A happy marriage of contemporary Western culture with traditional Japanese sensibility makes this story collection by young Japanese writers a worthwhile successor to a distinguished literary past. Most of the writers here are best-sellers or prize-winners in their native Japan, but this marks their first debut in English translation. Growing up after WW II, they represent the new Japan, where women work, have premarital affairs, and enjoy a great deal of freedom. A character in Eimi Yamada's ""X-Rated Blanket"" speaks frankly of her sexual desires and needs; in science-fiction writer Yang-Ji Lee's ""On a Moonless Night,"" a female corporate employee on the way home from work is attacked and in effect raped by bees; and a middle-aged woman in ""The Unsinkable Molly Brown"" learns scuba-diving so she can retrieve the Cartier diamond brooch she dropped in the water near Okinawa while looking at the coral reefs. On the other hand, some of the stories by the men seem more traditional, even when they are writing about baseball (""On Imitation of Leibnitz""), or a year spent in France to recover from schizophrenia (""A Callow Fellow of Jewish Descent""). Stories like Shiina Makoto's ""Swallowtails""--in which a loving father tries to protect his innocent little boy--and Murakami's ""On Meeting my 100% Woman one Fine April Morning"" are examples of quintessential Japanese writing, both in style and content, though the settings are contemporary. A fine introduction to new writers, as well as perceptive vignettes of a people adapting with grace and discernment to continuing change. A timely and welcome debut.