Contemporary Japanese Writers

Kazushige Abe*

Kazushige Abe* 阿部和重

Kazushige Abe (1968–)  became fascinated with movies from a young age. This passion led him to drop out of high school and head for Tokyo, where he enrolled in the Japan Academy of Moving Images with the intention of becoming a film director. He graduated in 1990 and worked as an assistant director in several productions before he changed course again, setting his sights on becoming a writer. He made his debut in 1994 with Amerika no yoru (American Night), which won the Gunzō Prize for New Writers. He continues to attract attention with a series of experimental works so daring in their approach that it has been commented that "literature has finally caught up with Kazushige Abe."

Certain words recur frequently in Abe's works, among them "Yamagata" (the northern prefecture where he was born and grew up), "Shibuya" (a fashionable district in Tokyo), "right-wing," and "violence." Enormous weight is attached to each of these keywords in his writings.

The novel Indivijuaru purojekushon (Individual Projection) is set in Shibuya. The narrator, a youth named Onuma, screens movies at a local theater where his coworkers include a female ticket collector named Sakata whose daughter, a second-year middle school student, turns tricks in her Shibuya apartment. Onuma once attended an espionage training camp run by a man named Masaki in his mid-forties. For their final assignment, all nine trainees kidnapped a crime boss and obtained a ransom of 85 million yen (roughly $850,000) as well as a nuclear bomb before taking their cuts and going their separate ways. Now, however, Onuma finds himself at the center of a struggle over the bomb. Masaki, who has hidden it, is arrested on a charge of child molestation and killed in prison. One after another, the other trainees are also killed. One of the group, Inoue, shows up and entrusts some movie film to Onuma, who figures that the footage must record the location of the nuclear device. Deducing that Inoue had been eliminating his former colleagues in order to gain sole possession of the bomb, he solves the mystery.

The protagonist of Gurando fināre (Grand Finale) is a pedophile who quit his job at a movie company when his divorce came through. He had been caught using his digital camera to take a series of nude photos of young girls, including his daughter Chiharu, so he is stripped of his parental rights. He goes back to his hometown, idly passing the time until an acquaintance who teaches elementary school asks him to direct the children in a school play. A pair of sixth-grade girls named Ami and Asami are particularly excited about the play, which is about two separated lovers who convey their feelings for one another through forget-me-nots. After graduation, Ami will move away and the two will be separated, so they are determined to make the production a success. The protagonist sees the girls checking out a suicide website and, realizing they plan to kill themselves, resolves to do all he can to save them.

Nipponia nippon has as protagonist a 17-year-old recluse named Haruo Tokitani. Haruo spends all his time sitting in front of his computer, and so his unhappy parents urge him to go to Tokyo, where he lives alone. His surname is written with the character toki, used for the Japanese crested ibis (scientific name Nipponia nippon), and he becomes fascinated by these birds that, once plentiful in Japan, now teeter on the brink of extinction. He learns that China has donated several ibises for interbreeding in an effort to stave off extinction of the Japanese birds. Recalling the imperial line "unbroken for ages eternal," Haruo feels this is an outrageous plan that will sully the blood of the Japanese crested ibis. As his obsession grows, he comes up with three possible "final solutions": he can steal the remaining birds and breed them himself, release them into the wild, or exterminate them. Settling for doing away with the birds, Haruo obtains weapons over the Internet and sneaks into the ibis sanctuary, killing a guard. Then he hears the sound of two ibises taking wing, and . . .


* Indivijuaru purojekushon (Shinchosha, 1997, 195 pages)
* Nipponia nippon (Shinchosha, 2001, 158 pages)
* Gurando fināre (Kodansha, 2005, 200 pages, Akutagawa Prize)