Scrap and Build

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Scrap and Build
Author: Keisuke Hada
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163903408
121 pages
13.7 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2015
Awards: Akutagawa Prize, 2015
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This is the story of an unemployed young man who becomes his elderly grandfather’s main caregiver.

Twenty-eight-year-old Kento Tanaka lives in suburban Tokyo with his mother, who still holds down a full-time job in her sixties, and his 87-year-old grandfather; his father died of an illness when Kento was not yet ten. After graduating from college, he took a job with an auto dealer, but ultimately found the work too taxing and quit. For the past seven months he has been at home, studying to become a Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist. Since he is almost always at home during the day, it falls to him to look after his grandfather’s needs?preparing meals, helping him bathe, etc.?and he sees it as a nuisance. His grandfather is constantly saying that he wants to die, and one time he even attempted to kill himself with a drug overdose, but he does not suffer from any particularly debilitating diseases or conditions. Kento devises a plan to grant his grandfather’s wish, by helping him along to a peaceful, pain-free death: knowing how quickly unused muscles lose their strength, he decides he will pamper his grandfather to the hilt so that his motor functions will atrophy from disuse. At the same time, he takes up a bodybuilding regimen for himself?in effect, to rub his grandfather’s nose in what it’s like to still be young and virile. One day he goes out for some between-the-sheets time with his girlfriend, but their plans fall through, and he returns early to find his grandfather moving spryly about the kitchen and chomping into some frozen pizza he’s heated up for himself with added toppings. So does the geezer want to die or not? Kento wonders. He soon also learns that the old man’s story about being a pilot at the end of World War II and watching many of his fellow pilots go to their deaths in kamikaze attacks is a lie . . .

The skyrocketing cost of medical benefits for Japan’s rapidly aging population has led to an increased tax burden on younger generations. This thought-provoking work brings the realities of the resulting inter-generational friction into vivid relief, and also joins the debate about how we might best approach the terminal stages of life. The acute critical eye author Keisuke Hada trains on contemporary society is at its sharpest here.