In The Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami

The first thought I have when writing about this book is that it was almost impossible to put down, especially the first half where I resorted to walking and reading at the same time to squeeze a few more pages in.

Kenji operates a type of one on one tour guide business, showing tourists the unseen sex sights of Tokyo. He is hired by an American businessman, Frank, for three days leading up to and including new year. This immediately creates a problem for Kenji who had promised his girlfriend he would spend new years eve with her. Frank however is persuasive and it turns out that annoying his girlfriend is the least of Kenji’s worries.

There is something odd about Frank. He looks unnatural, never feels the biting cold and tells blatant lies. Kenji feels uncomfortable, then frightened, then powerless. Frank knows all about him, where he lives, where his girlfriend lives..

While Kenji introduces Frank to the seedy side of Tokyo’s nightlife, Ryu Murakmai does a brilliant job of slowly building the tension. Frank is weaving his web and Kenji is being lured into it. The reader is trying to figure out, along with Kenji, if Frank is just short of friends and a bit wierd or a complete psychopath.

The main theme of the book is one of lonlieness and lack of cultural identity. According to Kenji many Japanese high school girls “sell it” and his own girlfriend was involved in “compensated dating” when they met. Then there is Frank who is a sad portrait of a lonely and disturbed man.

There is a section about half way through which is very violent in a graphic and humiliating way. After this scene. for me the story lost its way. The reaction of the main characters and the tone of the remainder of it didn’t really fit and while I could see the reason for the ending, I didn’t find it very convincing.

A gripping read but I was left wondering what the point of it was.

Read for the Japanese Literature 3 and Decades 2010 challenges

Translated from the Japanese by Ralph McCarthy

7 responses to “In The Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami

  1. Reading whilst walking is indeed the sign of a gripping book so it is a shame that the ending was disappointing.

    I requested this from the library a couple of months ago and it should be available soon; I also have Audition by Ryu Murakami lined up.

  2. Claire – You’re right – fortunately it wasn’t a real chunkster or it could have been dangerous!

    I look forward to your review on these and hope you enjoy – prepare for some rivetting reading.. 0:)

  3. I am hoping to read this soon too. I am unsure as to what it will be like, as some people have described it as porn. You don’t mention that, so I presume it isn’t that graphic?

  4. Jackie – That’s a very interesting comment about the porn. There is a lot of talk of sex and one especially graphic and quite shocking scene so I can understand people commenting on it and/or finding it offensive.

    Despite that it wasn’t my main focus when reading the book.

    I really look forward to reading your thoughts about it.

  5. Great review. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while – this author was also mentioned in a book I read by Natsuo Kirino. I haven’t been put off but it’s interesting to hear your thoughts about the end of the book losing its way a bit.

  6. I just ordered this book from Amazon-I am really looking forward to reading it-thanks for your great post

    • Mel u – it’s great to have a book on it’s way that you really want to read isn’t it. It’s definitely a book that will have you turning the pages quickly I’m sure. Enjoy – I look forward to your thoughts.

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