First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.


In Asleep, Banana Yoshimoto, the internationally best-selling author of Kitchen, gives us three dazzling stories of young women bewitched into a spiritual sleep. One, mourning for a lost lover, finds herself sleepwalking at night. Another, who has embarked on a relationship with a man whose wife is in a coma, finds herself suddenly unable to stay awake. A third finds her sleep haunted by a woman whom she was once pitted against in a love triangle. Sly and mystical as a ghost story, with a touch of Kafkaesque surrealism, Asleep is a delight.

Finally, it is the weekend, the day of the week many of us are looking forward to! Time to dress down and don comfortable articles of clothing. I do hope that you are ending the week on a high note. I hope it went well for everyone. At the office, it was rather uneventful as we completed our reports way ahead of the deadline. If the week had not gone your way, I hope that you will spend the weekend recovering or resting. I hope that everyone spends their weekend completing tasks that are not related to their job or pursuing what they are passionate about. For me, it is going to be the typical weekend spent reading books, watching random videos, and, well, catching up on my writing. Nothing new there.

As has been customary in the past three years, I will be capping the work week first with a First Impression Friday update; one more thing to do before the weekend I guess. Oh, I just realized that this is going to be my last First Impression Friday update for May. This also means that my two-month venture across Japanese literature, one of my favorite parts of the world of literature, is about to come to an end. While I spent April reading the works of Japanese writers whose oeuvre I have not previously explored, I spent May reading the works of more familiar Japanese writers, at least to me, such as Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, Natsume Sōseki, Yōko Tawada, Keigo Higashino, Shūsaku Endō, and Yasunari Kawabata.

I will be capping my journey with two works by female Japanese writers, starting with Banana Yoshimoto’s Asleep; the other one is Hiromi Kwakami’s People From My Neighbourhood. Asleep is my second book by Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto rose to global recognition with her novella, Kitchen. Her debut novel, Kitchen was also my first book by Yoshimoto which I read back in 2021. Meanwhile, Asleep was originally published in 1989 as 白河夜船, just a year after the resounding success of Kitchen. However, it took over a decade before the book was translated into English as Asleep (2000), with a translation by Michael Emmerich.

Rather than a straightforward narrative, Yoshimoto provided three interconnected stories. The first one was Night & Night’s Travelers, which I just completed prior to writing this update. The story was narrated by 22-year-old Shibami. At the onset, the focus of the story was Shibami’s older brother Yoshihiro. We learn that Yoshihiro was in a relationship with Sarah, an American. Yoshihiro then moved to Boston; Sarah’s parents were against their relationship. Yoshihiro promptly returned to Japan after he learned about Sarah’s indiscretions. Yoshihiro was no saint himself. Upon his return to Japan, Yoshihiro took Mari as his lover; Mari is his cousin who realized she has always been in love with him.

Shibami’s life turned upside down when her brother suddenly died in a car accident. Grieving the death of her older brother, memories started flooding Shibami. She also started sleepwalking, even walking through the snow barefooted. While she never talked about herself, Shibami managed to lay out her psychological profile through her perceptions and impressions on a variety of subjects, primarily around love and death. These are subjects that Yoshimoto also tackled in her debut novella so this kind of feels like a familiar territory. As always, Yoshimoto did a splendid job of conveying emotions through her prose and unflinching gaze.

As I move into the second story, I am expecting that it would be the same. I am looking forward to the same somber voice. But I am also looking forward to more of Yoshimoto’s riveting storytelling. More than this, I’m interested to read how Yoshimoto weaves these three stories together. Will they be fragmented and disconnected, loosely woven together by a common theme? Or will these stories converge down the road? How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy weekend everyone!