Some Random Thoughts Upon Returning to Japan Yet Again

A week into my winter sojourn in Japan, I am happy to report that things are pretty much as I left them at the beginning of last summer. I moved back into the same apartment complex in suburban Tokyo, although not to the same apartment. I used to be in 201, now I am in 202, next door. This has been the cause of some puzzlement and consternation for the local postman and delivery folks; when I have answered the door, I have been greeted with a pronounced double take on several occasions, and some rapid fire Japanese which must translate to something like this: “Just a doggone minute! Didn’t you use to live next door, or am I hallucinating? Am I on Candid Camera?”

It took less than one day to turn up my first example of Manglish, and I wasn’t even really looking for it. It arrived via the packaging for the pale blue fleece seat cover that currently adorns my commode. According to the label, it is for “washing and heating”, although I must confess I haven’t yet figured out just how it might accomplish those lofty goals. On the other hand, “a colorful waffle design enables the coordination of I liking”, so it’s all good.

As often happens, I have a Japanese mystery to review for BookPage, conveniently timed to coincide with my return here. This one is by bestselling author Keigo Higashino, titled The Devotion of Suspect X. The book description on the back cover reads as follows: “She’s a single mother with blood on her hands. It was a murder that should never have happened. Without hesitation her enigmatic neighbor, a brilliant math teacher whose devotion towards her runs deep, calculates the perfect alibi. When evidence doesn’t add up for the authorities, the lead detective seeks the advice of his friend, a brilliant physicist, who knows the math genius from his past. What ensues is a fierce battle of wits. How far will one mastermind go for love and the other for truth? And how long must one woman feel indebted to her protector when her heart lies with another?”

Sounds pretty good, right? One small problem for me, however: the whole plot was just a bit too familiar, although I couldn’t figure out why. Some time later it dawned on me. Earlier this year, I had watched a Japanese video with a very similar, perhaps identical, story line. The title was in Japanese, though, and I wasn’t sure I could locate it again among the stacks of Japanese videos that line my bookcase. In the event, it wasn’t all that difficult, as the front cover of the DVD case bore a large red “X” (the first clue for this inveterate mystery fan). In Japanese, the movie is titled “Yougisha X no Kenshin”, but in English it is simply “Suspect X”.

It turns out (no surprises here) that the movie is indeed an adaptation of Higashino’s book; the film came out in 2007, and the book was released all the way back in 2005. And, as is typically the case with foreign-language mysteries, it arrives on our shores some years later (sigh…), but that is another rant for another time.

I haven’t started the book yet, but I will do so this week; have a look in the print edition or the online edition of February’s BookPage (www.bookpage.com) for my review. I can say this, though: the movie was first rate (you can find it easily on ebay or any of several online book/video outlets), so I have high expectations for the book.

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