Translation Works
To Japanese
The 3rd Selected Works
Wasabi for Breakfast
(Famiri bijines)
ENGLISH / Mary Goebel Noguchi published
GERMAN / Elena Giannoulis published
Originally Published by:
Shinchosha (1999)
  • A story of the troublesome aspects of Japanese culture portrayed in a manner that is both acerbic and humorous
A genuine and comical account of the day-to-day intercultural frictions of Japanese-American family life
58-year-old painter Megumi married an American and has been living in the United States for the past 30 years. People in Japan refer to her marriage as an "international" marriage, but Megumi calls it a "mixed" or "interracial" marriage. Her 60-year-old husband David does not speak Japanese. When they go to Japan together, her relatives gather around and say whatever they very well please, leaving her to interpret between the two languages. Listening to her husband repeat the same old complaints he's been making for 30 years is also irritating. Because of this she has returned to Japan alone to visit her aging mother.
As soon as she lands, and before her brain has had the time to switch to Japanese mode, she gets a call from her 87-year-old mother, who peremptorily issues a string of orders and hangs up. From that point on, Megumi is buffeted about by the conflicting family demands.
Unwillingly going to a Buddhist memorial service for a relative to save face for her mother, Megumi, perhaps owing to her lengthy stay in the United States, feels perturbed by Japanese conventions. She also becomes involved in the turmoil caused by her younger sister Chizu's son, who has run away from home, and is perplexed afresh by the Japanese family system – the relationship between fathers and sons, mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws and so on.
Annoying kinds of social obligations among relatives are referred to in the United States as "family business." Socializing with relatives can be complex and troublesome both in the United States and in Japan, but there is no escape from one's obligations.
GENRE: Popular fiction (novel)
AWARDS: 37th Women's Literature Prize
(Given for outstanding works of women's literature)