Starting their day by wrapping themselves in scarves and wearing Uniqlo Heat Tech for what they believed would be a typical Japanese winter afternoon, HAJET Book Club members soon found themselves removing articles of clothing (some might think inappropriately) while expressing their surprise at the unexpected heat with comments like, “It’s so hot” and “This winter is a lot warmer than last year.” Little did we know that the communal reaction toward the weather would inevitable result in a timely jinx and the following week would in fact be the official start of winter weather for Kobe. After meeting at the East Exit of Motomachi JR Station, eight JETs and one Japanese translator made their way up Tor Road to Ripples Café and Restaurant.

out front              Surrounded by not one, but two concert venues, Ripples remains a quiet, spacious café during the daytime hours. The front definitely has the standard café feel, with more tables meant for two people and an array of Christmas decorations due to the time of year. The back of the café is suitable for big groups where the 9 of us found ourselves. Due to this set up we were also able to effectively communicate with one another around the table. It’s the first time in my experience at a meeting that we held conversation largely as a group, listening to everyone’s opinion in turn. Though it was nice and accommodated the group extremely well, nothing remarkable stood out about the café. The food and drinks were average and like most Japanese restaurants the service was spot on.

The group largely held a positive reaction to Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls, but much like Ripples Café, it didn’t blow anyone out of the water. For some, the serial killer’s ability to time travel made events in the narrative hard to follow, but many felt that Beukes compensated by creating descriptive and engaging stories for her victims. Her goal, as expressed in many interviews, was to write something that wasn’t simply “torture-porn” and many at the meeting believed she succeeded. Such stories connected us to both the horror and frustration these women had for being targeted due to their talent and potential. In short, they were killed because they shined. Beukes was applauded for her historical research and many thought the detail written on Chicago throughout the different decades was impressive, especially given the fact that she is from South Africa.

After food and drinks had been consumed and conversation was winding down, the group decided on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Ellen Forney for HAJET Book Club 8. Initially recommended because the book is banned from libraries in a number of American schools, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is also a winner of the National Book Award. Alexie tells the story of Native American teenager Arnold Spirit Jr., also known as “Junior”, a 14-year-old student and hopeful cartoonist. Arnold initially lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, but eventually decides to go to an all-white public high school in the off-reservation town of Reardan, Washington. Thus we follow Junior as he struggles to find a future while maintaining his culture. The next meeting will be held Sunday, Jan 18 at 2:00 p.m. in Sannomiya. If you are interested, please join the Facebook event, we hope you can make it.

group

The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes

3 stars

 

 

Sean Mulvihill