September 01, 2019

Book Review Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Book Review -  Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Book Blurb 

''In a crowded Tokyo suburb, four teenage girls indifferently wade their way through a hot, smoggy summer. When one of them, Toshi, discovers that her next-door neighbor has been brutally murdered, the girls suspect the killer is the neighbor's son. But when he flees, taking Toshi's bike and cell phone with him, the four girls get caught up in a tempest of dangers that arise from within them as well as from the world around them. Psychologically intricate and astute, Real World is a searing, eye-opening portrait of teenage life in Japan unlike any we have seen before.''

Pages: 208

Best quotes

''When I was young there were times I wanted to kill my old man and some of my teachers - but I never thought of killing my mum''  p29.

''Whenever I ran across her at the station, she'd nod a hello, but for some reason, I couldn't nod back. I know you might think that's no big deal, but I started to feel inferior to her'' p77

'' The women who gave birth to me, raised me, ordered me around, yelled at me, turned me into a sex maniac, who complained all the time, was dead'' p85.

''Early on the morning of August tenth, our home phone rang. It had to be either a salesman or a relative. Other people would just call each of our cellphones, which made a phone call coming in the morning all the more ominous'' p188

Natsuo Kirino captures the heartbeat of real urban Japan the fear, anxiety, paranoia and deep cultural mindset that sets the scene for all actions. In this novel, she fully exposes the different worlds of men and women that is molded by different values, beliefs, and customs. In fact, they are so far apart it seems crazy how they could ever connect. 

The pressure of trying to be perfect, associating with brand names, showing off, competing with your neighbours, putting up with crazy rules that make no sense and the boredom of life as a teenager with no money, living with your parents and having to follow all their weird practices explodes in violence during the stifling high humidity of a Japanese summer. Mole the teenage nickname of Toshi's neighbor gets pushed by his Mum just one step too far, he reacts with his metal baseball bat and the outcome is tragic. 

He then runs and Toshi and her three girlfriends help him out while he is on the run. Natsuo Kirino digs deep into the culture to reveal the fears, insecurities and broken thought processes that fill teenagers heads when they have to deal with something serious and important like death and murder. They avoid it and focus on the fun like kids do.

Raw, gritty and edgy, a  story that one can imagine is straight out of the newspaper but filled in with a background that you never get, as it only runs for a few days and disappears into oblivion with all the other crazy crimes.

August 01, 2019

Book Review Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto

Book Review Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto

This book is a collection of six short stories including Newlywed, Lizard, Helix, Dreaming of Kimchee, Blood and Water, A strange tale from down by the river.

Although they are all separate stories one gets the impression from reading that they relate to the same characters even though this is not clearly stated that is the feeling you get. Like the writer was in the same mood and all the stories are somehow linked.  Translated from the Japanese by Ann Sherif we are lucky to get deep glimpses into the psyche of characters, people, places and events.

Favourie quotes

"She told me that she didn't have an aversion to people per se, but simply didn't want to see anyone else after hours. I knew how she felt"p33

"She seemed like a creature of a different species, one who lives quietly in the dark" p35

"the more she gave to others, the more she struggles. Her burden grew heavy by the day. This type of guilt is so fundamental" p41

"Like plants in a greenhouse, we depended on each other, but neither of us enjoyed the feelings of release or openness that one would wish from such a relationship" p43

"Akira didn't like dealing with people at all, so I did it for him" p102

"I am the only one in the world who knows what's best for me. I'm just here, deciding things I need to decide for myself" p113

"I might have been intimidated by his fastidiousness and fled" p130

"I feel like I need to shake you and tell you about the realities of marriage. It's not just some pretty dream, you know" p135

"But I sometimes got a craving for the weak coffee they served at the cafe in Aoyama" p147

A good read with quirky stories, characters and events. Banana Yoshimoto is a great writer who really captures the psyche of Japanese culture with her deep insights, reflections and detailed introspection of what makes people tick.

July 11, 2019

The number of working age Japanese hits an all time low according to the Nikkei

Japanese workers commuting in Tokyo
Picture: Japanese workers commuting in Tokyo

"The number of working-age Japanese stands at 74.23 million, a mere 59.5% of the total population -- an all-time low that reflects the aging of the country."

Source: Nikkei Asian Review, July 11, 2019

#japan #demographics #workingage #trends #news #quote #statistics #japanesecustomers