In his novel Supermarket, Satoshi Azuchi shares a glimpse of the inner workings of a Japanese business, in particular, that of a growing supermarket in Japan in the late 1960s/early 1970s, when the notion of supermarkets were still new in that country. The company portrayed seems to be doing quite well on the surface, but when a newly hired executive digs a bit further, he realizes there are many problems being overlooked or even hidden.
This book might not sound like an interesting story, but perhaps after having seen some unpleasant behaviors within large corporations, I found the psychological aspect of this a bit interesting. And the idea of supermarkets being new and exciting, and also interpreted differently for the Japanese market, was kind of neat. It did drag a bit later on though, and some of the company secrets were a bit much, but it was a decent read.
I’ve had Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa on my wishlist for awhile, having found it on Amazon and thinking it seemed interesting at the time. I’m not sure what caught my eye, but it didn’t really meet my expectations.
We meet Takumi Aio, a young man in his late 20s and single father to 6-year-old Yuji. They’re both still adjusting to the death of Mio, Takumi’s wife and Yuji’s mother, although they don’t realize just how poorly they’ve adjusted. This changes when they go for a walk and see a woman who looks awfully like Mio, just a bit younger and appearing to have lost her memory.
The writing style is fairly simple and straightforward, which I liked, but the story started to drag a bit for me, as Takumi starts describing how he and Mio met. He goes all the way back to their school days, and it crawled along slowly after that, to get to the present day. I just didn’t feel like I cared as much about this lengthy history as I did about what was happening, though it did loop back eventually.
There’s a bit of vaguely supernatural tone to the story, which is ok, but I just didn’t feel attached to the story after the first few chapters. Apparently, this book was so popular in Japan that it was followed up by a manga version and later made into a TV series. Just not my thing, I guess.
I don’t remember how I found The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters, but I’m so very glad I did. It was such a delightful read that it’s one of my favorites now.
Yes, the story meanders a bit, and it might feel like not much happens overall. But the journey there is what really makes this book, and it’s such a very Japanese book at that.
The details of the scenery and surroundings are simple, but they slow you down and make you want to savor the images created in your mind. I wanted to pause after a section or chapter, just to let it sit in my mind before moving to something new.
It is definitely a book about culture, but also about relationships, mainly about how things aren’t always so black and white. The characters felt very real to me, and I wanted to step into their shoes a bit more, even if just to see the places they inhabited.