J-BOYS
 
 

By Shogo Oketani    
 Translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa
Published by Stone Bridge Press, July 2011
A novel about Kazuo Nakamoto, a fourth-grader growing up in Tokyo after the 1964 Olympics. Obsessed with hamburgers, U.S. sprinter Bob Hayes,  and American TV shows like Leave It to Beaver and Popeye, Kazuo also observes the lingering effects of World War II on his changing world. 
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Praise for J-Boys: Kazuo’s World

“We all have an attachment to our childhood, particularly to the narrow passage of adolescence that renders the malleable child into the semblance of an adult. The nostalgia for this lost state is particularly strong in Japan and has resulted in an entire literary genre, which has given us such classics as Kenji Miyazawa’s Matasaburo, The Wind God, Kojin Shimamura’s The Story of Jiro and Joji Tsubota’s The Four Seasons of Children. To this select and beloved group we now welcome Shogo Oketani’s ‘J-Boys,’ an episodic novel in interlocking stories about two brothers, Kazuo and Yasuo, their impending adolescence and their loss of the past as they enter the brave new world of post-Olympics Tokyo, 1965. Here, created with affection and skill is the whole lost world of the present generation, that childhood the memory of which still lives within us.” 

--Author and culture critic Donald Richie, author of The Inland Sea.


“Shogo Oketani's intimately detailed view of life through the eyes of young Kazuo captures the excitement of the 1960's westernization of Japan, while at the same time delivering the penetrating sorrow of an ancient culture slowly slipping away. Lyrics by the Beatles in a communal bath house, longing for Wimpy burgers while carrying ice cold tofu home in a bowl- the paradox is amusing, astringent...yet loving. Oketani’s gift of writing is deeply appreciated.” 

--Satsuki Ina, Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker, Children of the Camps and From a Silk Cocoon.
 

"J-Boys is Shogo Oketani's gift to us all, a deeply caring word-painting of a more innocent past, one that no longer exists, nor ever will again exist. What he's done here is wonderful, and something I understand intimately, having sailed those waters myself in Blue Skin of the Sea. Boys, boyhood, innocence and friendship, immersed in the rich landscape of Tokyo, 1965, a character in itself. This is a fascinating and endearing work and I am truly grateful to have experienced it. Highly recommended!" 

--Graham Salisbury, author of Under the Blood-Red Sun, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction 


"J-Boys gives readers a chance to time travel back to 1960s Tokyo through the eyes of nine-year-old Kazuo Nakamoto as he tries to make sense of the changes to his Shinagawa neighborhood and the world.  Rich with details of day-to-day Japan life, and enhanced with photographs and notes, J-Boys offers deep and lasting insights into family and school life, foods, seasonal rituals and the all-important sense of community." 

--Holly Thompson, author of Orchards, The Wakame Gatherers and Ash


"These stories are a sushi plate of delicious morsels, consisting of all the flavors: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami and hanbaagaa. Deftly told and delicately translated, these stories capture the crazy aspirations, the naughtiness, the tenderheartedness, and the irrepressible spirit of the J-boys. Whether belting out incomprehensible Beatles lyrics, choking down the dreaded miruku or playing "Gourd Island" in the public bath, these boys and these stories are full of humor,  mischief, tenderness, melancholy, and, most of all, hope." 

--Margi Preus, author of Heart of a Samurai, a Newbery Honor book


"I thoroughly enjoyed J-Boys, and it's exactly what I am looking for to make our historical fiction more global-minded. I learned so much about Japan, and I loved that the glossary information was right there on the page. My plan is to order 13 copies--12 for our bookroom so we can use them for book groups and then one for the library. The historical photographs were refreshing to see in an historical fiction novel as well. And, as an international school librarian, I'm glad to find a book incorporating social concerns that is not, like other offerings, focused solely on American issues." 

--Tara Ethridge, international school librarian


J-Boys celebrates the October 10 anniversary of the 
1964 Tokyo Olympics

The Olympics play a part in the novel, as Kazuo and his friends admire Bob Hayes and want to run like him.  Bob Hayes won the 100m on 15 October. The men's marathon was held on the 21st. The race started and finished at  National Stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and had its turnaround point in Chofu. It was won, famously, by Abebe Bikila in a repeat of his victory in Rome.


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