Cover Image: The Easy Life in Kamusari

The Easy Life in Kamusari

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City meets rural life. From the overcrowded densely populated streets of Yokohama, young Yuki is sent to Kamusari in the Japanese alps to work in forestry. First, he wants to get away, then he starts appreciating and finally loving it.
Modernity meets tradition. Japan which I visited twice in recent years appeared to be the most modern country I have ever seen. Going to Tokyo is a bit like going to the future, I read somewhere and I think there is something to that. I only mention a completely fascinating parking lot for bicycles we saw where hundreds of bikes are stored underneath a square and where there is an incredible transport system that sends your cycle down and picks it up again.
At the same time, Japan is a very traditional country with a very old culture and in Kamusari, the mountain around which our villagers live and work, this becomes visible.
If you like a coming-of-age novel, if you like to read sth about old fashions and secrets and how they have survived in a country like Japan, then this is your book.
I got an ACR from Netgalley of this one and am very grateful for that. Three stars from me since I wasn't enthusiastic although it is a pleasant book.
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"The Easy Life in Kamusari" ( 神去なあなあ日常), by Shion Miura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter, is the first in a duology that follows a recent high school graduate with no prospects, adjusting to his new forestry job and to life in a faraway Japanese village. 

Miura seems to have a knack for writing about jobs in detail without boring the reader. Her in depth description about what putting a dictionary together entails was fascinating in "The Great Passage", also translated by Winters Carpenter. The passion and diligence for one's work present in her English debut is also present here, in "The Easy Life in Kamusari". Similarly to the making of a dictionary, one does not give much thought to what a forestry job entails, and here also, Miura manages to paint an exciting picture of what seems to be a job not worth much thought. 

The description of the Kamusari region and village life is also fascinating.  Simple living, cooking, and Japanese tranditions and festivals were exciting, and made me even more excited for a trip to Japan. 

The only thing I wasn't a big fan of was the very simple, first-person writing. Was this writing style used on purpose, to accompany the simple life theme and to reflect the thoughts of a young man? Perhaps. Still, it didn't work so well for me as a reader, but it may as well work for other readers. 

Apart from the writing, I really enjoyed everything else about the novel. As I was reading it, I constantly thought how nice it would be to experience this novel more visually. Luckily, there is a movie adaptation called "Wood Job" (lol). I am looking forward to watching it, and I will definitely also read the second book in the duology, "Kamusari Tales Told at Night", coming out later this year. Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Crossing for the e-arc in exchange for my honest review. This book has been out since 2021...I have just been really bad about my deadlines. 🙃
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THE EASY LIFE IN KAMUSARI starts off by infuriating me as Yuki, a young man fresh out of high school, gets told by his parents that they found a job for him in a remote village and now he has to go there, bye-bye, don't come back for at least a year because we want to dote on our grandchild!

And other characters are okay with this.

Moreover, the job they got him is forestry, and he's mentored by the sort of person who gives you equipment and tells you to get on with it, without actually, y'know, training you.

Absolutely infuriating.

The story does get better as Yuki settles into his new life and makes connections with the villagers in Kamusari, eventually actually feeling like he belongs for the 1st time in his life. It's a touching story, albeit one where the catalyst was outright neglect and abuse.

There's also a lot of spirituality present in the story, examining how Shinto beliefs still permeate the lives of many in rural communities, but also strongly hinting that yeah, the gods are real, it's not just backwater yokels believing in silly things. I really enjoyed that aspect. It never says things outright, so it's easy to dismiss, but just as easy to believe.

THE EASY LIFE IN KAMUSARI is a decent light book if you want something quick and very Japanese, though be warned, the opening parental issues may well touch the same nerve with you as it did with me. Still, it was enjoyable enough for me to finish, and I'm curious enough about the sequel to want to read that too.
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⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was a really sweet little story about a young man forced by his parents to spend a year in a small village working in the forestry industry. Over that year, the author introduces us to a cast of quirky villagers. A beautiful and serene setting, and Japanese customs, myths, and celebrations. A simply written book that packs a heartwarming punch. My only niggle is that it ends abruptly. There is some confusion on if this is book 1 in a series, or just a standalone. So perhaps there is more to come for Yuki Hirano and the gang of villagers? 

