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In the Miso Soup

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It is just before New Year’s. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife. But Frank’s behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion – that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It is not until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

From postmodern Renaissance man Ryu Murakami, master of the psycho-thriller and director of Tokyo Decadence, comes this shocking, hair-raising, roller-coaster ride through the nefarious neon-lit world of Tokyo’s sex industry.

217 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Ryū Murakami

260 books2,874 followers
Ryū Murakami (村上 龍) is a Japanese novelist and filmmaker. He is not related to Haruki Murakami or Takashi Murakami.

Murakami's first work, the short novel Almost Transparent Blue, written while he was still a student, deals with promiscuity and drug use among disaffected Japanese youth. Critically acclaimed as a new style of literature, it won the newcomer's literature prize in 1976 despite some observers decrying it as decadent. Later the same year, Blue won the Akutagawa Prize, going on to become a best seller. In 1980, Murakami published the much longer novel Coin Locker Babies, again to critical acclaim.

Takashi Miike's feature film Audition (1999) was based on one of his novels. Murakami reportedly liked it so much he gave Miike his blessing to adapt Coin Locker Babies. The screen play was worked on by director Jordan Galland. However, Miike could not raise funding for the project. An adaptation directed by Michele Civetta is currently in production.

Murakami has played drums for a rock group called Coelacanth and hosted a TV talk show.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,196 reviews
Profile Image for Kat.
270 reviews80k followers
June 14, 2022
overhyped as fuck
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
October 8, 2019
”I had just turned twenty, and though my English is far from perfect I was working as a ‘nightlife guide’ for foreign tourists. Basically I specialize in what you might call sex tours, so it’s not as if my English needs to flawless. Since AIDS, the sex industry hasn’t exactly welcomed foreigners with open arms--in fact, most of the clubs are pretty blatant about refusing service to gaijin--but lots of visitors from overseas are still determined to play, and they’re the ones who pay me to guide them to relatively safe cabarets and massage parlors and S&M bars and what have you. I’m not employed by a company and don’t even have an office, but by running a simple ad in an English-language tourist magazine I make enough to rent a nice studio apartment in Meguro, take my girl out for Korean barbecue once in a while, and listen to the music I like and read the things I want to read. “

 photo Japan_zpsabec102f.jpg
Red Light District

Life maybe wasn’t going well for Kenji, but it certainly wasn’t going poorly for him either, but there is most assuredly a before and after in his life. The after begins when he meets the American tourist Frank.

There is something not quite right about Frank.

Kenji has formed some opinions about Americans over the years.

”What’s good about Americans, if I can generalize a little, is that they have a kind of openhearted innocence. And what’ not so good is that they can’t imagine any world outside the States, or any value system different from their own. The Japanese have a similar defect, but Americans are even worse about trying to force others to do whatever they themselves believe to be right. American clients often forbid me to smoke and sometimes even make me accompany them on their daily jogs. In a word, they’re childish--but maybe that’s what makes their smile so appealing.”

Usually Kenji just escorts guys around showing their options for “entertainment” and then if they insist, rarely so, he accompanies them into the clubs and service oriented places. Frank keeps him close, even starts to consider him a friend, and at one point insists on getting his picture taken with Kenji. This required very close contact.

”I’m not saying that Frank revolted me, but I wasn’t about to press my cheek against his. Just the fact that he was a man made it bad enough, but Frank also had that weird skin. No wrinkles, though he was supposedly in his mid-thirties, but his face wasn’t what you’d call smooth, either--it was shiny and flabby and artificial-looking.... Frank’s cheek was cold and felt like the silicone they use in diving masks.”

There are new places springing up where men stand in line for a chance to talk to teenage girls. Good lord who would want to do that!!! Married women are going to clubs to talk to men who are willing to buy them food and drink for a chance to just be with them for a half hour. There are handjobs available. There are blowjobs available. There are places where you felt as if the dirt and grease and dead skin of all the previous horny, lonely customers were rubbing off on you.

Frank seems to want to do it all and he wants Kenji with him every step of the way.

Frank is starting to freak him out.

When the body of a young Japanese girl is found horribly murdered Kenji can’t help but think that Frank was somehow involved even though he has no proof and no reason to think that he was except that Frank is getting weirder and weirder the longer Kenji knows him.

This is a short book, but Ryu Murakami shows a great deal of patience with the plot. He lets the tension build like one of the better Alfred Hitchcock films. There are wonderful thoughtful observations about contemporary Japanese culture and even some unexpected levity. Some of the humor comes at those points, vintage Murakami, where you laugh and feel immediately guilty that you laughed at something so horrible.

 photo RyuMurakami_zps908b4450.jpg
Ryu Murakami

This is certainly not as uncomfortable to read as Almost Transparent Blue. The violence though graphic, Murakami knows no other kind, is contained to one scene and by the time it happens I’m already starting to wonder if the bad boy Murakami is going to show up. There is no sex, well plenty on stage left and right, but none on center stage. I know, shocking, especially given the nature of the plot. As Kenji is drawn further and further into circumstances that he couldn’t even imagine finding himself just days before, he scrambles to make his brain engage and either do the right thing or choose to live another day. The struggle is deciding which one.

My Almost Transparent Blue review with more thoughts on the works of Ryu Murakami

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Jaidee.
605 reviews1,203 followers
May 8, 2019
4.5 "chilling, existential and misanthropic" stars !!!

9th Favorite Read of 2015

This book was given to me by my partner as I am waiting for Ms. Alice Munro's "Dear Life: Stories." from the library. I was very wary when he gave this to me because I do not like gratuitous violence that leaves one feeling desensitized or empty.

This little novel was so much more though. It was a foray into the interactions between a lost young Japanese Man and a middle aged American psychopath so intelligent and cunning as they explore the red light district of Tokyo. The situations were at times hilarious, other times pathetic and at other times brazenly violent. The writing veered from simplistic to intelligent philosophizing with dialogue that was both interesting yet repetitive. This left me with feelings of unease, fear and yet with a dreamlike haziness. I read this in the late spring heat but actually felt chilled even when I read this book in a sun-brightened public park.

A dark intelligent little novel that I will not forget even if right now I would like to.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,452 reviews2,405 followers
February 24, 2023
This one is pretty disturbing.

(*Warning: Graphic murder scenes.)

But I absolutely loved the writing style.
I liked the characters - both the good, the bad and the ugly.
The whole book talks about two nights.
A character from America visiting Japan to have some fun.
A Japanese guide.
Murders happen.
The characters get revealed in length through conversations.

First third of the book is so damn full of suspense and will get you psychologically hyped up.
The last part is just something you would want to avoid if you want your life to go on normally.

The whole story is so messed up but the writing style is so calm and natural.
There's something about the writing that you just wouldn't want to stop reading until it gets over.

Oh, my dear mind.
I need coffee.

