A gap year,
a new start,
away from family…far away.
Three young women move to Japan, living with people from other cultures in a Tokyo sharehouse and becoming good friends in this bilingual (sometimes trilingual) graphic novel.
Nao had moved to the US Midwest with her American father and Japanese mother when she and her brother were young, never quite fitting in there. Returning to Japan after high school graduation, she wants to reconnect with her roots and family here.
Tina came from Singapore to learn Japanese well enough to pass the university entrance exams here, close to home and also far away from her boisterous family for a while.
Hyejung left Korea because she was so very deeply unhappy with the treadmill of going to college to get a job to work till retirement; her parents didn’t approve, and they don’t communicate.
Japanese brothers Shinsan and Masaki anchor Himawari House, the elder suggesting festivals they can all attend together, and Masaki being generally moody (what is his problem?).
The girls work at low-skill jobs as they attend gogakuin to improve their Japanese, with not a few cultural mishaps along the way. Thank goodness they can all communicate in English at Himawari House!
Childhood memories are revived as Nao visits her mother’s family in the countryside where she played with her cousins, now also all grown up.
Will Tina and Hyejung pass their entrance exams?
Can Nao become fluent in Japanese during the short time she’s here?
Will Masaki ever come out of his shell?
A fun and thoughtful look at family, expectations, and friendship by the illustrator of the graphic novel version of George Takei’s memoir, They Called Us Enemies (recommendation coming soon).
If you could take a year off from your current life, where would you live?
Book info: Himawari House / Harmony Becker. First Second, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Library book; cover image courtesy of the publisher.