Review of Tokyo Decadence by Ryu Murakami

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Many years ago, before going to Tokyo myself, a guide book told me about how little poverty there was in Japan. Unlike Western cities the book told me (I'm paraphrasing here, of course), Tokyo is free of the down-and-out. Oh is it? I thought, walking through a tent city around, if memory serves me correctly, Ueno Station. The guide book was only a year or two old, so unless sudden poverty struck, the guide book was either blind or just plain wrong.

I kept coming to that memory while reading Tokyo Decadence, fifteen stories of, as the back blurb says not-so-average Tokyoites. This isn't the Japan I saw on the news growing up, full of economic marvels and glossy apartment blocks and white-plated robots. This is the grittier part of Japan, the struggling to keep going Japan, the seedy bits that my guidebook chose to ignore. It shouldn't surprise me that this all exists; I mean, I was in Nagasaki when its mayor was shot by the yakuza. There's an underbelly everywhere, and Tokyo Decadence skims along it, going up into the lower working classes, down into drug dealers, around the love hotels and hostess bars. I can't really say that the collection is hopeful, but it isn't hopeless either. It's like a dark fantasy, except real, which I guess is what all gritty fiction should feel like.

Tokyo Decadence by Ryu Murakami went on sale March 15, 2016.

I received a copy free from Librarything in exchange for an honest review.