Kamusari Tales Told at Night is the second book in Shion Miura’s young adult Forest Series. Narrator Yuki Hirano picks up the story around six months after The Easy Life in Kamusari ended. If you haven’t read the first book, not to worry. A sizable chunk of the opening chapter is a recap of the story thus far, which saw eighteen-year-old Yuki sent from the city to Kamusari, deep in the Japanese mountains, to work with a lumber crew.
The structure of Kamusari Tales Told at Night is different to the first book in the series. Yuki refers to this installment as “a record” rather than a novel and states his intentions clearly from the outset: his aim is to write about the villagers of Kamusari, legends, and other items he comes across. The ensuing seven chapters are a chatty patchwork of stories and observations, loosely bound together by Yuki’s ongoing crush on Nao, a local schoolteacher.
Some readers may find the will-they-won’t-they romantic thread of interest; I did not. My attention was captured, however, by the tales of the mountains. Through Yuki’s account, we learn of a snake god and chieftain’s daughter and how Kamusari came to be. A later chapter shines the spotlight on Inari, a fox deity, who villagers (including Yuki and Nao) call on to help them find lost objects. There are also fascinating insights into a quite different Christmas feast (at least for me). The festive menu in Kamusari includes chirashizushi, sea bream and hijiki seaweed, among other local delicacies.
As in the previous book, Shion Miura shows the deep connection her characters have to the forest, and Yuki’s growing attachment to it. She also focuses on the enduring bonds between her characters and their willingness to welcome a relative newbie like Yuki into their fold. Special mention to Granny Shige, whose words and actions surprise and delight throughout the book!
If you’re looking for a young adult novel with a structured plot and narrative, Kamusari Tales Told at Night is perhaps not the choice for you. For gentle, sometimes humorous, insights into life, love and legend deep in the mountains of Japan, it’s a uniquely interesting pick.
You can read my review of The Easy Life in Kamusari, the first book in the Forest Series, here.
Kamusari Tales Told at Night
Written by Shion Miura
Translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Published by Amazon Crossing, 2022
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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 @plapibo and posts at www.planetpicturebook.com