It is 1995, that defining year of the Kobe earthquake, the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the year a man in Osaka confesses to dismembering the bodies of three women at his home in Osaka; the year a Buddhist priest is arrested for raping over 100 women. The times are out of joint, and the author finds his own personal hell in a painful financial nadir.

The author’s fall from grace, from a regular job, expensive apartment and lifestyle to go with it, initiates him into the unsettling world of the Tokyo guesthouse, or gaijin houses as they are known. Cohabitation of a tiny room with a mostly absent Irish hostess, more or less works out for the now unemployed writer; sharing a six-mat room with a space-hungry, drug-taking Japanese female “artist,” does not. When Aponte finally moves out to his own three-mat room, his newfound privacy is intoxicating.

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