*Planning to read all the books by the author.
Gruesome reads for sure. Halloween reads, anyone?!
Profile Image for Kiekiat.
69 reviews126 followers
April 20, 2020
'In the Miso Soup,' by Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami (no relation to the more famous Murakami) is a short 217-page read. Some GR reviewers described it as a "one-sitting" read, but it took me 3 days because I'm such a slow reader. Gone are the days when I could read 200 pages of a literary classic in a day. Even in those halcyon (Triazolam?) times, 200 pages for a full day's read was only a pace of about 20 pages per hour, far from the average 60 pages an hour the average reader can consume.

'Miso Soup' is one of those genre-fiction novels that succeeds as a work containing some philosophical and social observations intertwined with a story involving extreme violence and many moments of suspense and tension. The late Roberto Bolano wrote an essay deriding the snobbery of many readers in relegating what they termed "genre fiction" into a scrap heap of short-lived diversions, read and forgotten, offering no "truths" about the bigger issues that puzzle and confront readers of "serious" fiction. This is a topic that could stir up an acrimonious debate among readers, but I would put Ryu Murakami in that class of "genre" fiction writers whom Bolano was describing--a writer of sometimes disturbing tales interspersed with insights about important social issues.

The scenario of 'In the Miso Soup' is set in Kabuki-cho, one of Tokyo's sex worker districts where foreigners are allowed. Most of the female and transgender workers there are down-at-heel and have seen better days. Though the book doesn't use the term, in Japan an unwed girl over age 25 is known as "Christmas cake," meaning her "sell by" date has passed. Kenji is a twenty-year-old Japanese living in Tokyo and self-employed as a guide for foreign sex tourists seeking sexual pleasure in what the Japanese used to call, "the water trade." He advertises his services in a sleazy rag catering to foreign male tourists who want to sample Tokyo's "sex industry." Most of his customers in the two years he's been been a Virgil to gaijin sex tourists are middle-aged Americans.

Kenji leads a life in the shadows and the best part of his existence is his relationship with his girlfriend, Jun. Jun is still in high school but spends a lot of time with Kenji and they clearly have a close bond. Kenji has few aspirations other than to save up enough money to one day move to America, a goal he seems to realize will never happen.

Murakami uses Japan's huge sex industry to point out the loneliness and isolation many feel in Japanese society. Kenji notes that in the past, most "sex tourists" were older men but that now the clubs are routinely patronized by decrepit salary men and handsome, well-heeled young Japanese who prefer paid sex and carousing to having a girlfriend. In some clubs, the desperate middle-aged guys queue up in long lines just for the chance to chat with teenage girls. And some teenage girls work the seamy areas as "paid companions," earning yen by dating older men, the implication being that both the girls and the men are lonely.

Kenji's life changes when he gets involved with his new client who calls himself Frank. Frank bears some resemblance to his movie namesake, Frank Booth, as played by Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet." Frank is American, or claims to be, and is one of the most bizarre characters I've come across in a work of fiction--bearing in mind that I'm not a reader of the horror or "weird" genre literature. I'm sure among some characters in those genres he would be pretty run-of-the-mill..

Kenji immediately gets a creepy vibe from Frank, noticing that his skin looks synthetic and is cold to the touch and his back story seems suspect and implausible. Frank claims to be from New York and says he imports Toyota radiators. It is near New Year's Day in Japan, a very special time akin to Christmas in the US. Frank claims he just wrapped up some business that day, which Kenji finds suspicious since few Japanese business people would be working so close to the holiday.

Kenji's first night with Frank brings Frank's menace and overall strangeness into more focus. Kenji has guided over 200 foreign men through Tokyo's low-rent sex district, but never anyone like Frank. Here's a quote from the novel of Kenji's impressions:

"All Americans have something lonely about them . . .but Frank had taken it to a whole new level. There was a falseness about him, as if his whole existence was somehow made up."

This "falseness" comes across in Frank's many incongruities. He meets Kenji in a cheap hotel that a "rich" American businessman is unlikely to stay in. He's dressed in a cheap suit but has plenty of money, and as the evening progresses his stories about his past life contradict one another and Frank doesn't seem to care if they do. At one point, for example, he tells Kenji he grew up playing baseball with his brother; at another point he says he was the only male child and had many sisters.

Frank also appears to hide a dangerously bad temper beneath an affable veneer. Kenji notices that when situations don't go his way, or people annoy him, he almost transmutes into a totally different-looking person and an evil look appears on his face until Kenji uses his tact to mollify him. As the first night progresses, Kenji begins to suspect that Frank is quite possibly a killer. Before coming to work that night, Kenji had listened to a news report of a young prostitute's body being found the previous night in Kabuki-cho, and that police were investigating the death as a murder. He and Frank coincidentally pass by the yellow tape marking off the crime scene and Kenji gets an eerie feeling that maybe Frank had something to do with the murder and maybe their passing by the scene wasn't really coincidental.

Kenji and Frank visit a lingerie club and chat up a few girls. Kenji's suspicions mount when Frank pays a check with a 10,000 Yen bill that has a bloodstained thumbprint in the middle, or at least the stain LOOKS like blood. Murakami does a good job of building suspicion and tension. Frank continues to reveal new sides as he discourses intelligently on a great many subjects. Next stop is a peep show where the girl is shown naked and the customer (male) can stick his penis in a hole and be "handled." Frank shows no signs of pleasure after the visit and the night becomes stranger when he and Kenji end up at a batting cage somewhere in the neighborhood. The night is cold and, nearby, a homeless man lies on a piece of cardboard trying to keep warm. Kenji and Frank both take turns at bat and Frank, supposedly a former player, makes a fool of himself and stands with the bat in odd positions as a baseball whizzes at him at 100 km per hour.

Kenji returns home exhausted and Jun is at his place to greet him. He shares his suspicions about Frank. The next morning, he wakes to find what appears to be a piece of flesh glued to his door handle. He's not sure it's a piece of flesh, but it sure looks like it. This creeps him out even more because he's pretty sure the flesh is a less-than-subtle message from Frank that he knows where Kenji lives and that Frank wants to let him know he's a killer. Meanwhile, the morning news reports a homeless man was found dead in the bathroom of a park close by the batting range where Kenji and Frank had ended their first night. Kenji is pretty sure that Frank killed some homeless man, if not the one they saw.

On the second night, Frank declaims that he "wants sex," so Kenji takes him to a club where a lot of working girls go and they sit at tables across from the men and guys can write notes to them asking if they want to have a drink and get to know each other better. Since Kenji is there as a paying customer, he is also expected to write a note to try and woo a woman. They choose a couple of ladies who agree to join them at their table. Frank quickly becomes irritated when his companion says she wants to visit America to see, "Niketown," a now closed Nike "superstore" that was on E. 57th Street in New York. Being (or claiming to be) a New Yorker, Frank has never heard of Niketown and is offended by the woman's crass materialism and launches into a diatribe about crass consumerism and berates the woman for her shallowness. Clearly his ire has risen. Then he lets Kenji see behind his menacing facade to the real monster he is, doing this by demanding Kenji leave the club. He then proceeds to slice and dice all the ladies in the club and burns the face off the club's manager. He then lets Kenji back in to see the carnage.

