What I'm Reading
It's no secret that the Japanese love cats. We can see this in their art, their folk tales and modern literature and they invented the quirky cat cafes that are springing up over Britain. Being fascinated by both Japanese culture and cats, this book was always destined to be on my reading list.
This is an innovative and charming book that highlights individual stories in Tokyo, bathed in typical Japan. All of these are linked together by an enigmatic cat that travels around Tokyo, sometimes even taking the train. The characters are connected to each other in different and subtle ways, so when reading the reader forms a pathway. Ah, so he's the father of the man who...that kind of thing.
Each of the tales is sufficiently different as are the characters, each having their own issue. The writing is distinctive too, sometimes first person sometimes third, but always maintaining pace and interest. The use of the odd Japanese word is a little confusing at times and disrupts the flow while the word is looked-up, although some are explained. Here the Kindle comes into its own with the excellent thesaurus even knowing foreign words. The author writes with the fluidity of an English speaker but obviously knows Japan very well.
The famous Japanese gangsters - yakuza - are among the themes of Japanese culture the book considers, as well as homelessness, isolation, poverty, family, language, immigration, misogyny and sexual assault, food, and the preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games (which, due to the coronavirus, didn't take place). All drawn together by the wandering and solitary cat.
The cat is a catalyst even though it often appears to play a minor part. There is something magical and beautifully traditional about the mysterious cat, while being caught up in a thoroughly modern city, thus portraying the 21st century slant. References to the ancient folklore of bakeneko, a supernatural being, make it even more alluring.
A stunning and unique book. I loved every minute of it.