Around The World Reading Challenge : Japan

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami.

This book did little to change my perceptions of Japan. God, that sounds so judgemental, but it’s true. Cherry blossoms, cramped living quarters,  bath houses, and fast train travel figured highly. What caught me by surprise was the amount of beer young Japanese women consumed.

This book is in two parts, though were originally published separately.

In Book 1 Natsuko, a twenty year old journalist living in Tokyo, is visited by her older sister, Makiko accompanied by her adolescent daughter from Osako, for a breast enhancement consultation. The teenager is appalled by her mother’s pursuit of cosmetic surgery whilst having her own issues about her changing body. She doesn’t speak to her mother and communicates only by writing notes. Natsuko isn’t the coolest sandwich in the esky as she detests sex. This is one dysfunctional family, I tell you.

By the end of the weekend there is a breakthrough of sorts, but you have to wade through a lot of jabber about nipples and fertility issues to get there.

Book 2 takes place ten years later and Natsuko spends far too much time trying to make a decision about whether or not to have a baby. She walks us through all the various pathways to conceive a child without both sex nor a partner.

We catch up with Makiko, still working at a bar – so the boob job hasn’t weaved any magic – though the daughter appears to have survived both her mother and her aunt and is at University and has a loving, supportive partner. Yay!

This meanders off theme at several points and I just wished there was one of those Japanese beers handy to ease me through the whole process.

I’m no therapist but I wondered if this was a reflection of contemporary womanhood in Japan. No need for an Aussie version: we seem to be obsessed with Reality TV productions which are of a similar ilk.

What I did enjoy about this novel – and maybe it was totally psychosomatic – was that I heard the characters speaking in my head in their soft little Japanese voices.

About The Author :

Mieko (born August 29, 1976) is a Japanese writer and poet from Osaka. Her work has won prestigious Japanese literary awards in several genres, including the 138th Akutagawa Prize for her novella Breasts and Eggs),the 2013 Tanizaki Prizefor her short story collection Ai no yume to ka (Dreams of Love, etc.), and the 2008 Nakahara Chūya Prize for Contemporary Poetry for Sentan de, sasuwa sasareruwa soraeewa .

6 thoughts on “Around The World Reading Challenge : Japan

  1. I think I’ll pass. Angst and introspection centered on cosmetic surgery and fertility issues with dysfunctional characters – no thank you. Maybe I’m just getting old but it smacks of reality TV and that isn’t my cup of tea either!


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