The rest of the novel involves the tension and suspense in the interplay between Kenji and Frank, as Kenji is pretty certain Frank is going to kill him.

Every New Year's Eve in Japan, temple bells all over the country chime 108 times in a ceremony having to do with their godless Buddhist religion, with the 108 bells representing the 108 fleshly desires of humans. Listening to the bells is suppose to absolve the listener of past year's sins.

Frank, perhaps in some twisted expiation, wants to hear the bells and gets the scoop from Kenji on the best location for listening. Kenji calls Jun and tells her to be waiting for him on the bridge he has recommended for hearing the bells. He advises her that Frank IS a killer and that if she cannot spot him on the bridge, to scream for the police. Kenji and Frank then traipse around with Frank pontificating about various topics, including his need to kill. They visit Frank's real hotel, which turns out to be a dilapidated building contaminated with Dioxin, though Frank notes that it is perfectly safe since Dioxin is only harmful when burned. Perhaps in the psychopathic character of Frank, Murakami is making some statement about America? I am hesitant to guess.

Kenji and Jun reunite on the bridge as people wait for the bells to chime, and Kenji looks for Frank but he has disappeared into the night. Kenji is unsure why he's been spared but life--for him--will go on.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,493 reviews2,373 followers
April 13, 2022

Like a hot knife through butter this was a quick and easy read over a couple of nights that left me with a seriously uncomfortable and queasy feel. What it lacked in length was certainly made up for by the atmosphere of neon noir dread. Set predominantly in the seedy backstreets of night time Tokyo it centers on twenty year old Kenji who works as a sex tour guide for tourists showing them the best strip joints, peep shows and love hotels on offer, for a few nights he is hired by an American called Frank who at first appears just like any other another client, but paranoia and tension slowly starts to grip Kenji as he believes that frank is in fact a psychopathic killer. Through Franks strange and erratic behavior, reports in the news of body parts being discovered in the area and the cold marble eye look in Franks eye, the two of them tour the district with Kenji a nervous wreck fearing some nasty happenings are right around the corner.

I feared this would turn out to be your typical slasher/horror novel but it's nothing of the sort really, and is built more on a sense of mood and unease. To describe in simple terms, it's like the calm before the storm. Be warned though, there are a few pages of the most sadistic and disturbing violence I have ever come across, that I had to go over it again because I couldn't quite believe what I just read! The thing is, this didn't really sit in with the rest of the book. Yes, I always had the feeling that something really bad was going to happen, but I always preferred that eerie sense of foreboding; the not knowing what's around the corner, rather than the actaul shocks. I credit Murakami too as I actually started to feel quite sad and take pity on the main characters, as with themes of loneliness, isolation, lack of identity and mental illness making this far more emotional than your average chiller. It will probably always be remembered for the nasty scenes, but there is a deeper logic under the surface, and it's under this surface where I found the strength of the novel lies.
Profile Image for Matthias.
107 reviews351 followers
February 19, 2016
Recommendation: Read this in one sitting. It's a very quick read with a pacing and construction very much of its own, best experienced without any long breaks. I had the misfortune of taking a break just before a certain, uuhm, "highlight", I guess you could call it, hurting the immersion a bit.

What is this book about? Fear. Mostly fear, and how people respond to it. There is a big amount of atmosphere setting as well, which is done brilliantly through the vivid descriptions of Tokyo's red-light districts and its dwellers, as well as through poignant remarks on society, American and Japanese alike. The author uses this thriller not only to strike fear into readers' hearts, but to make them think on societal values and habits, such as our different ways of communication, the obsession with consumption and image-building, the great escape from Loneliness Prison where the only tool some people seem to get is the social equivalent of a plastic spoon.

Japan, and Tokyo in particular, has always been an inspiring setting to me, ever since seeing the movie "Lost in Translation" and visiting the country myself. There's a beautiful melancholy surrounding it all, a dreaminess with a dystopian touch, and this book further confirmed and built on those feelings for Tokyo that reside within me. I don't claim to "know" Tokyo and I don't wish to pretend these feelings are in some way an opinion I can validate with strong facts, but the feelings are definitely there, and very strong.

I recently came across a series of pictures that perfectly show the setting that has been painted by Ryu Murakami in words. Of course, everyone is entitled to visualizing it in their own way, but for the curious: check out the spoiler below.

The book is divided into the "before", the "Event" and the "after", more or less, so I'll organise this review accordingly. I try to avoid spoilers but if you want to make really sure it might be best to not read my thoughts on the "after".


The "before" is the best part of the story for me. The tension building is extremely well done, and you feel as if you're in Tokyo from page one. Kenji, a sex tourist guide, offers the main perspective in this book. The writing is done so well it's sometimes difficult not to feel like the sex tourist making use of his guidance. Just to say that this is a very immersive narrative. I learned a lot about how things are done under Tokyo's Neon Lights, and I have to say it's interesting and captivating to say the least. A whole new world opened up to me, and even though I'm glad to close that door again, it's been an illuminating experience.

The atmosphere surrounding Frank, the American tourist who has hired Kenji, is supremely well done. Is he dangerous? Or is Kenji jumping to conclusions and overreacting? The line between those two feelings is very delicately made and I found myself crossing it in either direction plenty of times. Frank throws lines of lies, seemingly daring you to catch one, and God knows what he'll reel you into once you do. Maybe a warm, loving hug? But maybe not.

Dangerous or not, Frank IS scary. And he's the kind of scary that hits home, because I'm certain that I have met people like the Frank described here. There was actually a particular person I could clearly picture when reading about Frank, making the immersion all the more intense, also because Kenji's reactions to him completely coincided with how mine would be.

A sidenote: The "before" starts off with some politically incorrect statements, on homosexuals and Americans in particular. While I don't agree with these statements and don't even find them very funny, I'm not one to use "political correctness" as a yardstick for judging books. I hate the concept too much for that. Anyway, I don't want to make this review the source of the kind of discussions you find all over the Internet already. I just mentioned them because I think they've been thrown in there, early in the book, to dissuade the faint of heart.

Because let met tell you, THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!

On to...

The Event

No comment here, apart from the fact that the capitalized "E" in Event is supposed to be there. It's quite something. Make sure you're not eating at the time, especially not miso soup or anything fluid and hot and with bits floating in them. It's shockingly colourful.


That's where the book lost one star for me, but it's still very good. It just got harder for me to relate to one of the main characters. He's in a state of shock, obviously, and that feeling of loss of where his head is at is very elegantly described, but the rupture between the character's mind and actions made it harder for me to feel related to him on both counts. Here I have to come back to the recommendation I started this review with: Read it in one go. Maybe I wasn't shocked enough as a reader after reading the Event because I kind of jumped right into it instead of staying in the flow the build-up created so well. This made this last part more difficult to be affected by. I think. I don't know. But something went wrong there.

Aside from that, this story is well rounded-off.

In the end, the thought that struck me was: a swan has more than one feather.

In order to get that reference you'll have to read the book, something I can recommend to you as long as you're not the type that's sensitive to explicit violence. This book definitely has way more to offer than that violence, but malignity is an integral part of the story, which is something you probably need to be aware of before reading this very entertaining novel.

