Brutal and fascinating

In the Miso Soup - Ralph McCarthy, Ryƫ Murakami


Awesome, intriguing novel which deals with issues about overwhelming influence of sex industry, of the hypocrisy and emptiness of modern day living and of the cultural and moral corruption of modern day Japan.

The protagonist of the story is Kenji, a sex tour operator who guides people through sleazy Tokyo nightlife for a price. He has no license so he tries to keep it on the down-low by advertising his business in only one trusted newspaper. One day, he receives a call from Frank, an overweight American, who hires Kenji for three nights in a row to be his "night guide".


The very first evening Kenji feels something strange about this American who does not resemble any tourist he's had so far. The multitude of lies he has told him for no apparent reason, the look of his overstretched facial skin, the cheap suit he has on and the unexplainable facial expressions he manifests in the most unusual times sets Kenji's senses on alert. Kenji is somehow convinced (without any real evidence) that this man is a serial killer that has been terrorizing Japan lately. He even confides in his sixteen-year-old girlfriend about his fears. Despite all of that, Kenji meets Frank the second evening in a row.


Following Kenji and Frank we visit Kabuki-chou and his many night clubs and bars that offer various sexual activities from an "innocent" peep show to the S&M gay clubs where anything is possible. Kenji serves us as a guide through the dark and violent world of sex industry and widespread phenomena of "compensated dating" among Japanese schoolgirls.


The second evening Kenji's worst fears come to realize. He witnesses something that will irrevocably change his life. Throughout the storyline, I often wondered whether Frank is really a real person or just a figment of Kenji's imagination. It somehow reminded me of the Fight Club and I still haven't shaken off that feeling of surrealism and fantasy.


Shocking and brutal scenes of slaughter definitely surprised me. In a way, I haven't expected it after such a thoughtful or a rather philosophical beginning. I must confess that it didn't disturb me as much as it should because of some scenes that somehow made me laugh. I am not ashamed to admit that the book did make my blood run faster and sent some serious chills down my spine but it didn't disturb me as it was intended, I guess.


The author made a beautiful compilation of suspense and crime which was entangled with philosophical aspects and morals of sex industry, today's estranged modern man and solitude he experiences. All of that in multitude of layers accompanied by the hypocrisy and greed of modern Japanese man in a society that is altogether corrupt and decadent.


I would say that this is a master piece and unavoidable read for everyone who wants to dig deeper and learn more about modern day Japan and his dark portrait than simply watch anime, read manga or eat sushi / ramen and think that is enough to learn about culture and moral of Japan.