lawyer, Xia Lin, was detained by officials in November, said Hu Jia, a rights activist who is a friend of Mr. Guo’s. Mr. Xia had also been representing Pu Zhiqiang, a well-known rights lawyer now in official custody who was charged in June with “creating a public disturbance.” Mr. Pu had attended a gathering in May at a scholar’s home in Beijing to honor the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. [Source]

Read more about Guo Yushan and the Xi administration’s crackdown on civil society, via CDT.

Literature of India, Enshrined in a Series

Murty Classical Library Catalogs Indian Literature

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLERJAN. 2, 2015

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The first five volumes of the Murty Classical Library.CreditSonny Figueroa/The New York TimesContinue reading the main story

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When the Loeb Classical Library was founded in 1911, it was hailed as a much-needed effort to make the glories of the Greek and Roman classics available to general readers.

Virginia Woolf praised the series, which featured reader-friendly English translations and the original text on facing pages, as “a gift of freedom.” Over time, the pocket-size books, now totaling 522 volumes and counting, became both scholarly mainstays and design-geek fetish objects, their elegant green (Greek) and red (Latin) covers spotted everywhere from the pages of Martha Stewart Living to Mr. Burns’s study on “The Simpsons.”

Now, Harvard University Press, the publisher of the Loebs, wants to do the same for the far more vast and dizzyingly diverse classical literature of India, in what some are calling one of the most complex scholarly publishing projects ever undertaken.

The Murty Classical Library of India, whose first five dual-language volumes will be released next week, will include not only Sanskrit texts but also works in Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Persian, Prakrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and other languages. Projected to reach some 500 books over the next century, the series is to encompass poetry and prose, history and philosophy, Buddhist and Muslim texts as well as Hindu ones, and familiar works alongside those that have been all but unavailable to nonspecialists.

The Murty will offer “something the world had never seen before, and something that India had never seen before: a series of reliable, accessible, accurate and beautiful books that really open up India’s precolonial past,” said Sheldon Pollock, a professor of South Asian studies at Columbia University and the library’s general editor.

That literary heritage can seem daunting in size. While the canon of surviving Greek and Roman classics is fairly small, the literature of India’s multiple classical languages includes thousands upon thousands of texts, many of which, as the writer William Dalrymple recently noted, exist only in manuscripts that are decaying before they can be translated or even cataloged.

The Murty Library, Mr. Pollock said, aims to take in the broadest swath of them. “We are a big tent,” he said. “As long as it’s good and interesting and important, it’s going to be in the Murty Classical Library.”

The editions, which come wrapped in elegant rose-colored covers, are intended, like the Loebs, “to be around for 100 years,” Mr. Pollock said. But to some scholars, the project also comes as a timely if implicit rebuke to the Hindu nationalists of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, with its promotion of a unitary Indian identity based on selected Sanskrit religious classics.

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Sheldon Pollock, a professor of South Asian studies at Columbia University and the general editor of the Murty Classical Library of India. CreditMisha Friedman for The New York Times

The series “debunks the myth of a Hindu orthodoxy as being the only classicism we have,” said Arshia Sattar, an independent scholar andtranslator in Bangalore. “In a strange way, the editors are creating a new canon.”

The library, which will be celebrated late this month at the Jaipur Literary Festival, arrives at a fraught moment in India’s long-running battles over language and national identity. Last month the country’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, declared that the Bhagavad Gita, a Sanskrit religious text, should be designated a “national scripture.” In November, efforts to make the teaching of Sanskrit essentially mandatory in schools for the children of government employees prompted an outcry.

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Activists, meanwhile, have sought “classical” status for other languages, including Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam, even as once-vibrant Indian scholarship in the older literature of those languages has withered away.

When it gained independence in 1947, India had a pioneering generation of homegrown classicists of the first rank. But today, scholars say, its universities produce and retain few classical scholars with the interpretive skills required by a project like the Murty, which has drawn its entire advisory board and most of its translators, South Asian and Western alike, from American and European institutions.

