Book review: Picture books peeking into Japanese culture

This week I would like to share two picture books both focusing on interesting aspects of Japanese culture. It is the first time this blog is featuring picture books, which despite its lack of words belong to a genre that could be universally appreciated.

Book cover of MisaoForemost would be a lovely series of a grandma and her cat by Japanese photographer Miyoko Ihara. It is such an adorable series where readers get to witness the close relationship between Misao, the old granny, and Fukuramru, her cat. Ihara wrote since her grandmother Misao found the multi-colored eye Fukumaru in her shed eight years ago, both of them have develop a strong bond with each other.
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My grandma’s stories: Finale

(This is the final post of my year-long series recounting stories from my grandmother about her life and the old days in Singapore. For past entries, links could be found at the end of the post. Scroll down to view more pictures.)

After a whole year of recording down bits and bobs of my grandmother’s stories, I am a little sad to announce the end of the series.

‘My grandma’s stories’ documents Ah Ma’s, a name my family members call her, lifetime worth of experiences,  If you are interested to read previous stories, scroll down to the bottom for links to individual postsAh Ma and her grandchildrenIn this final entry, I would like to share some personal memories of Ah Ma, who spent her twilight years bringing my siblings and I up.
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Book review: Please look after mother

“Please Look After Mother” is a sad book through and through, with every page steeped with such immense sorrow that even myself, a self-professed unemotional reader, would declare this translated novel by South Korean writer Shin Kyung-sook an absolute tear-jerker.

This is a story about a mother who one day disappeared at a train station and how her family coped with the loss. It is so touching that my best advice when reading it would be to have packets of tissues on hand.

“When you first heard Mother had gone missing, you angrily asked why nobody from your large family went to pick her and Father up at Seoul Station.

‘And where were you?’

Me? You clammed up. You didn’t find out about Mother’s disappearance until she’d been gone four days. You all blamed each other for Mother going missing, and you all felt wounded.”

At times, the novel felt like a long eulogy documenting the loss of Mother, who despite being the anchor of the family was taken for granted and always ended up as one of her children’s lowest priorities.
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My grandma’s stories: Ah Ma is a child bride

(This is the sixth part of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. In the last post, I did a quick update about some difficulties writing this series. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth part of this series)

Ah Ma, looking really shocked, poses with my sister who just graduated this week!

My grandma is a child bride. I learnt about this only around a week ago after living with her more than 20 years under the same roof.

You can imagine my absolute astonishment to know that my Ah Ma, who was born, bred and raised in Singapore, lived under such a traditional, antiquated system.

“I was sold by my birth parents to my in-laws at a very young age,” Ah Ma, whose last name is Choo, said. “I was then only about a month old, according to my mother-in-law.”

As mentioned in my last post, grandma is not exactly the best storyteller, but never did I realize that all the family stories had told me thus far referred to her in-laws, whose last name is See. In another words, her in-laws were my great-grandparents.

I found out when I started probing Ah Ma about her relationship with granddad. Only then I understood there was never really a courtship or much romance to talk about because they grew up with each other, destined to marry later on in life.

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My grandma’s stories: Work after war. Ship ahoy!

(This is the fourth part of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. In the last post, grandma talked about life during World War Two. Click here for the first, second, third and fourth part)

As British troops returned to Singapore after the Second World War only to be warmly welcomed by the locals, grandma found a new job at the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) Terminal in Tanjong Pagar.She was 17 years old when she started work there and never stopped until she turned 60.

“I worked at the PSA all my life until we moved house because being illiterate, I didn’t know how to take a bus there,” Ah Ma said while laughing.

During her long stint at the PSA, she met new people who shared with her interesting experiences.

One of them is a Taiwanese named Chew Kiat, captain of a commercial ship that transported cement and construction materials from Taiwan to Singapore. Continue reading