Spring Garden
Author: Tomoka Shibasaki
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163901015
141 pages
13.8 x 19.0 cm / 5.5 x 7.6 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2014
Awards: Akutagawa Prize, 2014
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


This mid-length work portrays roughly one year in the lives and changing relationships of residents of an outdated apartment house located in an upscale residential section of Tokyo.

When Tarō got divorced three years ago, he also quit his job as a beautician to take up a salaried sales position, and he moved to the 31-year-old, eight-unit building that’s now half-empty because it’s slated to be torn down. One morning in early summer, he sees a female resident with whom he has a nodding acquaintance trying to climb over the wall to the adjoining property where there stands a large Western-style residence painted light blue. The woman gives her name as Nishi and says she is a manga artist. She abandons her attempted trespassing, but asks Tarō to let her observe the residence from the vantage of his apartment.

Several days later Nishi explains her action at a nearby tavern: twenty years before, when she was a senior in high school, she had found a photo collection called Spring Garden. A much-in-demand director of television commercials and his actress wife had compiled photos of their own home into a book, and that home was none other than the light blue mansion next door. The house had been built in 1964, making it even older than the apartment house, and she had learned on the Internet that it was available for rent. But being a large, sprawling building, the cost was far more than she could afford. When she then discovered this cheap apartment house next door, she had moved in?just this past February.

Since that time, a couple with two children have taken up residence in the light blue property, and a nameplate reading “Morio” has been placed on the gatepost, but Nishi’s desire to see the inside of the house remains unchanged. In mid-October, Tarō spots Nishi in the neighboring yard. Nishi tells him she has become friends with Mrs. Morio, and has fulfilled her wish to see firsthand the unique bathroom tiled in a pea-green mosaic. In the new year, Nishi moves away to care for her elderly mother, and the Morio family vacates the old house.

With narrative voice and perspective shifting frequently from one character to another and from bird’s-eye view to extreme close-up, the author brings slices of these characters’ lives, and visions of past and present, into vivid relief.