The Cat And The City is a collection of interlinking short-stories which are set in Tokyo in the run up to the 2020 Olympic games.
The stories, all very different, feature human characters who each have a brush with a mysterious street cat; it weaves its way into each of the tales. As you read on you discover there are small links between the separate stories, and I was nodding my head each time I picked up a common thread.
Author Nick Bradley has brought the reader real-life Tokyo through lost and often lonely characters, even though they may live in a city with 13 million other humans. Bradley portrays a mix of people reflecting both the old and the new of Toyko, with its cosmopolitan inhabitants.
I was very lucky and won a copy of this book; it is very different from the style of books that I often read, so I was delighted when I enjoyed the tales. I would recommend this to readers who have an interest in Japanese cultural fiction and perhaps to feline fans.
In Tokyo – one of the world’s largest megacities – a stray cat is wending her way through the back alleys. And, with each detour, she brushes up against the seemingly disparate lives of the city-dwellers, connecting them in unexpected ways.
But the city is changing. As it does, it pushes her to the margins where she chances upon a series of apparent strangers – from a homeless man squatting in an abandoned hotel, to a shut-in hermit afraid to leave his house, to a convenience store worker searching for love. The cat orbits Tokyo’s denizens, drawing them ever closer.
Sandra has been reading Kimura: A Tale of a Japanese Murderess by R.G. Honda.
I chose to read Kimura: A Tale of a Japanese Murderess because of the setting as I am fascinated by Japanese culture, and this did not disappoint. The novel opens with Naoko realising that she has killed her husband; he is lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs, but was it an accident? She makes her escape and goes off to meet her friend Akari at a festival. There are hints that Naoko has a problem controlling her violent temper, both with her husband and with her sister, Yuki, who disappeared seven years previously. They now have a lead on her whereabouts and plan to rescue her. With the police chasing Naoko, they are forced to go on the run, but will they get to Yuki before it is too late? This novel reads as though it was translated from the Japanese as some of the expressions are strangely stilted and awkward – I could find no information as to whether this was the case or not – but this did not hinder my understanding and perhaps added something to the narrative. There are graphic scenes of violence and torture, so bear that in mind before you begin reading as it is not for the faint-hearted. The characters are well drawn and believable, except perhaps for Yuki who is almost a caricature, and I really liked Takamoto, the old man who lived on the boat. I loved the road trip section of the plot, and could imagine this book being made into a dark atmospheric film. The setting comes across as completely authentic, but the underlying theme of the human trafficking and slavery was deeply upsetting. I was unable to find out anything about this author, so have no idea if they have written anything else, but would like to thank them for the digital copy that I chose to review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT
A Japanese tale of murder, hold ups and car chases. Naoko Kimura, a woman with a history of spontaneous violence, unintentionally murders her husband on the same night she learns of the whereabouts of her long lost half-sister. Believing her sister to be the victim of a mass kidnap scheme, Naoko and her closest friend, Akari Sato, resolve to travel across the length of Japan with no transportation and a pittance to their name in order to find her. All the while, they are subjected to a manhunt by the national police force.
Frank has been reading Tokyo Mayday by Maison Urwin
This is a dystopian novel with a difference – and with an important message. Around forty or fifty years from now the Western economies have collapsed, replaced by a resurgent Asia led by Japan. There, migrants are employed on low wages to undertake the jobs that native Japanese don’t want. A right-wing political movement uses the media to foment resentment about such migrants, as well as those without jobs who are housed in squalid camps adjacent to the ports. Those with jobs are provided with sub-standard accommodation.
When a Japanese monopoly auto-manufacturer closes its three plants in the former UK, now reduced to the Federal Republic of England and Wales, or FREW, one employee from each is offered a position in a Japanese plant. One such is Jordan May. He sets out for Japan accompanied by his wife, Shaylie, and their son, Alfie. As the family attempt to settle into their new life, they become embroiled in a peaceful protest movement dedicated to improving the lot of immigrants.