**ARC Via NetGalley**
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This novel is something that readers everywhere really need in the 21st century, a novel about both nature and human nature, about the connections and ties between humans and the natural. We live in the era of great disconnection from nature, from the genuine and the traditional. We are constantly trying to forget and bury them by living modern lives in big cities, without being able to see forests, rivers and mountains daily. Seeing nature and being surrounded by nature is an unusual occurrence for most of us. Not only are we disconnected from nature, we are disconnected from other people as well, we form superficial relationships mostly only when we need them. The greater connection to a tradition and a community no longer exists.
And so we find ourselves lost and isolated in big cities without even knowing what we could be/are missing. This is exactly what happened with our main character, the narrator, a nineteen-year-old young man, Yuki. After finishing high school, with no interests or plans for the future, Yuki leads an indifferent life, unsure what to do with himself. But, without any warning or agreement, his parents enrol him in a forestry training programme in a secluded, remote forest village Kamusari, far away from civilisation. He keeps learning about working in forestry, in the woods and the mountains, getting accustomed to small-town living and communicating with its inhabitants. Life in this secluded village is not at all boring, as it might seem, there are unexplained and unexpected occurrences that seem to be happening.
And that is how his new, different life begins. Without expecting or wanting it, we can see him change from a frivolous boy to a young man who tries to understand the world and his place in it. Who makes an effort to observe and analyse not only the woods, the rivers and thickets, the mountains that suddenly surround him, but gets a better glimpse into human nature as well. The realness around him makes him make more effort himself – in everything.
He doesn’t have a grudge against his mother or that his family is prioritising his nephew, or that they made a choice for his future. He doesn’t feel lazy any more, he connects with people he is with and tries to analyse and understand them. He learns not only about his new job and works hard at it, he learns everything about forestry, forests and trees, but he tries to understand nature that he found himself amongst. He takes more care, he has more patience and more joy in everything he does however simple it might be.
The easy life refers to the very opposite of easy: the tough, hard life when living in the countryside, living with and against nature at the same time. There is a lot of hard work, hardship, physical labour, but the people of Kamusari have a different way of seeing life, worldview, a different approach to living. They are easy going, they come to terms with everything that comes their way, however hard it may be, they take it easy, they take it slow, they just live and don’t judge or complain. Death is a normal part of life, so are natural disasters and every other hardship. They are used to it all, there is no point in making a fuss about it all.
When a son of a wealthy master goes missing the eldest in the village whispers he was “spirited away” (and safely found). In connection to the grand fall festival, that is to follow, strange things begin to happen. We begin to glimpse into what might be happening, only one thing is sure: there is a secret life of the village known only to its inhabitants. Our narrator is sceptical, but goes along with it.
At the grand fall festival, once in every forty-eight years, the village has the right to cut down one of the oldest, thousand year old trees in the sacred mountain followed by a ritual. The mountain is the place where the god Oyamazumi-san, the god of Kamusari and his two daughters live. Not only is the mountain a sacred mountain filled with magic, it is a whole character in the novel. Magnificent, ancient, unlike anything else.
Narration is in the first person and our young narrator writes his story about his past year in Kamusari. The narrator’s voice is unconventional, boyish, the writing is accordingly simple and easy. It is obvious he is not an experienced writer nor a very educated person.
He addresses his writing and his story to his readers, adding that he is unaccustomed to writing and storytelling.
I find the choice of a teenage, inexperienced narrator very refreshing, not only that but a very old, renaissance approach; he directs his words to the readers, apologising for his failings in the text. I love the combination of the old and the new, as the same mix flows together throughout the novel. The novel is not only addressed to his readers, but the symbiosis with the reader helps him in writing. Such a great meta play between the fictional narrator acting as the real author of the novel and the real readers acting as ideal fictional readers. Miura opens and closes with the narrator’s words addressing the reader giving the whole story more context.
The highlight of this novel are the beautiful atmospheric descriptions of life in nature: the woods, the mountains, the village and the people. It describes the simplicity of life in a village, a life lived connected to nature, the slowness of it, the basicness, but a life that is richer. The concerns of people are simpler, but more genuine, there are still miscommunications among them, infidelity, hard work, death, but it shows us what human nature is. There is room for everything in this life, besides physical labour there is room for the mystical, spiritual, religious and even for love.
It is a feel-good, slow-paced, enjoyable, optimistic but realistic bildungsroman, lifelike, but sweet. It was a wonderful experience and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.
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This was a bit whimsical for me, but I now understand it’s really a children’s/young adult novel, and at that level it works well. Bit more problematic for an adult reader, especially with the depiction of women, unless you enjoy charming, inconsequential reads. It’s the coming-of-age story of a young Japanese boy, Yuki Hirano, who is sent by his parents when he graduates from high school on a year-long forestry training scheme in a remote part of Japan. He goes reluctantly but almost inevitably the way of life and the work in the small village wins him round and he finds a connection to the trees. That’s no spoiler really as it’s obvious from the start there’s going to be a happy ending. It’s a pleasant enough read, but ultimately doesn’t amount to much.
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This was an enjoyable novel about a young man finding meaning as woodworker in a small mountain village called Kamusari.
I liked the mystical and cultural elements and legend of the village and it was almost like going on holiday reading this book.
There is a tiny bit of a romance aspect, but I wished that this would've been developed a bit further.