Profile Image for Larry.
76 reviews8,738 followers
October 27, 2021
The story was decent, and Frank is an interesting, depraved character. But, just as the main characters have a philosophical discussion about life, I felt that the book represented “madou”, and sort of lost it’s way. There’s also a narrative that includes a doctor who throws shade on those that love horror movies, likening them to “people with boring lives.” Well, I never…
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,330 followers
December 3, 2009
Reading this novel is like going to McDonald, buying a Big Mac and finding a severed eyeball under the bun....Then putting the bun back on and eating it, eyeball and all. What starts out as a sleazy, guilty pleasure of a pulp novel about an American tourist and his guide visiting the Tokyo pleasure palaces turns into a soup broth of over-the-top violence and nutty serial killer philosophy that makes Jeffrey Dahmer seem like the boy next door. Yet In The Miso Soup remains riveting throughout its strange tale. Aside from the gruesome story, there is a American Psycho styled look at the edge of society that Murakami is focusing on. He questions the way our society chases sex and pleasure and wonders about the harm that it does to the human psyche. There is also much about the differences and conflicts between Eastern and Western culture. Some of the passages are immensely disturbing in its casualness, such as this remark by a boy who likes to work in Tokyo's sex district.

Hey, I wouldn't say I love Kabuchi-ko - I mean I doubt if anyone loves it - but it's an amazingly easy place to be, and who's going to think about sticking needles into little girls eyes when they're working in a town they like and have a chance to go to the university of their choice."

and it gets scarier.

So obviously this is not for everyone. But I have an uncomfortable admiration for the way the author tells a unrelenting suspenseful story and the way he makes you think about the psychological questions of good and evil nagging throughout the book. Recommended for those with strong stomachs.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,217 reviews9,897 followers
December 26, 2013
Another Murakami? I thought you didn't like the Wind Up Bird thing.

This is a different guy. It must be like Smith or Patel over there.

Two stars? Not that good then?

Well... nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnot really, but....


It could have been. He lumbered himself with this boring serial killer oooh oooh Frank Booth-in-Blue Velvet nutcase when he should

- in your humble opinion!

- yes, yes, all this stuff in my HUMBLE opinion, I'm not the arbiter of recentish Japanese novels, I've read exactly three -

- all right, no need to get ratty -

- I'm just saying that this particular Murakami was hovering all the time over some really interesting questions about Japanese society such as the idea of high school girls and "compensated dating" -


Exactly - these girls are not exactly on the game but they go on "dates" with older guys and get the guys buy them stuff, this little novel mentions various phenomena of the sex trade like that, and his protagonist muses on why in such an affluent country girls would do that, it's not like they're short of a bob or two, these are not skanky crack-heads.

The blurb says this is all about loneliness.

Yes, it could have been a meditation on Japanese loneliness through the prism of the Tokyo sex-trade. That would have been interesting.

Sounds like one of your crap art house movies.


Hey, I sat though enough of those. What was that last one? L'Humanite? and the one before that? Lourdes? I mean, OMG. Paint dries faster than those movies. Did you know they're called motion pictures for a reason? Like, there's supposed to be motion in them, as opposed to some loser staring into space for like two hours that felt like six hours? I bet an entire galactic civilisation rose and fell while I was watching that one.

Er, we're drifting away from the topic here.

But when I want to go and see something normal at Cineworld, it's oh no, look at these reviews and blah blah... what's wrong with 3D anyway? Too many Ds for you?

Er, this is still just light-hearted banter isn't it?

Oh yes. Just banter.

It gives me a headache.



Oh. Right.
Profile Image for Carol.
330 reviews914 followers
February 5, 2020
The GR synopsis tells you all you need to know of the plot, so my review is for those who've read that much, and are still on-the-fence about whether to read In The Miso Soup. Consider this review a Ben Franklin checklist from which you can total the scores on each side of your personal reading ledger, and make that call for yourself.

But before we get to that, my rating reflects two values that are in tension with one another - writing style, for which In The Miso Soup deserves a 5, and "did the novel work, as a whole", for which In The Miso Soup deserves a 3.5. The 4 stars I gave it - I initially gave it a 3 but bumped it up - reflect that tension.

In favor of reading it:
1. In The Miso Soup is unforgettable. In a world of genre novels readers enjoy in the moment and forget within weeks, and classics that we remember but from which we sometimes are distracted or put down after 200 pages, notwithstanding the ensuing guilt, most readers read precious few novels that fall in the middle turf of contemporary literature. (I am uncertain when I read the synopsis of a Reacher novel whether it's one I've read before, because the formula is so constant, and my TBR is full of works I’d like to read some day, but keep pushing off in favor of the immediately accessible.) The tension Murakami creates from page 1 and steadily ratchets up with no humor or other tension-breakers, grabbed me and made it impossible to think about anything but page turns. Almost every page communicates either the high potential for violence, the memory of violence, or . . . violence. In the interest of full disclosure, I needed to put it down and read something else for a couple of evenings because the thought process of one character had eaten into my soul and was bothering me. I can’t think of the last novel that impacted my reality to that extent.
2. Murakami’s characters are authentic. Even those who pass through the novel briefly speak in their own voices, not 8 different versions of Murakami’s voice. (yes, John Green, I mean you.) The reason Frank makes every reader’s skin crawl from the initial moment we meet him is that Murakami makes a monster real, believable, threatening, and capable of anything at any moment. The reason the various female characters work as characters is that they are not archetypes, but reflect their experiences, their ages, their backgrounds.
3. The plot is focused. It takes place over a 3-day period and, like Poe, Murakami doesn’t waste any words on anything that doesn’t drive his story to its conclusion.
4. Japanese culture/history. In The Miso Soup provides a brief window into a contemporary part of Tokyo, awareness of the nightlife culture, compensated dating, the relationship between Japanese and foreign tourists, and our somewhat lost protagonist, Kenji – a nice enough young man, going nowhere in terms of his career and goals.
5. This.

Men like him, managers of soaplands and Chinese clubs and S&M clubs, not to mention gigolos and pimps – men who eke out a living exploiting women’s bodies – all have one characteristic in common: they look as if something has eroded away inside them. . . . I saw a news report on North Korea. It was about how people were starving there, and they had shots of some of the children. And in the faces of those skinny, dying kids was the same whatever-it-is that you see in the faces of men who live off the traffic of women’s bodies.

and this.

She wanted to find out about the gods of this country, but she couldn’t find any books on the subject in Spanish, and she doesn’t read English, so she asked a lot of her customers, but apparently none of the Japanese knew anything, which made her wonder if people here never came up against the kind of suffering where you can’t do anything but turn to your god for help. . .

and then this.

