In Miso Soup

In Miso Soup


This book must be one of the better known Japanese novels: since its publication a few years ago, In Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami has been gathering fans. In fact, given that the author's previous book was an award-winner, it is hardly surprising that this one was so eagerly anticipated. However, I must say that this book might not be everyone's favorite read; the novel has darker undertones, one that reminds me of Paul Auster's works, where readers catch a glimpse of humanity's nasty side.

The overall plot seems to have a rather basic plot. You have the youngish tour guide called Kenji who helps foreign visitors navigate Tokyo's nightlife area. Thus, he makes sure interested parties find what they are looking for, be it visiting a lingerie pub or understanding a peepshow. Life may appear mundane until he meets Frank, an American visitor who wants to roam Tokyo for just 3 days. Kenji starts viewing his everyday work spots in a new light as he helps the somewhat creepy visitor understand Japan's strange adult world. Worse yet, he also starts wondering if Frank might be connected to the string of murders that are popping up in the area ...

The novel itself is a mind-boggling journey into a disturbing world. The extent to which money can help folks realize their sexual fantasies can be a bit freaky. At the very least, it uncovers an ugly reality about people's urban lives. It is this aspect makes it worth the read. However, there is one particular take that makes the story particularly interesting – that is the observation that humans as a whole are just a bit messed up (as opposed to focusing purely on the 'Japan is weird' angle).