“Everyone here will praise this library and talk about the glorious civilization it represents,” said Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, a poet and translator now retired from the University of Allahabad who was not involved with the project. “But then Indians will wake up and realize they’ve done very little to preserve or translate their own texts.”

The Murty Library fills a scholarly void. The last comparable project, theClay Sanskrit Library, a series inaugurated by New York University Press in 2005, closed up shop prematurely after four years and 56 volumes when its benefactor, the financier John Clay, ended his support. (Mr. Clay died in 2013.)

After the Clay Library’s demise, Mr. Pollock, who had taken over as its general editor, reconceived the project to extend far beyond Sanskrit. He shopped around in India for a new benefactor, to no avail. He then brought the idea to Sharmila Sen, executive editor at large at Harvard University Press, who connected him with Rohan Murty, the son of the Indian technology billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy. (The two men spell their surnames differently.)

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A 16th-century miniature of the Mughal hero Akbar hunting tigers.CreditDeAgostini/Getty Images

The younger Mr. Murty, at the time a 26-year-old doctoral student in computer science at Harvard, put up $5.2 million to endow the new library, which will eventually be digitized, in perpetuity.

“He really understood the need for it,” Ms. Sen, who acquired the series, said. “We were both educated in the same kind of India, where we knew way more about Shakespeare and Wordsworth than about the classical texts of our own region.”

Some works in the first release will be familiar to many Indians even if they have never read them. “Sur’s Ocean,” a 1,000-page anthology of more than 400 poems attributed to the 16th-century Hindi poet Surdas (edited by Kenneth E. Bryant and translated by John Stratton Hawley), includes verses that have deeply penetrated popular oral tradition, while Surdas himself figures in a quiz-show question in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” Others are appearing in full translation for the first time. “The Story of Manu,” a 16th-century south Indian epic poem about the first human being (translated from Telugu by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman), has never before been translated into another language, Mr. Pollock said. (Like most of the original-language text in the series, the Telugu script is printed in a custom-designed font.)

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The inaugural volumes include two works from the Muslim tradition with broad contemporary resonances. The ecstatic Sufi lyrics of the 18th-century Punjabi poet Bullhe Shah, translated by Christopher Shackle, have been sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and featured in Bollywood movies. The first of multiple projected volumes of Abu’l-Fazl’s “History of Akbar,” translated from Persian by Wheeler M. Thackston, chronicles the early life of a Mughal emperor celebrated today as a unifier who promoted religious pluralism.

The initial Murty release also includes the Therigatha, an anthology of verses by and about the earliest ordained Buddhist women, first written down in Sri Lanka more than 2,000 years ago and considered some of the world’s oldest surviving women’s poetry.

Those verses, which capture the women’s relief at being free of constricting roles as wives and mothers, have been embraced by modern Buddhists seeking a vision of Buddhism as concerned with the oppressed, the translator, Charles Hallisey, said. But they have yet to claim their rightful place in the broader canon of world literature, in part because of the stiffness of previous translations from Pali, a dead language, he said.

“These verses are so vivid,” Mr. Hallisey said. “The challenge was to translate them as poetry, rather than as something more conventionally Buddhist.”

The spare poems of the Therigatha, with their longing for transcendence and their glimpses of ordinary life, may travel easily across the millenniums. But to Mr. Pollock, what makes a work a classic is not its familiarity and universality but its utter, irreducible strangeness.

The goal of the Murty “is to ensure that everyone can hear these strange voices — not just scholars in their studies, but kids standing at railway kiosks,” he said. “Now, those kids will be able to pull a book down off the shelf and hear these voices, too.”

Correction: January 2, 2015

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of an anthology by the earliest ordained Buddhist women. It is the Therigatha, not the Therighata.

When I was up in Rishikesh, I bought this fabulous travel book, upon the recommendation of a long term resident there. Eric Newby, a British, was one of the finest travel writers in the world (interesting so many of great travel writers are British). I’ve read his A Merry Dance around the World, a collection of his best travel pieces and loved it.

