Hopefully I’ll get to finish some of these before touching down in Tokyo this fall. Tokyo’s transformation is often reflected in literature.
Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima (Shibuya District)
First of the tetralogy. It is 1912, Meiji Japan giving way to “Taisho democracy”, the milieu that of a fading aristocracy resigned to westernization. A close look into this changing Japan through the friendship of two lads, one whose life is preordained and the other wants to bend the world into his ideals.
In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (Kachidori Bridge)
Loneliness is also the key to this novel—the loneliness of Frank, an overweight American tourist who apparently wants to take the entire Shinjuku district of Tokyo up any orifice his minder Kenji can arrange.
Who Is Mr. Satoshi? by Jonathan Lee
Robert “Foss” Fossick is a middle-aged photographer, the classic, grizzled, down-at-heel anti-hero who draws the curtains to choke on life’s ennui. He rejects any distractions from friends who could suture his psychological wounds. This debut from Jonathan Lee, who conceived the novel while posted with his City law firm in one of its Japanese offices, is confident, sharply-written, and refreshingly direct.
Rivalry: A Geisha’s Tale by Kafu Nagai (Shimbashi)
Shimbashi was once the shimmering nightlife district in Tokyo where geishas and attendants scuttled between wine houses and kabuki theaters to entertain customers. This book detours into the lives of Shimbashi in 1912, offering for view the hangers-on, hack writers, men of power and the waitresses and the attendants who serve the geishas, in effect shaping beautifully realized portrait of this Japanese subculture.
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