I can recommend this book to anyone who loves Japanese literature on the lighter side.

Thank you Netgalley and amazon crossing for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A cute, precious little Japanese countryside romance.

The scenery pulls you to travel to Mie, and the spirit of the characters is a quick lesson in much of what makes up what many see as the spirit of Japan itself. 

Recommended
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When teenager Yuki Hirano’s parents send him to a forestry training program far from the city (or even cell signal), it feels like a punishment. But as he learns his way around the forest, gets to know the trees, and discovers mountain legends, he finds much to love about Mt. Kamusari.

There's a lot to love about this book: facts about forestry, the lovable citizens of Kamusari, and the unique traditions, to name a few. I occasionally struggled with the tone of Yuki's narration (he's definitely a teenager). But overall, it was a quick and easy read that took me far from home to a strange and endearing little mountain town.
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I am sorry I did not like this more. Although the Japanese atmosphere, I ultimately found this novel not interesting enough. I found the characters rather flat and the plot somewhat predictable. Not all literature has to be innovative, but I need at least some stimulation or surprise. I did enjoy the Japanese atmosphere - which was one of the main reasons I requested this book - but the sections on the lumber and logging industry could have been done in a more interesting way.
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An average student, Yuki Hirano plans to work as a temp when he graduates from high school. His parents, however, against his knowledge, enroll him in a forestry training program in a remote mountain village where the most popular saying is “naa naa” (take it easy/relax). When he arrives in Kamusari, he learns there is no cell service or internet, nor are there any shops or night life and that many in the community view him, an outsider, with suspicion. 

Working with a small team, Yuki is slow and awkward, unable to perform even the work the eldest member of the team, at 75, can do flawlessly. Yet, as he spends time in Kamusari, he becomes attached to the mountains, forest, and people, and gains competence in his work which equates to greater self-confidence and contentment, and a growing commitment to others.

Yuki is an endearing character, and the secondary characters are also charming. Although set in contemporary times, the people of Kamusari value tradition and ritual, and these customs were so interesting, particularly the festival for the mountain god. Author Shion Miura conducted extensive research to depict forestry practices, and I loved how Yuki transformed from a city kid into someone who loved, respected, and learned from nature.

THE EASY LIFE IN KAMUSARI (translated from the Japanese) is a sweet and touching coming of age story, but it also has some very funny moments as well as suspenseful scenes where Yuki—and others—faced extreme danger.
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I was very interested in the subject matter: forestry in Japan. While it is a pleasant read, and there are several insights on the logging industry and how it works, Where the book excels is its description of mountain village life. The lifestyle was beautiful and quaint, and their traditions were admirable. This is a great book for those nostalgic for a time when this life still existed, and for those places where it still does exist in the small pockets of Japan's countryside. And you'll pick up a few tips on what its like to live and work in the timber industry in Japan.

I wasn't prepared, however, to be reading a YA, middle-grade novel. Coming-of-Age is fine, but I can't understand why there is no indication that this book is really for a teen market before one starts reading. How many times can a mature adult read dialogue such as "No figgin' way!" and still take the main character seriously? Once or twice at the beginning, to show the immaturity of the character is fine, but when he's still iterating words like this at the end, the reader feels frustrated at his immaturity. The entire last scene of the book was the type of exaggeration that would be extremely funny to a child, but hard to swallow for an adult.

