Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

Strangely discombobulating…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

paradeFour young people are sharing a small flat in Tokyo, each having drifted there in a casual, unplanned way. Forced into a kind of physical intimacy by this living arrangement, each remains emotionally isolated and, as we discover, damaged to varying degrees by their pasts. Naoki is the eldest and something of a big brother figure to the rest – he originally shared the flat with his girlfriend, who left him for an older man but still pops back to visit and stay in the flat on occasion. Mirai works hard and plays hard, spending her evenings getting drunk in gay bars. Kotomi stays home all day watching TV and waiting for her soap-star boyfriend to ring. Ryosuke is a student and as we meet him he has just fallen in love with the girlfriend of his older friend and mentor. Then one morning a fifth arrives, Satoru – no-one really knows who invited him but in this casual set-up he soon becomes accepted as another flatmate, even though no-one is quite sure who he is or what he does when he works late at night.

Although this is billed as a crime thriller, it really falls much more into the category of literary fiction. There is a crime element but it’s almost entirely in the background for most of the book. There’s not much plot as such – this is more an examination of the somewhat empty and alienated lives of these young people. Each section of the book is narrated by a different character, so we get to see what they each think of the others and also to find out a bit about what has brought them here and made them who they are.


Whenever I read Japanese fiction, I find it a strangely discombobulating experience – it always seems to reflect a society that is uneasy in its modernity, with a generation of young people who have thrown out the values of their elders but haven’t really found a way to replace them satisfactorily. There is always a sensation of drifting, of free-fall almost, and a kind of passivity that leaves me feeling as if there’s a dangerous void in the culture, waiting to be filled. But since I don’t know anything about Japan except through their fiction, I don’t know whether this is just a style of writing or whether it’s an accurate picture of the society.

I find Yoshida’s writing quite compelling and although I don’t always feel that I understand why his characters are as they are, I find them believable and fully rounded. The somewhat shocking ending of this one took me completely by surprise, and at first I felt almost as if the author hadn’t played fair with me. But a few days on I find the book is still running through my mind and I am seeing in retrospect what was hidden during the reading – which means that my appreciation for the ending has grown as I’ve gained a little distance from it.

Shuichi Yoshida
Shuichi Yoshida

Although this shares a translator, Philip Gabriel, with Yoshida’s first novel, I enjoyed the translation of this one much more. It is still Americanised but without the clumsy slang that irritated me so much in Villain.

On re-reading this review, I feel it isn’t giving a very clear picture of the book, and that’s actually a pretty accurate reflection of my feelings about it. I’m not sure I totally ‘got’ it (which happens to me a lot with Japanese fiction) but I am quite sure I found it a compelling and thought-provoking read. And I will most certainly be looking out for more of Yoshida’s work in future.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Vintage.

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53 thoughts on “Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

  1. I think that’s quite an accurate description of young people (and not just them) in Japanese society. There is a sense of alienation in a society which is so prescriptive and conformist. Perhaps during the period of after-war damage and then economic boom it was easier to buy into the ‘success story’ and the ‘work hard, head down, don’t complain’ ethic. But their economic stagnation has now been going on for about 2 decades and I suspect that more and more Japanese are questioning what it is all for, and if there is something else out there for them.


    • Interesting – thanks! It’s odd, when I’m reading about almost any other culture I generally end up feeling our similarities are greater than our differences, but Japanese fiction always leaves me feeling that I don’t fully understand the ‘national psyche’ – it feels genuinely ‘foreign’ somehow, even though the actions of this group weren’t so different to a group of young flat-dwellers in London might be. Actually I think that feeling of mild incomprehension might be why I enjoy reading it, though…


  2. FictionFan – So nice to have you back! 🙂 – And thanks for the fine review. You know, I’ve been going back and forth about this book. It does sound like a fascinating psychological/sociological exploration, and I always appreciate a fine writing style. I’ll have to try it at a time when I’m ready for some bleakness.


    • Thanks, Margot! 🙂 It is an interesting read, this one, and I see why my review makes it look bleak, and in some senses it is. But there’s also some mild humour, and the overall tone is mainly light though it gets very dark before the end. I suspect you would enjoy it.


