(Book Review) ‘Touring the Land of the Dead’ by Maki Kashimada / 「冥土めぐり」鹿島田真希

by Miki
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Do you have any haunting thoughts or memories that you find hard to let go of?


The protagonist Natsuko struggles with both her memory and the expectations of her family. Since she lost her father, her family have been experiencing financial issues. Her mother and brother find it hard to come to terms with the situation, still lost in a dream of the ‘fancy’ life they used to inhabit before the family wealth was used up – they come to believe that Natsuko has saved them by marrying a rich husband. In reality however, Nastuko’s husband ends up having to stop work due to brain disorder which leaves him heavily disabled and confined to a wheelchair.


The story illustrates Natuko’s thought processes as she explores the past and present, finding her own way out of the overwhelming oppression around her, as she eventually comes to live her own life instead of remaining caught in her family’s haunted memories of former affluence.


I was left with the feeling that this book is probably the most literary in feel amongst recent novels translated into English from Japanese. It’s not a book centred on following a plot, but rather is something to immerse yourself in, contemplating the thoughts of the protagonist, seeing the mental landscape as seen through her eyes. Her quietly passive yet undoubtedly strong emotions are clearly depicted and with real textual beauty. The book’s ending is ultimately an empowering one, in particular for those who have ever felt trapped in either your life, or your own thoughts.


If you have previously enjoyed reading the likes of Hiromi Kawakami’s ‘Manazuru’ or Hiroko Oyamada’s ‘The Factory’ – both former Akutagawa prize winners – then this book is definitely one for you too.


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