Marriage
Author: Areno Inoue
Specifications: ISBN  978-4041101407
212 pages
13.4 x 19.2 cm / 5.3 x 7.6 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
Tokyo, 2012
www.kadokawa.co.jp
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

This novel pays homage to the 1982 novel of the same title written by Mitsuharu Inoue, author Areno Inoue’s father. It revisits the subject of love fraud taken up in the earlier work, examining it this time from a woman’s point of view.

Kenji Urumi, 45, is a gem dealer who lives in an apartment complex on the outskirts of Tokyo with his wife Hatsune, 32. An affable fellow who has a way with women, he’s long been keeping a secret from his wife: he supplements his income as a jeweler through a scheme in which he makes fraudulent proposals of marriage to women in the cities he visits on business around the country. His partner in crime is former lover Ruri Sengoku, a 50-year-old woman who still has her good looks. Ruri scopes out a possible target, and then Kenji approaches the woman at a cultural center class or in a bar and strikes up a conversation. Working his charms, he garners a date, and from there keeps things moving with practiced efficiency until he can pop the question two or three months later. Once the woman has said yes, he robs her of as much as several million yen (in 2012, the value of ¥1,000,000 was around US$12-13,000) under the guise of paying for wedding rings, the down payment on a place to live, etc.

The women he ensnares in this way are of different circumstances and ages, living in several places around Tokyo as well as farther afield around the country: Asako, a clerk in the front office of a cram school in Tokyo; Mayuri, a nightclub singer in Sasebo; Hatoko, a cleaning company manager on long-term assignment in Sendai, who actually has a husband back in Tokyo; and so forth. What all of the women have in common is that they live self-sufficient and essentially solitary lives, cut off from family and without close friends.

Ruri was a married woman when Kenji came to her house to appraise some jewelry and they became lovers—which resulted in her divorce. Immediately afterwards, they went on an extravagant jaunt to Indonesia with the proceeds from selling off jewelry belonging to Ruri’s parents. Now, more than a dozen years later, Kenji has tired of Ruri to the point of revulsion, but Ruri remains smitten with him and longs to win him back. Although Kenji didn’t begin the fraud scheme until after he met Ruri, she finds herself wondering if she was not in fact his first target—and desperately denying it to herself. She wants to believe that he truly loved her. Yet the only thing keeping them together now is money, and in order to sustain that connection, she continues to find women for him to defraud.

Then one day Hatoko, the woman Kenji had ensnared in Sendai, figures out that Ruri is Kenji’s accomplice and finds out where she lives. Ruri decides to lure Hatoko to her house so she can attack her on home ground. Afterwards, even though it’s obvious that she’s responsible for Hatoko’s injuries, she nonchalantly maintains to Kenji that Hatoko never showed up. Her demeanor strikes Kenji with a mixture of awe and dread as the story comes to a close.

The women Kenji takes advantage of, including Ruri, ultimately lose not just money but husbands, lovers, and jobs. What comes into relief through their various tales is the loneliness of those who cling, as if it’s their only hope, to the false promise of marriage with a man who is nothing more than a smooth talker. The work probes the question of just how much weight the institution of marriage holds in people’s lives.