The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper and Other Short Stories by Rebecca Otowa
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 5.1 MB
From the unique standpoint of an American woman who married into a Japanese family and has lived in Japan for more than thirty years, Rebecca Otowa weaves enchanting tales of her adopted home that portray the perspective of both the Japanese and the foreigner on the universal issues that face us all-love, work, marriage, death, and family conflict.
Illustrated throughout with the author’s own black-and-white drawings, this captivating volume offers a unique and lovingly rendered insight into everyday life in modern Japan.
A Year of Coffee and Cake — A young American wife in the Tokyo suburbs suspects her next-door neighbor of murdering an elderly relative.
Rhododendron Valley — An elderly man decides to commit suicide to deal with his terminal illness and to spare his family pain.
The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper — A reclusive young Japanese man enjoys the strange hobby of stealing shoes from temples, but it gradually consumes him.
Genbei’s Curse — A downtrodden woman loses her temper with her demanding, sick father-in-law. Years later, old and sick herself, she can now empathize with him.
Trial by Fire — A true story passed down through the author’s family of a gruesome trial to settle a land dispute in 1619.
Love and Duty — The Japanese custom of “duty chocolates” (chocolates gifted by women to men on Valentine’s Day) has repercussions for an American and a Japanese woman.
Uncle Trash — Told in the form of newspaper articles, this is the story of an old man, his hoarding addiction, the annoyance it brings his family, and his eventual revenge.
Watch Again — A man starts stalking his ex-wife and learns something about himself in the process.
Three Village Stories — A tea ceremony teacher, a vengeful son, and an old man ostracized by his community are the protagonists in three vignettes of village life.
The Rescuer — After meeting his death in a train accident, a young man finds himself in the position of rescuing others from the same fate.
Showa Girl — Based on a true story from the author’s family, a girl of fifteen has an arranged marriage with an older man just back from a POW camp in Russia in 1948.
Rachel and Leah — An older American woman reflects on her long and not always happy marriage to a Japanese man.
The Turtle Stone — Going from the 1950s to the present, this is the story of one man’s efforts to keep the family cake shop alive in a Kyoto that is constantly modernizing.
I saw the last moment of my life. Walking along, head bent, holding the phone with my left hand while with the right I stroked the screen, looking for a text message from my girlfriend. My feet straying across the yellow bumps of the Braille blocks, closer and closer to the edge. The left foot in its black business shoe missing the platform edge, pawing thin air. The sudden looming bulk of the train, and the roaring noise. It all happened so quickly. I didn’t feel anything.
I sat there on the platform seat, reliving it. I wondered if it was okay to call it “reliving it” when you were dead. In one second, my life was gone. I didn’t feel sad, or cheated, or resentful. It was just an occurrence, like not buttoning my button that morning, or cupping my girlfriend’s face in the bluish light of the street lamp, just before her warm kiss. Dying was another experience of my life.
But now, for some reason, I was stuck at the scene of my death. My poor broken body could leave, but I couldn’t.
Was there a reason I was still here? Something I needed to see, to notice? I gazed around and realized that the station had opened again. Passengers were beginning to wander around on the platform, avoiding the patches of summer sunlight and staying in the shade. Some were buying drinks from the vending machine, others lining up at the edge of the platform, fanning themselves or wiping their sweaty necks with handkerchiefs. I heard the swish of summer dresses and the crisp crackle of new-ironed shirts; I saw the pretty, delicate sandals of women and the boat-like, comically long shoes of men. And of course, lots of them were looking at their phones. The universal pose of modern man. If we don’t watch out, our spines will curve back into a Neanderthal shape, and our evolution will start going backwards. I chuckled at the thought, and at that moment, a young guy in dreadlocks passed me. Of course he wouldn’t have heard me even if I’d been alive. He was bopping to music only he could hear, his ears firmly plugged by earphones as he flicked his phone screen with his fingers.
There was a PA announcement for the next train. The music that signaled the approach of a train began tinkling, the railroad crossing began pinging. It seemed very noisy to me, but most people didn’t seem to notice the noise. They walked along oblivious, glued to their phones. I wasn’t oblivious, though. My phone-staring days were over. I watched the people.