The Japanese had never experienced having their land taken over by another ethnic group or been slaughtered or driven out as refugees – because even in World War II the battlefields were mostly in China and Southeast Asia and the islands of the Pacific, and then Okinawa of course, but on the mainland there were only air raids and the big bombs – so the people at home never came to face to face with an enemy who killed and raped their relatives and forced them all to speak a new language. A history of being invaded and assimilated is the one thing most countries in Europe and the New World have in common, so it’s like a basis for international understanding. But people in this country don’t know how to relate to outsiders because they haven’t had any real contact with them. That’s why they are so insular. According to the Lebanese man, Japan’s just about the only country in the world that’s been untouched, except for the U.S. But he said of course there’s a bright side to that too and started telling her about [] saying that precisely because the Japanese have never experienced a real invasion, there’s a certain gentleness here you can’t find in other countries, and that they’ve come up with these incredible methods of healing.

Don’t read it:
• After a climactic scene midway through, In The Miso Soup lost a little steam and didn’t seem as sure of where it was headed. The ending is fine, as far as it goes, and in fact I had a sense that Murakami almost wanted to get that scene out of the way in order to focus on Kenji and Frank discussing violence with all of Frank’s cards on the table, so to speak. But no matter how well-written a conversation or dialogue is (excluding The Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov), if it is extended, the intensity and pace slows. Still, slowed intensity in this context means, you were driving 200 mph on the Autobahn for a few hours and now you’re only going 110 mph on a 6-lane US highway. In the Miso Soup is less than 200 pages. It’s not as if it’s a major time-commitment.
• If you wish you hadn’t read The Silence of the Lambs because it bothered you, you are likely to regret even holding this novel in your hand.
• Finally, if you were horrified by the underlying crime and perspective described in The Dinner by Herman Koch, there’s a similar thread here.

As you can tell, if you've read other reviews of In The Miso Soup, it's difficult to recommend because of its subject matter and impact on the reader, except with a ton of disclaimers. That's my excuse for the length of this review. I recommend it highly, but it's not for the unwary, to be certain.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,441 followers
April 28, 2023
Unii pretind că, dintre cei doi Murakami, scriitorul autentic e Ryū, în timp ce Haruki ar fi doar un diletant. Nu mă bag. Disputa îi privește. Dar e mai mult decît evident că romanele lui Haruki se vînd mai bine, ceea ce nu constituie, totuși, o dovadă că Haruki e prozatorul autentic, iar Ryū e numai un diletant. Probabil că amîndoi sînt la fel de talentați, doar că Haruki e mai muncitor, iar Ryū mai speculativ. Și, aș face adaos, Haruki e mai romantic, în timp ce Ryū e mai cinic, mai „naturalist”.

Subiectul romanului îl știți deja din prezentarea editurii. Un american ajunge (și) în Tokyo și îl angajează ca ghid pe un anume Kenji. Acțiunea e văzută prin ochii lui Kenji. Începutul cărții (primul lucru care m-a frapat) e luat din Viața și aventurile lui Robinson Crusoe sau din Moby-Dick: „Mă numesc Kenji. Numele meu e Kenji. Spuneți-mi Kenji...”. Kenji insistă atît de tare că numele lui e Kenji încît trebuie să-l credem pe cuvînt. Pe narator îl cheamă neîndoielnic de adevărat Kenji. Deci, să-i spunem Kenji.

Americanul pare, la început, un călător cumsecade, îl întreabă pe Kenji de una, de alta: pare interesat de Tokyo, de Japonia, de obiceiurile ei culinare și, în chip necesar, de compoziția metafizică a supei miso. Menționez că supa miso stricto sensu seamănă la culoare cu crema de ghete maro, conține tăieței de hrișcă (grîu negru), se soarbe cu zgomot (pentru a-i arăta bucătarului că e meseriaș!) și nu are nici un gust. Răuvoitorii au zis că are gust de transpirație, dar asta mi se pare o comparație urîtă. Și roșiile românești au gust de piele scorojită de pantofi cu toc, dar n-am auzit nici un japonez să folosească cuvinte urîte în legătură cu aceste legume.

Așadar, bietul Kenji îl însoțește pe american și face discuții cu el; conversația atinge uneori profunzimi filosofice: „Nu cumva universul e o farfurie cu supă miso? Nu cumva trăim printre tăieței de hrișcă?” Discuțiile rămîn mereu în aerul rarefiat al înălțimilor. Nu reprezintă un pericol iminent. În schimb, ceea ce-i dă fiori lui Kenji - după o vreme - e lipsa completă de emoții a americanului. Frank pare un robot venit dintr-un viitor anterior în prezentul lui Kenji. E o specie de Sfîrșitor...

Și, dintr-odată, încep să apară mormane de cadavre... Oare cine o fi cruntul făptaș?

P. S. În supa miso seamănă, mai degrabă, cu Moby-Dick, fiindcă prezintă un rău aproape impersonal, o cruzime apatică.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,431 followers
June 24, 2018
Sometimes you read a book and it feels so uncannily like it was waiting for you, it's like you've read it before and loved it for years, like you're returning to an old favourite. I began reading In the Miso Soup the moment I received it in the post and extracted it from its envelope, and I just couldn't stop. With this book, I even experienced a genuine episode of that fabled cliche: almost missing my stop on the train because I was so completely absorbed in the story.

Kenji is a tour guide who specialises in helping foreign tourists navigate sex clubs and brothels. This is what makes him appealing to Frank, a boorish, seemingly clueless American who's spending New Year in Tokyo. From their first meeting, Kenji finds Frank disturbing. In a detail that contributes to the feverish and claustrophobic ambience of the novel, a gruesome murder has recently taken place in Kenji's neighbourhood – the victim a teenage girl, the killer unidentified. His idea that Frank is responsible initially seems like a product of paranoia and grim humour, a horrible, outlandish joke. As Frank's stories and behaviour become increasingly bizarre, it all starts to seem frighteningly plausible, yet Kenji can't seem to tear himself away.

I unequivocally loved everything about this. The neo(n)-noir setting of Kabuki-cho, intensely visual in its lucidity. The way Murakami evokes the experience of navigating a familiar place alongside a stranger. The sheer weirdness of Frank: the waxy, inhuman sheen of his skin; the creepiness of the inconsistencies in his storytelling; the scene in which he talks about having had a lobotomy and you don't know which possibility is more frightening – that it's the truth or that he's making it up. That part when Kenji and Jun exit the apartment and there's something stuck to the door – it's utterly flawless, atmospherically sublime, tense, strange.

The brevity of the book is ideal, the pacing excellent. It's so focused and concise. The funny thing is, In the Miso Soup doesn't make me want to read more by Ryū Murakami. I feel like this was such a perfect collision of book and reader that it couldn't possibly be replicated.

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Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
November 15, 2015
What the hell did I just read? Digesting.......Ok, I swallowed it.

Are you ready to read something REEEALLY weird? Check out these two quotes:

"Killing people has always been absolutely essential for me to go on living."

"I'm a man who consciously commits murders and scares the hell out of people and makes them reconsider everything, so I'm definitely malignant, yet I think I play a necessary role in this world."

In this weird-ass story, there is one weird-ass creepy American businessman/tourist named Frank (we think) who hires an almost legal Japanese tour guide named Kenji to show him around Tokyo's sleazy nightlife. With a serial killer on the loose and fabrications galore, Kenji soon suspects Freaky Frank and begins to fear for his life.

