Translation Works
To Japanese
The 2nd Selected Works
A True Novel
(Honkaku shosetsu)
ENGLISH / Ann Sherif
Originally Published by:
Shinchosha (2002)
(2005) (pb)
  • An epic-length novel immediately acclaimed as a consummate classic
The legendary story of a chauffeur who became a millionaire
Sitting at the dinner table one evening at their home in a New York City suburb, the Mizumura family's conversation turns to a driver who had been hired by an American friend of the father - a Japanese man with a middle-school education aged about 20, named Taro Azuma. Taro had quit his job as driver after a few months and gone to work as a machinist in a Japanese company. Later he had applied for a green card and begun working as a salesman. Eventually, he had established a company in partnership with a Jewish businessman and had come to be seen as one of the most successful of the Japanese who had migrated to the United States.
Several years after that evening, the Mizumura family's second daughter, Minae, hears from an acquaintance that there has recently been no news of Taro's whereabouts. Minae is working as a Japanese literature teacher at a California university when she is visited one day by a young man called Yusuke, who had been working at a publishing company in Japan. He tells her that he had met Taro three years earlier in Shinshu and heard about Minae. Yusuke then begins to tell Miinae the story of Taro's past.
While visiting Shinshu on vacation, Yusuke had a bicycle accident that by chance led him to meet Taro and learn of his past. Taro was a stepchild in a family that had returned to Japan from Manchuria, and this led to his being bullied both at home and at school. When Taro's relatives learned of this, they decided to raise him themselves. Taro, who had been scruffy until then, cleaned himself up and learned to study. He became smitten with puppy love for Yoko, a sickly young girl living in the same house. When Taro became a middle school student and his relationship with Yoko was deemed to be too close, Yoko's family separated them. The couple continued to write letters to each other secretly for several years, but when Taro turned 19 and went to visit Yoko, he was roundly rejected.
Bereft of the love of his life, Taro went to the United States and became a driver. Fifteen years later, he reappeared in Japan as a very wealthy man. The return to Japan of this splendid new version of Taro begins to slowly undermine the peaceful daily lives of Yoko and her family. How have the feelings of Taro and Yoko evolved over the decades…?
Genre: Literary fiction
Awards: 54th Yomiuri Prize for Literature, Novels Prize
(Given for the previous year's most outstanding works in five categories: novels, dramas, criticism, haiku poetry, research/translation)