I further felt that the book missed out on taking some themes a little deeper to bring more relevance to the story. For example, the "kafun"pollen/hayfever season is referred to and attributed to the mass-planting of cedar trees, yet this is treated as a "normal" event rather than the effect of destructive man-made resculpting of the forests for financial gain that it really is. This point could have easily been connected to the more spiritual body of the story, the promise to the mountain gods, and the balance of nature. Especially in this day and age when reigning in destruction of nature is so important, I think it is one of the duties of writers to not turn a blind eye to these issues.

Overall a pleasant, easy read with a few frustrations throughout.
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“This is the first time in my life I ever worked so hard on something that it physically changed me. Maybe if I’d studied hard enough in high school to get callouses from writing, I wouldn’t have been sent here in the first place.”

Yuki Hirano never amounted to much in his studies, Not having a clear path in life he assumed after graduating high school he would work as a “Freeter” (someone who survives off of taking temporary work). When his mother signs him up for a government sponsored forestry program - with no choice, he is shipped off to Kamusari Village located in western Japan. How will Yuki, a Yokohama (big city) native, adjust to village life? 

The Easy Life in Kamusari reads like a slice of life book told from Yuki’s point of view, detailing his transformation from “city boy” to “mountain man.”  The Author Shion Miura put a lot of research into this novel, on forestry practice and also the unique Shinto traditions from the area that were mentioned. I loved experiencing the magic of Kamusari from Yuki’s point of view and just as he did began to fall in love with the village and its unique characters. This really kindled my nostalgia living in the middle of nowhere in northern Japan. 

On the translation aspect I think Juliet Winters Carpenter did an excellent job on keeping the original charm of Yuki’s City boy point of view when translating into english. She did a great job to make the novel easy to read through even for those who might not be so versed in Japanese culture. Of course, there may be some parts you will want to pause and look deeper into something, but at the same time if you don’t want to be bothered, it won’t impede your understanding of the main evenings in the story.

If you are looking for a light “slice of life” read which features the magic of the Japanese countryside I would recommend this book!
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“Life here strikes me as pretty unusual.” The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura. Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

4 stars. I really do enjoy reading about Japan, fiction or otherwise. 

We have Yuki, fresh out of high school, no ambition or direction to speak of.  Di his parents enroll him in a forestry training program in the remote mountain village of Kamusari, where everyone says to take it easy. 

The program is hard (Yuki tried to run away), the people are characters (that includes Yuki), and their festivals are unusual. Later though,  Yuki found that the easy life there grew on him. 

Really enjoyed this escape to Japan.  Not sure but it looks like there’ll be book 2 so another thing it looks forward to. 

Thank you Amazon Crossing and NetGalley for the arc. I enjoyed it a lot.
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I really enjoyed this coming-of-age tale of Yuki, sent off by his parents after finishing school to train to study forestry deep in the mountains. Deprived of his mobile phone, and finding himself working with a motley crew of oddballs, Yuki is initially desperate to leave but, over time, slowly learns to adapt to his new surroundings and way of life. 

A charming a heartwarming read, if this is indeed the first in a series then I look forward to more. 4.5 stars.

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this title.)
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An Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura is the first in her planned two-volume Forest series to appear in English, with the second to be released in the U.S. in May 2022.  

Written as a memoir of a first year working in a remote area of Mie Prefecture on Honshu, An Easy Life in Kamusari is a teenage boy’s coming of age story.   Not cut out for university study, Yuki Hirono, a recent high school graduate in Yokohama, finds himself an unwilling trainee on a forestry team, surrounded by trees, with no teenage companionship and no place to go even if he had friends to go accompany him. 

Living with Yoki, a member of the team, Yoki’s wife Miho, and Granny Shige, Yuki faces isolation and hard work that prompt a harrowing escape attempt before he accepts his lot and gradually begins to learn about the strange, puzzling, and sometimes dangerous village and forestry lifestyle.  

Teenage readers may find Yuki’s perils and his attraction to the only young, single woman in the area of most interest, but Miura’s depiction of local dialect and customs, festivals, religious beliefs, superstitions, and forestry work through the changing seasons drew me in to An Easy Life in Kamusari and make me look forward to its sequel, Kamusari Tales Told at Night. 