Filled with graphic gore, violence and much theoretical comparison between the cultures of America and Japan, this shocking work of fiction is not for everyone. (including me?) Super weird!

Profile Image for Meike.
1,589 reviews2,814 followers
February 1, 2020
I love the jazzy, magical variations of Haruki Murakami's prose, but when punk rock king Ryū comes to town, I put on my leather jacket and come running to witness the mayhem - his portrayals of the underworld and the Japanese precariat are so visual and intense, and his ways to criticize the emptiness and alienation of society are so...well...BRUTAL. In this short novel, we meet Kenji, a young guy who works as a tour guide in Tokyo's red light district, offering his services to foreigners who are seeking a good time in sex clubs and hostess bars. But his new client Frank, an American, seems somehow strange, and his odd behavior unsettles Kenji - or are his nerves just tense because of the mysterious murders that start to happen around him?

Once more, Ryū Murakami paints a vivid picture of a certain milieu, giving us a whole range of characters in order to illustrate a Japanese microcosm. Emptiness permeates the scenes, loneliness seems even starker under the neon lights. The author never openly judges - rather, it's the story itself that allows readers to draw their own conclusions. What is the source of violence, and can it be stopped? - a classic theme of Ryū that prominently features in this effort as well.

And of course, there is the extreme graphic violence - this Murakami is a master of shock aesthetics. Many storytellers try to disturb by adding some gore, but he achieves his goal with terrifying effectiveness, creating scenes that tend to linger in the mind, whether you want it or not.

What a writer - and why only read Haruki when you can have Ryū as well? If you want to hear more about his themes and narrative strategies as well as how they compare to Haruki's, you can listen to our "Murakami vs. Murakami" podcast special (in German): https://papierstaupodcast.de/podcast/...
Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,752 reviews697 followers
August 2, 2016
Kenji is a young guy who makes his money by giving visitors of a certain umm, ilk, shall we say, tours of Tokyo’s sex industry. His latest client is a chubby American named Frank. Frank wants to see all the sights and have all the sex, all of which is nothing unusual, but Kenji quickly realizes there is something a bit “off” about dead-eyed Frank. And it’s probably not a coincidence that dead bodies start turning up as soon as Frank comes to visit . . .

Night one is slightly strange but when Kenji finds what he thinks is a piece of flesh (arggg!) on his property, he knows it came from that weirdo Frank. But he’s promised him three evenings and, hell, a buck is a buck, right?

Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? I mean, how could you go wrong with seedy sex clubs and a serial killer on the loose? How could that story possibly bore even the most jaded of readers nearly to death? But for some reason things went wrong. The first half was deadly dull. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. Frank, who claims to be missing a bit of his brain (lobotomy, perhaps?), stares into space for eternities and Kenji mostly muses to himself on the state of people in the sex trade industry and worries about being late to visit his girlfriend. They club hop and have a few tedious conversations and Kenji muses on the reasons why wealthy young girls decide to become “compensated dates”. Things get vaguely exciting when Kenji finds that itty bitty ominous patch of flesh but that’s the only intriguing thing that happened for pages on end. I also felt disconnected from the prose and the characters and, I cannot lie, I pretty much sleepwalked through many of the pages. When the action finally started, it woke me up with its shocking detail but then it all became an exercise in frustration because it sucked all of the potential thrill and mystery straight out of the story. I really think that chapter should’ve been nearer to the end of the book. Also none of the questions about character motivation I had while reading (and, oh boy, did I have many) were answered and that annoyed me more than words can say.

Basically I never felt any sense of dread or fear or anxiety or anything but a little bit of boredom for nearly the entire novel. I’m glad it was short because, meh, it was so disappointing. Most everyone likes this book except for me. I’m beginning to think I need to give up reading and pick up a new hobby.

If you’re interested in reading a book about the desperation and darkest corners of Tokyo I’d recommend reading Out by Natsuo Kirino instead of this one.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,037 reviews2,387 followers
January 11, 2021
"Now what is it you want tonight, basically?"

It's Kenji's job to show tourists around the more unsavory areas of Tokyo. His livelihood depends on his making sure that his clients have their baser desires satisfied, and that they leave smiling. Frank, the proverbial Ugly American, is his latest customer, and he's rather strange.

. . . I'd never seen a face quite like this one. It took me a while to pinpoint exactly what was so odd about it. The skin. It looked almost artificial, as if he'd been horribly burned and the doctors had resurfaced his face with this fairly realistic man-made material.

Rather quickly (too quickly, in my opinion), Kenji begins to suspect that Frank may be responsible for the recent gruesome murder of a young woman. Things get very ugly in a hurry, and

I'm waffling between three and four stars for this one. There were some things that annoyed me - , but most of the book was a four - so I'll stick with that.

In all, the story was disturbing, unpleasant, and, at times, revolting, but nearly always mesmerizing - much like Frank himself.

Recommended only for those with stomachs of iron.

This is January's read for the Pulp Fiction group - https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Join us, if you dare.
Profile Image for Katie.
273 reviews3,840 followers
April 28, 2019
This is probably the most mixed I've felt about any of the books we've read so far for the Year of Horror Book Club. I enjoyed the 1st and middle portions of the book (dear god the middle!!!), but the last portion left me feeling a bit empty. It's a strange, gory, little book, and I do think it's worth a quick read.

Full review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZk3q...
Profile Image for La Petite Américaine.
207 reviews1,444 followers
July 29, 2008
Ok, this is the last Japanese book I'm reading for a while. Fuck me, this had me emailing my brother who lived in Japan for a year, asking him what the fuck is wrong with Japanese writers. His answer? Japan is all twisted, that's why I love it. Heh.

Although this book offered much more insight into Japanese culture than Kirino's Out: A Novel, while also giving thoughtful and poignant perspectives on American culture, I just can't stand this bloodbath shit that's popped up in both of these novels, along with high school girls selling themselves, bodies being hacked up and thrown away in the local trash bins, designer brands sported by chicks who are moments away from having their throats slit in graphic detail, etc.

That's not to say that the book isn't well-written. It is an extremely interesting psychological portrait of mankind, examining the human consequences of loneliness in both Japanese and American societies. And it gave me anxiety to the point that I was either going to puke or have to pop a Xanax. Signs of an excellent writer.

The following is one of my favorite passages, not only because I've felt this way a long time about Americans, but also because it highlights the one of the greatest underlying themes of this book:

"Nobody, I don't care what country they're from, has a perfect personality. Everyone has a good side and a side that's not so good .... What's good about Americans, if I can generalize a little, is that they have a kind of openhearted innocence. And what's not good is that they can't imagine any world outside of the States, or any value system different from their own. The Japanese have a similar defect..."

