SBP Blog

'Oh, Tama!' by Mieko Kanai available now

Michael Palmer - Monday, April 29, 2019

We are proud to announce that, Oh, Tama!: A Mejiro Novel by Mikeo Kanai, translated by Tomoko Aoyama and Paul McCarthy is now available from your favorite book retailer. 

Grab a copy of the book here:

Oh, Tama! describes the haphazard lives of Natsuyuki Kanemitsu and his loosely connected circle of dysfunctional acquaintances and family. Natsuyuki is prevailed upon by his friend Alexandre, an occasional porn-film actor, to adopt the very pregnant cat Tama, who gives birth and remains throughout the novel as a silent observer of her human hosts. Further complications arise surrounding the mystery of who the father of Alexandre's sister Tsuneko's unborn child is, with Tsuneko (a bar owner) happy to collect money from anyone who may be responsible.

One of these possible dads turns out to be Natsuyuki's half-brother, abandoned and forgotten long ago as easily as Tama has parted with her kittens. A "fast and comedic novel," Oh, Tama! plays out against a backdrop of cramped apartments and cheap food and drink where everyone seems to have an opinion on film, photography, and fashionable French art theory. It is part of the author's esteemed series of "Meijiro" novels, named after the northwest area of Tokyo that so richly informs their urbanity and outlook.


Mieko Kanai (b. 1947) is a prominent Japanese writer and essayist, and an admired reviewer of books and film, known for her scathing and perceptive wit. She read widely in fiction and poetry from an early age. In 1968 she received the Gendaishi Techo Prize for poetry. In 1979 she received the Izumi Kyoka Prize, and in 1998 the current work, Oh, Tama!(Tama ya), received the Women's Literature Award. She has a devoted following in Japan and has built up her own world of fiction with a sensual style.

Tomoko Aoyama is Senior Lecturer in Japanese at the University of Queensland. Paul McCarthy has taught Japanese literature in the United States and comparative literature in Japan and Korea for forty years.


"[Mieko Kanai is] not interested in describing objects; she wants to accentuate their amorphous nature."

—Sofia Samatar, Paris Review

“Kanai's stories remind me of Italo Calvino or Jorge Luis Borges, with their stylistically vague flatness yet strong character-driven underpinnings… I highly recommended them and look forward to more.”

—Todd Shimoda, Asian Review of Books

Reviews of Oh, Tama!

“A comic masterpiece in a brilliant translation that captures the verbal acrobatics of the original with wit and warmth. Oh, Tama! made me laugh so much people were staring at me in the subway. One of the funniest books I have ever read.”

Janine Beichman, recipient, National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, 2018-2019 and Translator of Ōoka Makoto, Beneath the Sleepless Tossing of the Planets

Oh, Tama! is a zany sendup of family life, featuring a pregnant cat, an absent though pregnant bar owner, a freelance photographer, and assorted semi-relatives who drop by to cuddle the cat and strain the photographer’s hospitality. Kanai Mieko is one of Japan’s leading authors, and her sly mix of high-minded ideas with earthy humor has been perfectly captured in this lively translation.”

Phyllis Birnbaum, translator of Heaven and Hell by Takarabe Toriko

"An enticing novel and one that allows the reader to envelop herself in the strange sights, sounds, and tastes of this group of Japanese characters."

—Janet Mary Livesey, World Literature Today

". . . philosophical speculation and mind-bending textual play give way to a more light-hearted look at how people make their way in the contemporary world. . . . Kanai delineates this territory not with drama and histrionics, but with a sharp eye on events that are never important in themselves, but always wittily observed. Translators Tomoko Aoyama and Paul McCarthy capture the sly smile that is surely present in Kanai’s Japanese original."

—David Cozy, The Japan Times

Reviews for Word Book

“Kanai has an ephemeral sensuality that offsets and complements her modulated voices, who guide you through mini epics in this crisp, cool collection.”

—Bret McCabe, Baltimore City Paper

“Realities shift and are at once dreamlike and tangible. The range of subject matter and register is dazzling.”

—Steve Finbow, The Japan Times

"These stories demand attentive reading, although, as with a David Lynch film, it seems the solution to the puzzle will always be just beyond reach; but also like in Lynch’s films, the payoff is in trying to unravel the mystery, and in the beauty of the journey."

Literary Review

"The brilliance of this collection completely caught me off guard, explorations of relationships lost, meditations on authorship, examination of events, that skip from dream, to memory, from childhood to adulthood,and pass from generation to generation, memories that seem to hover and exist in some other ethereal realm."

Zoran Rosko


Like our blog? Please share it!


Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan

Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

China Smart

Essential essays on all things Chinese that inform and entertain travelers, students, and anyone working or living in China

Oh, Tama!