By inverting the present situation in Europe, where migrants are often resented and exploited, Urwin is able to show what it feels like to be the object of such discrimination and abuse. The plot, and counterplot, as a mysterious former diplomat fills the role of puppet-master to the boss of the corporation, in opposition to the corrupt right-wing politician, has several threads which come together as a huge demonstration takes place on the streets of Tokyo.
The tension is gradually ramped up as the various protagonists go about their daily business and the thugs employed by the right-wing politician engage in clandestine bullying of the migrant family. Jordan’s conflicting emotions, as he balances the possibility of jeopardising his family’s future well-being against his desire to help those migrants who are worse off than him because of their lack of appropriate skills, are convincingly portrayed. So, too, is the evolution of the relationship between fifteen year old Alfie and the older Japanese girl assigned to mentor him as the only gaijin (foreigner) in the Japanese high school.
I can readily imagine that some readers will sneer at the inclusion of one or two too many coincidences. Yet it is hard to see how else the author could have shown different aspects of the personalities of some of the principle players. The business man’s life as a family man and the politician’s private perversions are given greater weight by their impact on members of the May family.
Unwin has lived in Japan and presents a convincing portrait of Japanese culture and the geography of Tokyo. The family’s English home, in the author’s native Essex, is equally well drawn, with descriptions of the future devastation expected to be caused to that county’s coast by rising sea levels. Where I take issue with a central aspect of the story is in the depiction of the puppet-master’s background. Institutionalised child sexual abuse, racist abuse, and bullying are all topical subjects. To be credible as influences in the development of a particular personality they need to be properly contextualised. Here we are offered, instead, clichéd depictions of a British public school and the UK diplomatic service.
This is Maison Urwin’s debut novel, which follows the ordeal of a family’s economic migration from the Federal Republic of England & Wales to Tokyo.
The power is in the East.
The Federal Republic of England & Wales is in crisis.
Western economic collapse has led to mass economic migration to China, Korea and especially Japan. Jordan May is offered a transfer with Matsucorp and takes wife, Shaylie, and son, Alfie, to a new and bewildering life in the Orient. The book is set in the 2050s when, following the end of capitalism in Europe, the Far East is now considered the developed world. Society in the West has fallen apart and the East Asia is the destination of choice for economic migrants who are prepared to take risks and endure prejudice in the search for a better life.
The May family emigrates from Harwich, England to Japan and husband, wife and son battle discrimination, are embroiled in political activism and forbidden romance, are targeted in racist attacks and are endangered by unwitting gangland involvement. As the climax approaches in a violent political demonstration on the streets of Tokyo, we begin to discover the extent to which a mysterious, wiry Englishman has manipulated each of them.
This work of speculative fiction sees the Mays thrust into industrial politics, illegal unionisation and hostessing. Teenage love and the organisation of a mass demonstration take place against a backdrop of racial tension and the rise of the far right.
Could Shaylie’s life be in danger? Is the mafia involved?
And just who is the Machaivellian Stepson Struthwin who sits on Matsucorp’s board and has such a hold over the lives of those around him?
One Month In Tohoku is an Englishwoman’s memoir about life after the 2011 Japanese Tsunami.
Author Caroline Pover was on a solo holiday in Saipan when the disaster occurred, though she had lived in Japan for several years and thought of it as her adopted home. The pictures and news from Japan were terrible and Caroline felt a deep need to do something for the victims, but she had no suitable rescue skills. Instead, she flew back to England, and began using her network of contacts to raise money and supplies for the survivors.
This is an inspiring story of one woman’s idea which expanded across the globe. The fundraising campaigns and the generous support which Caroline received were brilliant. She then went on to take the supplies to the heart of the people who needed them. With a determination to raise spirit, Caroline initially filled two lorries with items and later she organised goods to be delivered to a local distribution point.
Caroline went to the Oshika peninsula, a six and a half hour drive north of Tokyo where people had only the clothes that they were wearing when they escaped the tsunami. Their houses and businesses no longer existed and they were sheltering in cramped emergency conditions.
This was more than a one-off plan. Caroline returned to the area as often as possible and she listened to what the people needed; she used financial donations for projects to help rebuild the communities. She kept all the sponsors informed of how their money was spent, and this built up a great relationship between the donors and the recipients. One of the main problems with many of the charities today is that people believe that their money gets used up in administration and transport costs, but Caroline made sure all of the money and sponsorship went directly to the people.
