One of the best souvenir I have brought with me from Japan is “This Scheming World” (original name “Seken Munasanyo“ – ISBN 0-8048-3339-7 outside Japan), an amazing collection of short stories published in 1692 by Ihara Saikaku and today considered one of the classics of Japanese Literature.
The author, Ihara Saikaku, was born in Osaka in 1642 as Hirayama Togo, a successful merchant that gave up its business and started travelling and writing after he lost his wife and daughter. He is considered the creator of the ukiya-zoshi genre of Japanese prose, where urban lifestyle of Edo-period Japan (1600 – 1867) is usually described through realistically portrayed characters, customs and events.
‘This Scheming World’ is a collection of stories about New Year’s Eve, a delicate period for the Japanese people living in the 17th Century since it was custom to balance all debits and credits for the year in the last days of December. In this particular period of the year, the drama of life with the contrast between creditors and debtors, their strategies to collect or avoid to pay the involved monies, reaches its climax and it is excellently represented by the author.
The book is amazingly current and provide the reader with a surprisingly clear understanding of the medieval Japan. Reading stories of ancient Tokyo (Edo in those days), Nara and Kyoto where we have been during our stay in Japan made the book even more exciting and interesting.
Definitely recommended even though you might need to get used to some Japanese unit of measure before reading it like “momme”, “bu” and others that I have found in a Wikipedia dedicated page.