    • Hello, C-W-W! I think they’re ugly and horrible, but am too lazy to devise a new system. I’m only using them reluctantly and under protest though…

      Well, I’m concerned about this review. Margot thinks the book is bleak and you think it’s about love. Hmm…I think I was right that it wasn’t really giving a clear picture of the book! But the Professor’s current obsession with the horrors of love does make me wonder…


        • I did work out how to get the old ones on the blog but it’s complicated and annoying, and I wouldn’t like to use it in comments on other people’s blogs – and I’m pretty sure WP would send the Smiley Police after me sooner or later…and me without a purple car too…

          Wondering whether Spring has made an old Professor’s fancy turn to thoughts of love…as Tennyson didn’t say… *winks cheekily*


  3. Welcome back. Enjoyed your review and I so agree with you about the feeling of alienation reading Japanese fiction produces. Even “westernised” writers like Ishiguro don’ write in quite the same way as their contemporaries – perhaps because Japan developed in isolation for so long? – or is that stretching it?


    • Thanks! 🙂 Perhaps – and I haven’t read any Chinese fiction (that I can think of) so don’t know if the same would apply to them. But I do feel I sort of understand the Chinese psyche…a bit anyway…and I can never decide whether it’s the style of writing or the actual Japanese psyche that is discombobulating.


  4. Oy oy! Hurrah! See how we all missed you! Hmm can’t decide if this is one for me or not. Subject matter says yes, and i do like the strangeness of Japanese literature, the discombobule element, …..thinks on……


    • Thanks! 🙂 Not sure whether this would be your cuppa – there is a crime element and although it’s in the background for most of the book, it’s still there, if you see what I mean. However, I do like his writing and characterisation – he seems to specialise in disaffected yoof, mainly – and the translation of this one works much better. Hmm…it’s a maybe…


  5. So glad you are back!

    When West meets East, there will always be gaps of understanding.The eastern culture is vastly different from ours. Their values are not ours. I see it when I read books like Shogun and watch movies like The Last Samurai I get a glimpse of how far apart the west is from the east. Their culture is layers upon layers upon layers. It is probably safe to say that unless you are born and raised as Japanese (or as any other eastern culture) you cannot get to the bottom of who they are.

    It sounds like an interesting book, and it was a great review. Thanks!


  6. Good to see you are back FF and you started the review with one of my favourite words, discombobulating. We have a big contingent of Japanese clients and their way of doing business from a culture perspective is vastly different to every other country. I’m not sure this is for me, mainly because I like characters to have a purpose but another excellent review 🙂


    • Thanks, Cleo! 🙂 It’s a great word, isn’t it? That must be interesting – I’ve really never had any contact with Japanese people, either business or personal. Only fictional…


  7. I’ve been strangely ambivalent about your absence. I missed your “voice” quite a bit, but was relieved for the respite from temptation. 😀 I agree with you about the “not quite getting” part, but my recent experience is more associated with Miyazaki’s animated films. I just don’t get it, but I’ll keep trying.


    • Haha! I think you might be in luck – I’m not convinced most of the next couple of week’s reviews are your kind of thing…well, maybe just a couple of them… 😉

      I’ve never tried Japanese films (not being a big film-watcher in general and too lacking in concentration for subtitles) but it’s a strange feeling with fiction – one that keeps me interested enough to keep going back for more though.


  8. What an interesting review. I’ve not read any Japanese fiction, billed as crime thriller, or otherwise. However, I can completely understand the alienation factor on an island crammed with people, all of whom are expected to toe a certain line. I know from other reading and sources that the Japanese youth are rebellious in their dress and appearance – makes sense.

    I am a big fan of the older Japanese films though. Many of those are unlike anything one would ever see today!


    • I’ve not read a huge amount myself, but every time I do I come away with the same feeling of slight bemusement, and I can never quite pin down why. But I think that’s part of the attraction for me to be honest. On the other hand I can’t think of a single Japanese film that I’ve seen – I’m extremely lazy about subtitles. It’s the passivity that always seems to come over in books that puzzles me – I would expect a more rebellious, more politicized youth maybe. But in fiction they always seem to be just drifting along with no direction…


    • It’s just been published in English this month. I didn’t know there was a film of it, so thanks for that. I must check to see if it’s available with subtitles. The trailer makes it look a bit like an episode of Friends at the beginning…


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