In the winter of 1963-64, eccentric Briton Eric Newby, together with his faithful wife Wanda and fellow boatwoman, set out on an incredible journey: to travel along the whole length of the holy water from Rishikesh to Calcutta by boat. It covered 1,200 miles. Why? Because the author, born on the banks of Thames, always loved rivers.

Slowly indeed. In the first six days, they got strained six times. But they kept going as they struggled to find boat and boatmen, coped with upset stomach, fended off invading monkeys and other challenges. At times when there was no boat to be found, they travelled by train, bus and bullock-carts. They camped on sandbanks covered with human waste; they stayed in remote primitive villages. The Newbys encountered a vast variety of interest characters and glorious misshapes. The story is told with charm and bone-dry British human.

It’s a joy to read such a beautiful-crafted book, in which many of events and characters still resonate today. As you can imagine, I laughed and smiled from beginning to the end.

Below some fun parts I enjoyed.

In Hardware, close to Rishikesh, author wrote:

Down where we were on the waterfront, limbless beggars moved like crabs across the stones. … Hardwar was swarming with Sadhus. The Namadaris, the followers of Vishnu, had mud-packed cones of hair. …The Sivites also wore long necklaces of rudraksha seeds and their arms and forehead were smeared with burned cow-dung.

Somewhere half of the way, the author saw a madman:

Under one of the last of the forty spans of the bridge, a lunatic was sitting out in the stream on a pillar of silt fifteen feet high. This pillar, which was precariously supported by one of the buttresses of the bridge, was on the point of collapsing into the water. The lunatic was gesticulating violently and singing at the top of his voice. He seemed perfectly happy. How he had got there in the first place was a mystery, how he was to get back alive was equally incomprehensible. No one except ourselves took the slightest notice of him. This was India.

My Beautiful Shadow isn’t a thick book but perfectly formed and beautifully crafted. The novel is set in Japan, populated by all Japanese characters. I am deeply impressed by author Radhika Jha, an Indian and modern nomad who lived in Japan for quite few years. She created a believable world that so far removed from her own.

The story of ‘I’, Kayo, a Japanese house-wife turned shopholic, take place in the 80s when the economy is booming and consumption – over-consumption, rather, grips the whole nation. Kayo is a plain Jane, blessed with a pair of super large breasts. Assisted by this asset, she is lucky enough to meet a smart boy Ryu who then gets a good job at a bank. From a broken family, Kayo manages to secure the relationship and gets married to the boyfriend and soon becomes a house-wife with babies. Her role model is the impeccably school friend Tomoko. To satisfy her obsession for shopping and brand products, she begins to run risks. Bored by her empty life, she perhaps also looks for some thrilling experiences and an identity of her own.

I like this unusual theme – not another love story.

The opening is very gripping.

I have a secret. I belong to a club. You can see its members everywhere, in Ginza, in Marounouchi, in Aoyama and Omotesando – all the very best addresses in town. It is a very big club, easily the biggest in Tokyo, in japan, maybe in all the world. But it is not a famous club. You don’t have to fill any forms to join it. It doesn’t have a dress code or a rule book. Not even a name…………….There is, however, one restriction on membership to my club: only women may belong. Men say ladies cannot keep a secret. But it is the men who cannot. My club is the biggest, best kept secret among all of Tokyo’s secrets.

The prose is sharp and crystal clear and her observation of the Japanese society spot on. For example, she describes how the neighbours keep an eye on each other, therefore making the Japanese society very safe.

My only criticism is that other characters, such as her husband and mother, could be better developed. The husband Ryu is a typical salary man, spending most of his time at his bank. He feels like a type rather than a vivid individual. And the mother, who prostitutes herself to raise her children after the death of her husband, must be an interesting and complex woman. But her portrait is too sketchy for us readers to develop a full picture of her.

Overall, it is a charming book, which fully demonstrated the author’s descriptive power and rich imagination. I enjoyed it immensely.