It wasn’t really intentional but we had a rather Japan-filled weekend. It started with dinner at our new favourite Japanese restaurant just a ten-minute drive away. Yuki Sushi. A little more pricey than our regular Japanese restaurant but perhaps more authentic? Their grilled Saba was just absolute perfection. The right amount of seasoning, and that wonderful smokey flavor. Absolutely divine. We’ve been to this place twice so far and both times I’ve ordered this dish and both times I’ve been blown away. It was so good I forgot to take a photo. Instead you’ll have to be content with the top two pictures. The left hand corner is the husband’s chirashi. The right photo has the other two-thirds of my ‘combination dinner’: sushi and sashimi. It also came with rice, salad and miso soup.
The next day, we headed to San Jose to have ramen at Santouka, located in the Mitsuwa supermarket food court. And then some grocery shopping at the supermarket – fresh sashimi-grade unsliced pieces of fish (salmon, kanpachi and hamachi) and some fish roe and green tea. Homemade California rolls and some Popeyes fries chicken that a friend brought over rounded up the kind of Japanese dinner. Ok so maybe the fried chicken was not so Japanese!
To top it all off, I finished reading Natsuo Kirino’s Out. It was perhaps the first Japanese novel I’ve read that wasn’t dreamy. Instead it was ugly and nightmarish (but in an everyday way, if that makes sense) and kind of depressing. It’s not just because of the murder (it is crime fiction after all) but because of the lives of Kirino’s characters. At its heart are four women, colleagues in a bento factory. It’s a hard life – night shift, hours of standing in line scooping rice and curry, and rumours of a pervert lurking around the carpark and grabbing women. Life isn’t pleasant at home either. Masako might as well live on her own, as her husband and son both ignore her. Kuniko is heavily in debt and her boyfriend is on the verge of leaving her. Yoshie is a single mother and the caretaker of a bedridden mother-in-law. Yayoi has two young children and a husband who gambles and is besotted with an escort named Anna who works at a club owned by former gangster Satake. It’s not really a spoiler since it’s all over the synopsis but well, I’ll be a bit vague in case you’d like to find out for yourself: someone gets murdered and the body needs to be disposed off. Things get complicated and essentially, lives get turned upside down.
In an interview with Japan Review, Kirino explained that “being a woman in this society is mainly an anonymous existence. I don’t think the fact that the environment is such that women are nameless and overlooked is a good thing. For example, a young man once told me that until he read Out, he “never realized that regular middle aged women actually had a life.” What makes these women special is not that they committed a crime, but the circumstances around these normal women that cornered them into that situation. It’s often merely convenient to depict them as seeking an escape from their life through an act of crime.”
Kirino brings these women, these everyday down-on-their-luck women, and brings their story to light. This is the book’s strong suit – the everyday life of these women in the suburbs of Tokyo. Because sometimes it can head towards too much melodrama, too much gore. But overall, a good, gritty read.