Read this book if you want to be entertained and learn about Japan, but be prepared for gore and psychological drama.
Profile Image for Anthony Vacca.
423 reviews284 followers
October 10, 2014
I’ve always thought there was something to be said about the strange fascination that American and Japanese culture share with one another. Maybe one of my peers, guilty too of shamelessly mythologizing the East (since we Americans are without the millennial long view of a mythology, or rather what myths there were to be had those first settlers rubbed out with the natives) will put together the defining treatise on the matter. If so in my lifetime, then that author already has themselves one reader. In the Miso Soup doesn’t try to answer exactly how this strange affinity developed between past mortal enemies (one a venerable empire of humorless familial phantoms, warrior poets, and opaque sensibilities; the other an adolescent power of loud and brash tough guys), but instead broods on the theme of loneliness and how this may be the very thing that makes the two cultures such unexpected kindred spirits. How Murakami goes about this is completely his own idiosyncratic way: a fat, vulgar American tourist (with plastic skin) hires a street-savvy but thoughtful Tokyo youth to take him on a safari through the sleazy sex trade pocketed within the nation’s capital city. Our narrator, the Japanese youth, quickly realizes that something is terribly off with his American charge, but the lure of monetary gain muffles his worries, and soon the pair are off on a hellish weekend of sightseeing involving cheap sex, black magic, and mass carnage. But despite its sordid trappings and the extended sequence of brutality which rests in the book’s middle like a Cadbury egg filled with flesh, atrial blood and gristle; the novel uses its grindhouse thriller set-up as vehicle to get our demonic American and hapless Japanese into an extended, bullshit-free conversation about alienation and how that awful bugbear follows you no matter how long you live or how far away from home you run. While not exactly a satire, elements of acerbic irony and disgust purveys this short novel as Murakami condemns his own country for its isolationism, its obsession with consumerism, and its cheapening of the human body. America remains an alluring yet horrifying abstraction throughout the novel, even though the device of an obese, obnoxious American psychopath would have made for an amusing, albeit cheap, satiric device. But a surreal, philosophic slowdown of a last act makes this book a standout as an engaging work by an original talent from our sister nation on the other side of the Pacific.
Profile Image for christa.
745 reviews286 followers
January 31, 2009
"In The Miso Soup" by Ryu Murakami is not the kind of book that you bring home to meet your parents. It is lurid. It is frightening. It is unpredictable. Murakami plucked ordinary words out of nowhere and arranged them into a simple, matter-of-fact horror. Like a smiling child with a box of crayons, humming the Dora the Explorer theme song, then showing you a crudely drawn crime scene with headless chickens and bloody axes and dead parents.

It is a delicious read.

Kenji has the slightly illegal job of guiding tourists through Japan's underground night life. He knows where to find peep shows, lap dances, sex, and places where teenage girls are paid to just talk to men. He is hired by Frank, an American, for a three-night job ending on New Year's Eve. Kenji is immediately on alert around his client, who always seems to be lying, who's skin seems cold and plastic, who occasionally gets a dark and violent look in his eyes. The news is filled with the story of a Japanese school girl known for "selling it" who was found dismembered. Kenji's senses that Frank was involved.

After their first night together, Kenji wakes to news that a homeless man was found burned to death. And when he leaves his house, Kenji finds a postage-sized stamp of something he believes is charred skin stuck to his door. Frank.

This is such a great book. While I always carry a book in my purse, this is the first time in a long time that I pulled it out for quick reads while walking through the skyway and waiting in line at Subway. And when a Jehovah's Witness tried to hand me a pamphlet when I was face deep in the muck, I chuckled and wondered what he would think if he could see the words I was reading at that moment.

There is a full-on mass murder scene midway through this book that is written so easily and so visually that I gagged. For instance "... Seeing the throat yawn open like the hood of a car." I love books that affect me physically. Like in "The Gargoyle" when my legs went numb reading about the main character's burning flesh. I guess my favorite genre would have to be "stuff that makes me want to barf."

I first read a book by Ryu Murakami when I was taking an international fiction class in college. I remember little from "Almost Transparent Blue" beyond sex, drugs and cockroaches. Although I believe that the cockroaches were actually the cleanest part of that trifecta. I remember being stunned by the book. Liking it, but being shocked. I had never read anything like it and 10 years later it is still stuck in my head. I'm not sure why I never doubled back to read more by Ryu Murakami. That is about to change.
Profile Image for Arupratan.
149 reviews157 followers
June 27, 2022
কি লিখবো বুঝতে পারছি না। মনে হচ্ছে ঘিলুতে আর্থারাইটিস হয়েছে।

একজন অর্ধোন্মাদ আমেরিকান সিরিয়াল কিলারের গল্প এটা। দুনিয়ার হাজারটা শহর বাদ দিয়ে সে জাপানের টোকিওতে খুন করতে এসেছে। টোকিওতেই ক্যানো এসেছে? মা দুর্গা জানেন! লেখার ধাঁচ দেখে মনে হচ্ছিলো, সদ্য BDSM পর্নোগ্রাফির স্বাদ পেয়েছে এমন কোনো ইশকুল বালকের রচনা এটা। আর কাহিনির যা ছিরি! সেক্সুয়াল থ্রিলার লিখতে গিয়ে সেক্সুয়াল কমেডি লিখে ফেলেছে। গল্পের গরু শুধু গাছে ওঠেনি, মগডালে বসে ঘুড়ি ওড়াচ্ছে! একই সঙ্গে হাস্যকর এবং বিরক্তিকর জিনিস উৎপাদন করা যেমন-তেমন বাবাজির কম্মো নয়। রামছাগলের ক্যানো দাড়ি থাকে, এই প্রশ্নের যেমন কোনো উত্তর হয় না, এই গল্পের খুনির কাজকারবার এবং অন্যান্য ঘটনার তেমনি কোনো লজিক্যাল উত্তর নেই। এমনকি বইয়ের নামকরণের হেতুটাও উদ্ধার করতে পারলাম না আমি। বইয়ের শেষ অংশ জুড়ে খুনি তার ব্যাকস্টোরি বোঝাবার অনেক চেষ্টা করেছে। কিন্তু সেইসব চূড়ান্ত হাবিজাবি কথাবার্তা বিশ্লেষণ করার শক্তি আপাতত হারিয়ে ফেলেছি আমি। লেখক তাঁর চরিত্রদের সঙ্গে গাঁজার নৌকায় চড়ে পাহাড়তলি ছাড়িয়ে আরো বহুদূর চলে গেছেন, কিন্তু বেচারা পাঠক আমি, ফেন্সিডিল ছাড়াই টাশকি খেয়ে বসে আছি!

মানে, পোস্ট-মডার্নিস্ট noir-এর নামে হাতির ডিম, ঘোড়ার ডিম, শুঁয়োপোকার ডিম, যা-খুশি চালিয়ে দিলেই হলো, নাকি? টাইমস লিটারারি সাপ্লিমেন্ট আবার এই বইকে "স্মার্ট অ্যান্ড স্ন্যাপি সাইকোসেক্সুয়াল পাল্প থ্রিলার" উপাধি দিয়েছে। "দা টাইমস" ম্যাগাজিন বলেছে, এই বই পড়ে এডগার অ্যালান পো এবং দস্তয়েভস্কির কথা মনে পড়ে গ্যাছে তাদের। বলিহারি মাইরি! বলিহারি! "আপনি থাকচেন স্যার!"