A deeply eccentric novel about lives and connections—and a cat of course—in 1980s Tokyo: witty, offbeat, and strangely profound.

The Fourth String

Two women. Two cultures. One music.

Tag Cloud

AAS japanese Translation how to order in japan foreigner in japan zazen rebecca otowa gaijin publicity religion kyoto journal writing WWII nazi holden caufield huffpost monks wife japan travel etiquette japanese cutlure jared cook Chinese Astrology Alexandra Johnson holocaust zen Christianity in Japan learning shamisen china history finalist chinese comics mieko kanai lions roar japanese culture expat juddhism walt disney japan books international book award michael emmerich non-fiction university of chicago book signing Christianity Chinese culture japanese craft poetry of consciousness literary review graphic novels Japan foreword indies huffington post larry herzberg eastern and western philosophy the fourth string a memoir of sensei and me japan etiquette the millions japanese customs Chinese New Year suicide journal' monks wife japanese people frederik schodt japan visitor henry kiyama memoir amys guide to bes tbehavior in japan World War II author signing lesley university travel to japan brad hawley ritual living in japan Coming of Age Day japan travel guide japan vacation Anime/Manga/Comics book zen monks wife' trip otakuusa manji washington dc hiroaki sato osaka etiquette benjamin franklin award american shamisen new york events japan food amys guide to best behavior in japan book reviews Shoah Tokyo Olympics memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist publishing Japanese aesthetics 2020 Olympics author event the japan society journal of a zen monk's wife illustration gaijinpot japan memoir best behavior in japan bookstore buddhist my year of dirt and water state of belief osamu dazai diary anime a memoir of sensei and me japanese books japanese classic japanese books in english hippocampus magazine diy mfa interfaith how to travel in japan 1960s Korea understandind china through comics japan book PEN AWARD kris kosaka t.k. nakagaki a mejiro novel a shameful life zen monk wife japanese bath verticle new release tea garden asian review of books UCLA welton gaddy kinokuniya event Olympics traditional japanese music leonard koren sensei and me expat in japan seppuku book reading memior visitor drinking in japan Culture event japanese music how to hooked cross ningen shikkaku dirt and water koun Basho's Narrow Road manga biography author Nikolas Bunton astro boy manga green tea nara fred schodt pacific rim review of books manners Ukiyo-e hitlers cross ex pat literature awards catcher in the rye danica davidson Spring Festival haibun osamu tezuka History zen monk gratitude in japan travel Japan tea monk learning in japan guide shamisen student teacher classic internment china What You Don’t Know, What You Need to Know— A Past & Present Guide to History, Culture, Society, Language blurb Japanese holidays evil 2019 damian flanagan VIZ traditional japanese instrument miswest book review frank beyer japan manners diymfa center of east asian studies kansuke naka swastika IBPA comic history classic japanese literature mark gibeau stone bridge press asia travel etiquette donald keene a memoir summer vacation bowing in japan rachel manley japan today gallery awa politics and prose Korea photography koto podcast eating in japan Japanese art world literature today pottery journal of a zen monk paul mccarthy polite journal of a zen monks wife in japan wife japan behavior black jack japanese travel Chiune Sugihara kyodo news book award the fourth string dark horse book hoarding the japan times ibpa publishing university janet pocrobba stone bridge cafe dazai China peace amy chavez Korea buddhist symbols new york jing liu japanese instruments literary prize disney Art/Design Chinese history Interview japanese translation the asian review of books World War Two japan culture buddhism japanese manners new books the buddhist swastika hitler Asian Studies shaimsen japan custom travel manners tourist ancient symbol the hidden writer japan trip book review hate comics why we write podcast foreword indies award nichi bei weekly, naomi hirarahara performance Language tokyo announcement alan brill the silver spoon 1960's Japan alan moore Second World War foreword reviews memoir writing author tour traditional japanese instrumenet tk nakagaki gaijin pot kyoto journal review astrology japanese etiquette sensei zen monk in japan Travel chinese Japanese literature china smart janet pocorobba buddhist swastika min kahng in the woods of memory japanese drunk photography traditional japan ravel takuma sminkey japan book review book publicity purification fantasy literature monk wife ancient symbols will eisner buddhist priest japanese book forewrod reviews indies tomoko aoyama shamisen performance shun medoruma tricycle magazine The Colorado Review japan guide yukio mishima books benjamin franklin awards janet pocorbba what do in japan do it right and be polite book tour japan restaurant musical no longer human japan travel year of zen suehiro maruo book blurb Children's Literature oh tama japanese instrument award book talk Spirituality tracy franz william f sibley Okinawan literature behavior reviews Basho giajin Children's Books Year of the Dog matcha jun hazuki literature Poetry four immigrants haiku