Books | RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOKS ABOUT JAPAN

'Friendship for Grown-Ups' evokes the ambiguity of everyday life

by T.C. Jones

Contributing Writer

Keshiki is a chapbook series published by Strangers Press designed to showcase some of the most exciting writers working in Japan today. “Friendship for Grown-Ups” by Nao-Cola Yamazaki is the second book in the series. The recipient of five Akutagawa Prize nominations, Yamazaki’s skill in evoking the ambiguity of contemporary life is exhibited by the three short stories that make up the publication.

Friendship for Grown-Ups, by Nao-Cola Yamazaki, Translated by Polly Barton.
45 pages
STRANGERS PRESS, Fiction.

The book begins with “A Genealogy.” With a knowing naivety, Yamazaki mixes creation myths with coelacanths and backstreet public baths to create a strangely personal and affecting tale that moves from prehistory to the present day over the course of just a few pages.

An atmosphere of isolation pervades the next story, “The Untouchable Apartment,” in which a woman dreams that she is unable to touch the world around her, before going with an ex-lover to see an apartment they once shared that has been demolished. As they retrace their steps back through the neighborhood, the reader is left unsure whether it is possible to recapture old feelings or not.

In “Lose your Private Life,” the longest of the three stories, two shy artists try to understand their burgeoning relationship. The characters live in different cities, but the real distance between them is created by the fact that they can’t separate each other’s creative persona from the personal self. It makes for a thought-provoking and moving finale to a small book that says a lot about the way we live today.