Wonderful Flavor

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Wonderful Flavor
Author: Amy Yamada
Specifications: ISBN  978-4163239309
237 pages
14.0 x 19.5 cm / 5.6 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2005
Awards: Tanizaki Jun'ichiro Prize, 2005
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


This collection of short stories was published at the 20-year mark of Yamada's writing career. The central characters of all six tales are male manual laborers. Toiling at jobs in crematoriums, high-rise construction, garbage collection and the like, they are a group seldom put forward as protagonists in modern Japanese fiction. Yamada deftly combines descriptions of their work and their relationships in constructing her tales. The title story is about the love lives of Fujiko, an old woman who used to run a bar near a U.S. Air Force base in Tokyo's suburbs, and Shiro, her 21-year-old grandson. Fujiko had once worked as a waitress on base, where she'd fallen heavily for an American customer. He ran out on her, but she still adores anything and everything from the U.S. Now past 70, she smokes Lucky Strikes and rides around in a red Camaro with a boyfriend Shiro's age, glorying in love. After graduating from high school, Shiro doesn't go to university, but with Fujiko's backing takes a job at a local gas station. Dealing with customers with the un-Japanese "ladies first" ethos drilled into him by his grandma, he gets to like his job and eventually falls in love with Noriko, a fellow gas pumper. Noriko and Fujiko also bond easily, but in the end Noriko ups and goes, dumping Shiro with the comment that he's "just too nice." The author sums up her philosophy in the afterword: "For me, fiction means love gone awry," she writes. Sure enough, this collection is a series of vivid and powerful portrayals of thwarted love.