This volume contains two heartwarming linked stories, one mid-length and one short, about the eponymous Minato Hotel.
In Saku no wa hana dake de wa nai (Not Just Flowers Bloom), Shinnosuke Kiyama, a 25-year-old white-collar worker, lives with his grandfather Kakujirō. Kakujirō is a member of a “mutual support group” of men and women who were originally classmates in middle school and have met regularly ever since. One day Kakujirō tells Shinnosuke that the first-anniversary memorial for group member Yōko is approaching, and he wants to hold the ceremony in the back yard of the Minato Hotel that she used to run. It is a lodging house that was built in the 1920s, and besides being outfitted with antique furnishings, its six guest rooms are soundproofed. The hotel has a back yard where flowers are constantly in bloom year-round, but the key to the back door has been missing since Yōko’s death. In the meantime, a note expressing Yōko’s wish that her funeral be held in that back yard has come into Kakujirō’s possession, and although it’s too late to honor that particular wish, he offers Shinnosuke a sum of money to find the key so that her first anniversary observance can be held there.
When Shinnosuke goes to the Minato Hotel to conduct his search, Yōko’s 37-year-old adopted son Atsuhiko, now managing the hotel, offers to pay him to find a missing cat, as well as to stand in at the hotel’s reception desk. During Yōko’s time, what was once a perfectly ordinary lodging place had somehow been transformed into a kind of retreat facility for people whose troubles steal their appetites and keep them awake at night. Shinnosuke has never been much of a people person, but his contacts with the distinctively drawn characters at the hotel—eccentric owner Atsuhiko; long-term residents Kiriko and her daughter, who have come there to escape a violent husband/father; a colleague of Shinnosuke from his regular job, who has been cut off by her adulterous lover—begin to change him, warming him to the value of a life lived in service to others. After weathering a visit by Kiriko’s husband when he discovers her whereabouts, Shinnosuke finally finds the key to the back yard, and the first-anniversary memorial takes place there as Kakujirō had hoped. The all-important clue to the key’s hiding place is one that expresses Yōko’s deep love for Atsuhiko.
The accompanying story, Te no naka ni aru (In Hand), rolls back the time frame to when Yōko’s beloved husband died. It recounts how, after shuttering the hotel for a time, she decided to reopen it as a place where those who are struggling with difficult circumstances in their lives can come to rest both body and soul.
Set in an offbeat hotel that opens its arms to people carrying a variety of burdens, the two stories gently and lovingly illumine the simple joys of people connecting with one another.