Book review: 『霧のむこうのふしぎな町』by Sachiko Kashiwaba

霧のむこうのふしぎな町 (きりのむこうのふしぎなまち)
Title: 霧のむこうのふしぎな町 (きりのむこうのふしぎなまち)
First published: 1975
Published: 2004
Format: Soft cover
Page Count: 210
心躍る夏休み。6年生のリナは1人で旅に出た。霧の谷の森を抜け、霧が晴れた後、赤やクリーム色の洋館が立ち並ぶ、きれいでどこか風変わりな町が現れた。リナが出会った、めちゃくちゃ通りに住んでいる、へんてこりんな人々との交流が、みずみずしく描かれる。『千と千尋の神隠し』に影響を与えた、ファンタジー永遠の名作。

Illustrations: Hiromi Sugita 杉田比呂美

Aoitori (青い鳥文庫) is a collection of books for children. This book has complete furigana and targets primary school readers: 小学中級から. A lot of kanji words are written in hiragana only, the font is rather big, and there is a lot of space between the lines.

『霧のむこうのふしぎな町』 inspired Hayao Miyazaki who wanted to make a film adaptation of the novel. This project was dropped, but the novel influenced another story: Spirited Away.

Review

I decided to read 『霧のむこうのふしぎな町』 mainly to read something easy in Japanese, but the story was great. The book builds its own world and leaves a strong impression on the reader.

In the story, Rina is sent by her father to spend the Summer holidays with someone he knows in a place called 霧の谷. Rina arrives in a strange village, where she will have to find her place, work and make friends.

I really loved the atmosphere and the setting of the novel. The characters are interesting, and the story engaging, though it has a repetitive pattern that is typical of fairy tales or some stories for children. I found that the first half of the book was more engrossing than the rest, but I enjoyed reading it until the end.

There are some elements that are very similar to Spirited Away like the necessity for Risa to work in order to be able to stay in this world. However, the two stories are completely different, even though there are similar patterns here and there, do not expect to read another version of Spirited Away.

I chose this book to read something easy, but I ended up reading one of the major works of Japanese literature for children.

You can read the first pages on the publisher’s website (試し読み).