La-la-la Child of Science

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La-la-la Child of Science
Author: Toshihiko Yahagi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4167691028
528 pages
10.6 x 15.2 cm / 4.2 x 6.1 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2003
Awards: Mishima Yukio Prize, 2004
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The setting is 1998 Tokyo after the collapse of the economic bubble. The nameless male protagonist has been smuggled into Japan from China aboard a freighter by the snakeheads. The plan was for the local Chinese mafia to collect him and exploit him for slave labor, but he manages to escape. The man is actually Japanese and a one-time Tokyo University student. He slipped out of Japan by swapping his passport and family register with a Chinese citizen and is returning to his homeland for the first time in 30 years. During the student riots of 1968 he had accidentally inflicted serious injury on a policeman at the university and was placed on the wanted list for attempted murder. After getting to China he had been invited to join the Red Guards in Shanghai, but the chaos of the Cultural Revolution saw him banished to a remote, primitive mountain hamlet in the south of the country, where he lived in extreme poverty for three decades. Now back in Tokyo, the man gets in touch with Shigaki, an old friend from the student movement days who was supposed to have accompanied him to China. Shigaki is now a semi-gangster property magnate who got rich by driving people off their land for developers. Shigaki welcomes back his old friend and promises to protect him. The man starts to delve into the past. He discovers that his parents are both dead, but that his little sister is working in TV news . . .

The author makes deft use of the 30-year gap in the man's perceptions to force us to take a cool look at present-day Tokyo. This is Yahagi's best book since his 1997 tour de force A JA PAN! (Ah, Japan!) and further proof of what an extraordinary talent he is.