Although setting her story in a fictional village, Miura researched the forestry industry extensively, drawing upon books, forestry organizations, and nearly three dozen individuals in her effort to tell a convincing and engaging story of a vanishing lifestyle.  In “Acknowledgements,” she comments, “I am deeply grateful to all those who spoke with passion about their experiences in the mountains and generously shared their knowledge and love of forestry and trees. Any deviation from fact in the novel, whether intentional or otherwise, is of course my own responsibility.”  Between her facts and fiction, readers will come away informed and entertained. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Crossing for an Advance Reader copy of Juliet Winters Carpenter’s highly recommended English translation of Shion Miura’s novel.
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3.5 stars

I started reading this story without any expectations and I'm surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
It has a really nice vibe to read, I found the writing easy and fluid, even though there were several parts about trees, nature, and culture that I didn't fully understand it didn't affect how much I enjoyed this story.
I would describe it as a story about a boy who goes to a "small town" to work with something he doesn't want and ends up falling in love with the place and the people.
I liked that the book is written as if the main character was writing a diary/book for the readers, I fell in love with the place together with the main character as he's getting to know this village and its inhabitants and their way of life.
It was a great reading experience I highly recommend!
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I requested this short novel from Netgalley purely on the basis that it was from a Japanese author, I knew nothing about it or its author.
When I realized this was a coming of age story, a topic that isn't really my cup of tea, I was a little disappointed but there was nothing to lose, so I read it.

And honestly, even if it's not a revolutionary book, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The style is the one a character this age would use to write his diary, a young man who is used to live in the city with all that it entails, and finds himself practically kidnapped to be sent to a remote village deep in the mountain forest. Aghast at first, completely out of his depth, without a cell phone (can you imagine the horror ?!), he gradually gets used to the dialect, the villagers' habits, the hard work with older men, and the strange native customs that includes... gods.

It's easy to read, the characters are lively, there isn't much of a plot but I didn't care, I got caught up in the love of nature and the interactions of all these people that you gradually grow very fond of. This is a discovery that I'm very happy about, it was a breath of fresh air in a period where we badly need it !

It was released recently (november 2nd) so I'm a little late for the review, but if you need a story that's easy going, fun and different, you definitely should read it.
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...From a narrative perspective, the rest of Yuki’s story is fairly predictable. For weeks after he arrives in Kamusari, he wants to escape. The city-slicker protagonist has often-comic run-ins with his country neighbors. Spring comes and he falls in love. During the heat of summer, he begins to commit himself to his work. In autumn, traditional festivals teach him the value of ritual and superstition in his rural community. As the snow again begins to fall, he finally achieves a sense of belonging.

For readers, especially non-Japanese ones, the introduction of a new professional world is part of the appeal of any work of ganbaru literature; The Easy Life in Kamusari’s charm lies in Miura’s careful, well-researched picture of life as a Japanese forestry worker. (Several pages of acknowledgements and references at the end of the book testify to how thoroughly she researched her subject.) In one scene, Yuki narrates learning to prune giant cypress trees to help prevent forest fires...

See the full review at Asian Review of Books
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The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura and translated into English by Juliet Winters Carpenter ticks off a lot of boxes on various reading challenges:
✅diverse author
✅book translated into English
✅set in Japan
✅coming of age story
✅book with a green cover
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I am sure there are others, too, so add this to your TBR! It is such a good, simple story about a young man who’s parents sign him up for a forestry program as soon as he graduates from high school. He gets assigned to the small remote village of Kamusari where he can’t use his cell phone, there is no internet and spotty tv reception. There are very few people his age, no shopping centers or restaurants. What Kamusari does have is a beautiful mountain and lots and lots of trees. It has tradition, rituals and a philosophy to “take it easy”.
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It is such a different type of life for Yuki and without much other entertainment, he writes this story I’m about his year as a trainee in the forestry department.
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Even though the forestry industry is big where so live in Arkansas. I knew very little about what all they do. It was interesting to read about the day to day work Yuki and his team did high on a mountain. My favorite part was all the traditions the villagers had, but the spark of romance was a fun addition too.
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This sweet book is a very quick read, I read it through in an afternoon and felt like I had been swept away to a far off Forrest. It is available tomorrow!

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