Imagine leaving high school in a bustling metropolis and being sent deep into the mountains as a trainee forester. And—horror of horrors—having your mobile phone disabled on the day you arrive.
This is what happens to Yuki Hirano, an eighteen-year-old Japanese boy, who freely admits that study is not his thing. Well, life in the remote Kamusari district isn’t his thing either. At least, not at the beginning of Yuki’s story. He doesn’t want to work in the forest; he just wants to go home, but escape eludes him. As Yuki’s account of his year in Kamusari unfolds, however, noticeable changes take place. The young protagonist/narrator gradually grows in ability and confidence as he works alongside the experienced foresters in the Nakamura Lumber crew and starts to settle into village life.
At the same time, Yuki reveals his fears, doubts and insecurities to the reader as he transitions, not only to a new job and lifestyle, but adulthood. Life in Kamusari is tough, the job challenging, and winning the heart of the beautiful schoolteacher, Nao, far from easy. Plus, Yuki is the outsider, the boy from the city with everything to prove. But prove himself he does when the forest is engulfed by fire, and when he later joins the local men in a terrifying ride down the mountainside on a giant log.
The Easy Life in Kamusari is far from ordinary. As well as Yuki’s personal narrative and development, award-winning Japanese novelist Shion Miura introduces the reader to the myriad techniques used to manage the forest, and the spirituality that reigns in the mountains. Readers will also delight in the many cultural details, such as food, clothing and architecture, and language.
This is a thoroughly readable coming-of-age story, populated with a generous cast of characters, sprinkled with contemporary observations and humor, yet rooted in the timeless traditions of the forest. Little wonder that it features on the Global Literature in Libraries 2022 Translated YA Book Prize shortlist.
If you like the sound of The Easy Life in Kamusari, heads-up that book 2 in the series, Kamusari Tales Told at Night, is due for release in May 2022.
The Easy Life in Kamusari
Written by Shion Miura
Translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Published by Amazon Crossing, 2021
Reviews: Asian Review of Books, Kirkus, The Japan Times
Awards: GLLI 2022 Translated YA Book Prize shortlist
You can buy a copy of The Easy Life in Kamusari here.*
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Laura Taylor is the founder of world children’s literature blog Planet Picture Book. She is a small business copywriter, NAATI-certified translator of French into English and member of AUSIT. When she is not writing, she is reading, and chasing after her two young children. She tweets regularly @plapibo and posts at www.planetpicturebook.com