creek Title:In the Miso Soup
Author: Ryu Murakami
We are blessed in Japan for having not one, but two Murakamis — Haruki
and his internationally less famous namesake Ryu. Together with their compatriot
Banana Yoshimoto, they have shrugged off the traces of traditional Japanese
formalism to produce fiction that ranks among the best in the world, while
staying very much of this country.
In their different ways they explore and dissect modern Japan. Ryu Murakami
is the satirical one of the three and has raised perhaps more hackles in
this country for his unflinching portraits of the country.
In the Miso Soup is set in the seedy sex spots of Tokyo’s Kabuchi-cho.
Kenji, the first person narrator and a typically aimless character for
this kind of fiction, is supposed to be a student but doesn’t seem
to open his textbooks very often. Instead he has set himself up in a business
as a translator and guide for foreign tourists looking for a sexy time
in Tokyo and who are willing to pay for it. He is reading the news report
of the murder and dismemberment of a schoolgirl prostitute in Kabuki-cho
when he gets a call from a new client — an American by the name of
Frank who is not a pleasant character in any respect.
On the first night out Kenji notices inconsistencies in Frank’s story
and behaviour, and when they pass the spot where the schoolgirl’s
body was found Kenji starts to worry he is in the company of a murderer.
Meanwhile Murakami’s descriptions of the ‘lingerie bars’ and
of the peep shows, the opportunities for paid-for sexual gratification,
, and especially of the pimps, the touts and the working girls are convincing
to the point that his research must have been diligent. Critical and sympathetic,
intelligent and a good story: this is must-read stuff.