On the Shores of Memory

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On the Shores of Memory
Author: Kazufumi Shiraishi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4041025277
496 pages
13.2 x 18.8 cm / 5.6 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
Tokyo, 2016
www.kadokawa.co.jp
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

Fictitious Japanese novelist Sōichi Koga, known to the world by his pen name of Jin Tezuka and regarded as a potential Nobel nominee, dies at the age of 54 leaving a number of unanswered questions about his life. The story follows the efforts of his brother and others to answer them.

Part 1 of the novel is narrated by Sōichi’s younger brother Jun’ichi, 49. Growing up, their family had consisted of the two brothers and their parents. Their mother and father were both only-children and had few relatives; they died in quick succession when the boys were still in their twenties, leaving them with effectively no other family. At the time of his brother’s death, Jun’ichi lives in a regional city where he runs a company that manufactures a natural soap touted for its efficacy with atopic dermatitis. Even though they are the only family either of them has, the brothers have been out of touch for over ten years due to their busy schedules. The story begins when Jun’ichi receives word of Sōichi’s death and goes to Tokyo to dispose of his belongings. He learns that the death has been ruled a suicide, and from what he finds at his brother’s apartment as well as through contacts with his brother’s associates, he begins to uncover things he hadn’t known about him, especially about his recent life. Sōichi had been 27 when his maiden work became a bestseller and gave his career a dazzling start. For a while, he and his wife Momoko had everything they could want in life. But around the time he turned 40, he and Momoko got divorced, and it was not long after that that he stopped writing novels. As Jun’ichi continues his investigations, he learns that his brother had been involved with a new religious sect, and had apparently had an intimate relationship with a sect leader named Miki Kojima. But when Jun’ichi seeks out Miki to find out more about the circumstances, Miki’s ex-husband jumps to the conclusion that Jun’ichi and Miki have become lovers, and stabs Jun’ichi to death.

In Parts 2 and 3, the story is picked up by Tōya Shirasaki, Momoko’s nephew. Tōya had been a great admirer of novelist Jin Tezuka from the time his aunt had been married to him, and his high regard had not changed even after his aunt died of cancer and he lost that tie. Then a reporter named Kazahaya, who was once Tezuka’s editor, contacts Tōya regarding some doubts he has about Tezuka’s suicide, and the two join forces to pursue those questions as well as questions about Jun’ichi’s death. Tōya, who is still an undergraduate when they first begin these investigations, in time graduates and follows in his uncle’s footsteps to become a promising young novelist. Then the slow but steady investigation begins to yield results. They learn that it was Tezuka who had brought home and cultivated cuttings from a cherry tree said to have been identified as sacred by the founder of the new religious sect in London, and it was also Tezuka who had suggested that a company be formed to make soap from those cherry trees. What could have been his motive? Tōya had himself spent his childhood in London, where Tezuka had found the tree in question. Now drawn by a number of coincidences, he decides to return to that city in pursuit of the answers. Having anticipated his own death, Tezuka had planted the final clues to the puzzle there during his lifetime—to ensure that the mystery would be solved.

The nature of memory as the very essence of life is a recurring motif in the story. Sōichi was clearly aware during his life that he and his brother were reincarnations of the sons of the sect’s founder, and Jun’ichi experienced what seemed to be memories from a past life as well. But what exactly are memories from a previous existence? This is a book that prompts readers to reflect deeply on the role memory plays in coloring human life.