Books | RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOKS ABOUT JAPAN

'The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro': Period drama, modern satire

by Kris Kosaka

Contributing Writer

One of the newest novellas out from Red Circle Minis, “The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro” by Kanji Hanawa, covers far more ground than its size might suggest.

The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro, by Kanji Hanawa Translated by Meredith McKinney.
72 pages
RED CIRCLE MINIS, Fiction.

On one level, it’s a tongue-in-cheek examination of feudal Japan as Hanawa cheerfully follows the permutations of the young heir Asunaro, perpetually waiting to be lord “someday soon,” thus his nickname, a pun on the words “asu” (tomorrow) and “narō” (will become).

But Asunaro is also waiting to find a purpose in life. His exalted position forces him to find meaning in the meaningless and the novel recounts his struggles within the strict confines of a nobleman’s life. Complemented by Meredith McKinney’s astute translation, the slim tome captures a distinct flavor of the times.

How to resist indolent pursuits when everything is handed to you on a golden platter of privilege? Although set in feudal Japan, there is something fresh about the book as a satire for our own time. As he goes about answering that question, Hanawa slyly reveals the yawning gap between youth and their elders.

Asunaro’s learned father despairs at his heir’s brawny prowess at swords and sport, out of tune with the newfound peace throughout the land. Yet later in life, in his vain pursuit to win the love of his muse, Asunaro becomes an accomplished poet and lover of literature. It’s a strange conflux of the past with our own present that leaves the reader wondering at the slim gap between humanity and excess.

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