Cover of the regular edition
Cover of the low price “no gift” edition
In preparation for today’s photo-shoot, a bookshelf with all of Ms. Kitagawa’s favorite publications has been prepared for our perusal. Signaling towards it, she says, “I really love reading, because it leads me to such awakenings”. This is by no means a special collection. These are all her favorite stories that she’s loved since she was a child.
“The charm of it is that you get to use your own imagination to think up the sounds and colours.”
“I have a huge bookcase filled with all of my favorite books that my parents gave me. I started off with books like ‘Little Women’ and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, Shinichi Hoshi‘s ‘1001 Short Short Stories’ as well as Jiro Akagawa‘s ‘Three Sisters Investigate’ and ‘Calico Cat Holmes’. I used to have these books flanking each side of my shelf. Although I love music and movies, the charm of books is that you get to use your imagination and think up all the associated sounds and colors. Every day after my homework was done back in elementary school, I used to spend all my time reading in my room; it’s how I lived out all my girlhood fantasies (laughs).
“Back in junior high school I had two precious hours of commuting time to spend reading. My father is also an avid reader, and he used to lend me his books by Ayako Miura and Ayako Sono – we both love really ‘mature’ works.
“When I first read Ayako Miura’s ‘Shiokari Pass’ and learned about that kid’s sacrifice to stop the ‘runaway train’, it was shocking to me…it made me think if I were in the situation, if I would do the same thing. I was really impressionable in my early teens, and that story made a lasting impression on me. For instance, if you read about police organizations and criminals, you’ll understand a little bit about what that life is like…and you can learn about war from reading the works of Toyoko Yamazaki. My profession is to play the roles of others in life; so reading is invaluable to me, because it teaches me how it feels to be in the place of someone else. Reading helps me deeply connect and understand other people.
“Compared to what we had available to us as kids, nowadays there’s a huge range of things to chose from: there’s more to the young adult category than just light romance novels and science fiction.
“Some of my favorite authors are of course Haruki Murakami, Miyuki Miyabe and Takashi Atoda – all authors my parents read too. I’m very nostalgic about the authors I used to read, and the science fiction stuff I used to read as well – but you know, I think I read at a higher age level than I was supposed to. I especially loved Riku Onda‘s ‘The 6th Sayoko’ and ‘Lionheart’ – I read a lot of her works. Another book I love to read is ‘How to Make Delicious Coffee’ by Yuka Murayama. Right now I’m also reading ‘Kiroi Zou’ by Kanako Nishi. Of course, these days I can actually meet the authors I like to read…so that’s a big change.”
Are there any titles that you still love to read, even after your favorite genres and writing styles have evolved?
“I think the world of books is so full that you could never read it all during a lifetime. Since our time here is limited, I don’t want to regret not learning about something that I could have decided to know about. I love learning about human relationships especially. Favorites of mine on that subject are ‘Vitamin F’ and ‘Kiyoshiko’, both written by Kiyoshi Shigematsu and are really incredible. It bothers me to think that some people end up the protagonist of their own tragedies. But I remember reading her work when I was an elementary student, an uncle had recommended it; everyone in her stories is handicapped or struggling in some way, but they’re just trying to get by. It gives you the courage and compassion to live your own life well.”
“Reading was a means for me to fulfill a vague impatience.”
“When I was 17, I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ – it’s one of those books that you have to re-read many times before you begin to unravel it. Every time you read a book, you set a new yardstick for yourself to further your understanding of the thing you’re reading.
“I always think of the pieces I read like a violin. As you live, your skills improve. And so by living, you’re better able to interpret what’s around you. Maybe that’s a poor example, but my point is – if you don’t have knowledge and experience, your perceptions are limited. You have to experience both joy and sadness. I think when you’re a kid you’re like an empty container – There’s so many things you can fill yourself up with to deepen your understanding of the world around you. For me, reading was a way to fulfill a vague impatience I had with not understanding the world around me completely. Reading was my methodology for coping with my impatience.”
And now she’s 28 years old. You can check out more of her thoughts in “how to live as a woman”.
“When I look around at my friends today, they’re married – many of them have kids, some of them already have two kids. I don’t have any goals like that, so I don’t have the experience of marriage or childbirth as a result. There’s a hard balance to be struck between work and women’s happiness, so I prefer to live some parts of my life vicariously through others where I think it’s appropriate to maintain my overall happiness. Books are a way to do that. That’s why I always want to keep on reading books.”
Keiko’s Book Guide (“Navi”)
“I selected these five books because they were turning-points for me: I cherish them!”
“Shiokari Pass” by Ayako Miura: Based on a true story, this book is based on the events of a youth who sacrificed himself to save other passengers. “If it were me in this situation, it makes me think deeply if I’d have done the same things.”
“The 6th Sayoko” by Riku Onda: A third year student named Sayoko is chosen to participate in a high school stage game – a suspense classic. “It makes me remember my youth!”
“How to Make Delicious Coffee” series by Yuka Murayama: From an older cousin, this series depicts the triumphs of falling in love. “I was addited to this series in college. You want to cheer along with the protagonist all along!”
“Vitamin F” by Kiyoshi Shigematsu: Family, father, and others – all of the keywords in this book begin with the letter F. “The characters are so human; the family love and parent-child bonds shown in it draw me in.”
“The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger: “Every time I read it, something different about it catches my attention. It changes you every time!”
“I don’t want to regret only having one life, so I want to always keep reading.”
(Images from Itsumo: Keiko Kitagawa and Maegane. Translated by Miss Dream under their “Hire Us!” program. Paid for by this blog to the benefit of all English-speaking and English-learning Keiko fans).