Translated from the Japanese by Ross and Shika Mackenzie, ‘The Tokyo Zodiac Murders’ by Soji Shimada opens with the last will and testament of Heikichi Umezawa written in 1936. Heikichi is an artist obsessed with alchemy and astrology who outlines his plans to create the supreme woman Azoth by killing and dismembering his female relatives. However, the murders he had planned in his confession are carried out by someone else several weeks after Heikichi himself is murdered in a room locked from the inside. Having baffled investigators for decades, the case remains unsolved over forty years later in 1979 until Kiyoshi Mitari and his sidekick and narrator Kazumi try to crack one of the most intriguing locked room cold cases of all time. Continue reading
Set in Tokyo, ‘Parade’ by Shuichi Yoshida tells the story of four twenty-somethings who share an apartment together. However, when a homeless teenager called Satoru moves in, nobody seems very sure who the newest resident really is, why he is living there or if he is connected with the shady activities of their neighbours and the recent violent attacks on local women. Or, as Yo Zushi writing in the New Statesman put it: “Imagine if Friends had ended with the revelation that Chandler was a psychopath – and that Joey, Monica, Ross, Phoebe and Rachel weren’t bothered by it.” Intrigued? I certainly was.
‘Strange Weather in Tokyo’ by Hiromi Kawakami (also known as ‘The Briefcase’ in the United States and Canada) tells the story of Tsukiko, an office worker in her late thirties who meets one of her old high school teachers by chance in a sake bar. His name is Harutsuna Matsumoto but she calls him Sensei. They strike up an unusual relationship and continue to meet from time to time without prior arrangements as the seasons pass. Continue reading
‘Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche’ is a non fiction work by Haruki Murakami about the terrorist attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 by members of the Aum cult. I am a big fan of Murakami’s fiction and admit that I only picked up the book from the library because it had his name on the cover. I also didn’t know too much about this particular incident before reading about it this week but ‘Underground’ seems to have been the best place to start as it is a balanced and insightful view of the dreadful events of 20th March 1995 whilst also exploring further questions about the Japanese mentality towards their everyday lives. Continue reading