This book is much more than just one month in Tohoku; this is the story of the people and the communities and how they rebuilt their lives, and about the kindness in the world for complete strangers. Caroline has returned to Oshika almost every year. Although so much of it is sad, there is also so much that is good and happy. I think anyone who has ever considered voluntary work would enjoy reading this, especially those frustrated by the red tape which often prevents the right donations getting to the people who really need them.
On March 11, 2011, one of the biggest earthquakes in history occurred off the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that destroyed much of the Tohoku coastline.
Driven by a desire to help the people of Tohoku, long-time Tokyo resident Caroline Pover embarked on a mission to collect emergency supplies from her native UK. Caroline delivered these supplies to an isolated part of Japan that even many Japanese have never heard of: the Oshika Peninsula. While there, she saw beyond the horror of the debris and destruction, and fell in love with the beauty of the landscape and the spirit of the people who had called the peninsula home for hundreds of years since their samurai ancestors first settled there. Compelled to do whatever she could to help, she promised to return, once more, just for a month …
“One Month in Tohoku” is the true story of what became the many months Caroline spent visiting Oshika. During extended periods of time over the course of many years, she lived alongside the people of Oshika, and they embraced her as one of their own — she still visits them to this day. This book tells us about a very traditional way of life in a remote community that cares deeply about all who are a part of it. It is the story of how, after a disaster took away everything they had, these seemingly forgotten fishing communities are still rebuilding their lives. It is also the story of how a network of people from all over the globe were inspired to donate millions of yen to support families, schools, and businesses, and to never forget the survivors of the world’s costliest disaster.
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the tsunami, Caroline has set out in words a deeply moving tale of the very human impact of a natural disaster. Readers will cry tears of laughter as well as tears of sadness, and be touched by Caroline’s surprising humour and honesty and that of her Oshika friends as they unexpectedly become so beloved to one another. This is the story of a beautiful friendship between a very determined Englishwoman and the incredibly brave and resilient fishermen, women, and children of Tohoku.
In The Realm Of Ash And Sorrow is set in Hiroshima during World War Two.
Micah, an American airman, drops to his death over the city. His fall is witnessed by single mother Kiyomi, and although Micah dies instantly, his spirit remains and attaches itself to this Japanese mother. He meets other spirits who are trapped, and Micah’s is treated with kindness and generosity; these people are not the enemy that he once hated.
Kiyomi’s young daughter, Ai, astral travels during her sleep where she talks to Micah, making friends with him. Micah is fascinated by all that he learns about the Japanese culture, but it is all about to change because of one final bomb.
A few years ago I read a book about what is was like at ground zero when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I was looking forward to reading this book. The author showed his wealth of knowledge about Japan and this era, but at times I thought some of the research was forced into the narrative rather than being woven into it unobtrusively, which is the ideal.
The spiritual aspect was an unusual approach and I thought that the author used it to good effect especially for the parts that took place after the bomb, although sometimes I found the religious themes hard to follow.
Overall, an interesting take on a war time episode and one that fans of this genre may enjoy.
When bombardier Micah Lund dies on a mission over Hiroshima, his spirit remains trapped in the land of his enemies. Dazed, he follows Kiyomi Oshiro, a war widow struggling to care for her young daughter, Ai. Food is scarce, work at the factory is brutal, and her in-laws treat her like a servant. Watching Kiyomi and Ai together, Micah reconsiders his intolerance for the people he’d called the enemy. As his concern for the mother and daughter grows, so does his guilt for his part in their suffering. Micah finds a new reality when Kiyomi and Ai dream—one which allows him to interact with them. While his feelings for Kiyomi deepen, imminent destruction looms. Hiroshima is about to be bombed, and Micah must warn Kiyomi and her daughter. In a place where dreams are real, Micah races against time to save the ones he loves the most. In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow is a tale about love in its most extraordinary forms—forgiveness, sacrifice, and perseverance against impossible odds.