Read for CBR10Bingo: Food
I began a new call to a church last year. One of my parishioners is a Japanese native; perhaps the first person I know on an intimate level from the island itself.
This has led me to read more about Japan, both fiction and non-fiction and I find the more I read, the less I know. Japan has a rich history and a deep, diverse culture. I learn something every time but I still feel wanting.
I won’t pretend to parse the unique cultural aspects of this book, it’s political and gender dynamics. To speak on it would be presumptuous. But the story itself is interesting: a successful restauranteur who rose from nothing in Japan’s rigid patriarchal culture to make a name for herself falls for a down-on-his-luck politician who is still considered something of a catch because of the importance of his family name.
As tensions arose in their relationship, Kazu, the female character keeps falling back on the idea that as long as she dies with his name, she can be buried with his ancestors and live well in the afterlife, as opposed to the supposedly cold reception she would receive stuck in a pauper’s grave. This drives a lot of her anxieties, as well as what to do with her restaurant.
The political subplot was also interesting. Without giving too much away, it does a great job of moving the book from point A (its start) to C (its finish). It’s the ideal second act that keeps the book’s narrative flowing.
Like most Japanese lit, it is less concerned about the characters inner motives and more about sensory descriptions. If you like reading elaborate prose describing food, flowers and the weather, this is for you. It’s not my thing but Mishima is a good writer so I appreciated it.
If you’re looking for quality Japanese fiction, this is a good way. It is a nice, at times beautifully written book. I enjoyed reading it.