শিগগিরি খানতিনেক শিব্রামের গল্প না-পড়লে এই অখাদ্য রাবিশের প্রভাব শরীর থেকে বেরোবে না!
Profile Image for Ria.
452 reviews64 followers
December 20, 2020
it feels like u are watching a weird b j-slasher movie.
ugh...i always wanted to visit Kabukicho.

i like the commentary on the sex industry. it points out loneliness of the people. women and men that don't need money do sex work just so they can meet people and feel the void they have. lonely men try to meet teen girls not for sex but so they can chat with them for like 5minutes. hell u can even rent a boyfriend or a cuddle buddy. also boyfriend cafes are a thing... these days people are fucking lonely

''After all, anyone stupid enough to get the idea of murdering people from a movie could get the same idea from watching the news.”
i'm so fucking tired of the media still acting like horror movies are the reason why crime happens.

Profile Image for Harun Ahmed.
925 reviews154 followers
May 4, 2021
ভয়ংকর বীভৎসতায় পূর্ণ একটা বই কিন্তু একইসাথে মনোমুগ্ধকর। বইয়ের মূল চরিত্র ফ্র‍্যাঙ্ক যেমন আশপাশের সবাইকে হিপনোটাইজ করে রাখে,ঘোরের মধ্যে ফেলে দেয়-লেখকের সাথে পাঠকও তেমন ঘোরের মধ্যে পড়তে বাধ্য।হত্যার নিপুণ শিল্পে গা গুলিয়ে উঠছে আবার পড়াও থামানো যাচ্ছে না।বইয়ের শেষ অংশে এসে গল্পটি যে দার্শনিক মোড় নেয়,সেটিও বইটির মতো অভাবনীয় চিন্তার খোরাক যোগায়।
রিও মুরাকামি সবকিছুর এতো জীবন্ত বর্ণনা দিয়েছেন যে,মনে হয়েছে আমার সাথেই ঘটছে সব।প্রতিনায়ক তার মানুষ খুন করার কারণ সম্পর্কে এমনসব যুক্তি দেখায় যা মাথা ঘুরিয়ে দেয়।এভাবেও ভাবা সম্ভব!!!
সাইকোলজিক্যাল থ্রিলারপ্রেমীদের জন্য অবশ্যপাঠ্য বই।
Profile Image for Tim.
477 reviews659 followers
April 8, 2018
Well, this is not what I expected it to be. I mean if you look at the plot description, it certainly gives you a pretty good clue of what to expect, and yet it absolutely fails to convey the type of novel you are getting into. Think philosophy novel, with a serial killer spin, which gives you both horrific violence and scenes of modernity examined in long conversation. In fact, if you examine the short 217 page count, I would say almost half of it is one really long conversation. It is a fascinating conversation, and one you are not meant to agree with, but fascinating in the approach and examination of its subject.

The book examines the differences between America and Japan and how the two view each other. While written by a Japanese author, he makes some observations that feel… well, very American from his American characters. He truly does examine some of the aspects of Japanese culture that many Americans are baffled by and he points out that neither he nor his characters can find any way to explain these aspects. They fall into a large category that he sums up as “We think it is cool” and can’t offer any deeper understand, which seems just as baffling to him as his American characters. There’s many thoughtful moments along the way in which he seems to be viewing his own country as an outsider and trying to explain “why” it functions in such a way.

This is a book that almost needs to be viewed in metaphoric terms. For example:

One thing I have to compliment, Murakami is excellent with his characters’ voices. It doesn’t matter if it is a teenage girl, a serial killer or our lost narrator, everyone has their own unique outlook and voice. Though there isn’t a large cast, many small characters enter the picture and they only feel repetitive when that reinforces the point.

I’ve only read one other Ryu Murakami book and that was “Popular Hits of the Showa Era.” I found that one a more enjoyable book, but this was probably the “better” one. I gave the other book a higher rating though as enjoyment counts for points from me. It was a silly ride while still making its point (and for those interested in such things, it was a more violent book, but not as graphic as this one). Both books speak about different aspects of Japan in a dark, almost illogical way, but this one seems more concerned with conveying its point. It is a more literary work, and one I’m glad I experienced, but will likely never want to revisit.
Profile Image for Rachel.
376 reviews178 followers
May 22, 2022
Admittedly, for me part of the draw of this book was that I love soup and even though this book was only about metaphorical soup (thank goodness, honestly), I still wanted in.

What I ended up getting was a (pretty gory) statement on how humans cope with loneliness and the struggle in finding a sense of purpose and the ability to feel truly alive, and on more of a surface level, the Japanese sex industry.
I would like to think Frank isn’t a good representation of most Americans, hopefully. 🥴

This is a short book and for most of it I was really sucked in, but the end dragged a bit for me. With such a dramatic plot and building tension from the beginning, I personally wanted more resolution.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,529 reviews979 followers
January 16, 2021

I came to this country hoping to find out what what the people who eat that soup on a daily basis might be like. [...]
I’m floating around in this giant bowl of it, and that’s good enough for me.

... and now for something completely different, let us immerse ourselves in a bowl of traditional Japanese soup. Let us experience another cultural landscape under the guidance of Kenji, a twenty-year-old ‘nightlife guide’ for foreign tourists. His speciality is Tokyo’s red-light district, Kabuki-cho, and at the start of the novel he meets in a bar with Frank, an overweight, middle-aged American businessman who is looking for a good time. It’s three days until the New Year, and Kenji would rather spend the time with his girlfriend Jun, but Frank [and his money] are strangely persuasive. Despite strong misgivings about the bad vibes his American client exudes, Kenji accepts the job and takes him, and the reader, on an extended tour of the red-light district. I think it’s safe to warn you: ‘We’re not in Kansas any more’ ! Turn around and read something else if you don’t have a strong stomach.

Nobody, I don’t care what country they’re from, has a perfect personality. Everyone has a good side and a side that’s not so good. That’s something I learned working at this job. What’s good about Americans, if I can generalize a little, is that they have a kind of openhearted innocence. And what’s not so good is that they can’t imagine any world outside the States, or any value system different from their own.

Kenji dreams of going to the States, once he saves enough money, but he is also street smart and cynical enough to know what to expect once he gets there. He also knows that the people who patronize Kabuki-cho, the local and the foreign tourists alike, all have something to hide.

Everybody lies at one time or another. But once someone makes a habit of lying, once it becomes a part of their everyday life, denial kicks in. Even the fact that they’re lying begins to fade into the background, and in extreme cases they actually forget. I know more than a few people like that, and I make sure to steer clear of them, because they’re the world’s biggest pain in the ass. Not to mention dangerous.

Putting aside the obvious parallels between compulsive liars like Frank and a certain deranged American president, I found the early chapters informative and colourful, with Kenji a likeable guide, even considering his habit of editorial comments that seems well beyond his declared age. But the, people who grow up in rough neighborhoods and have to rely on their own wits to survive do grow up rather fast, out of necessity.

Jun’s parents divorced when she was small, so she knows what it’s like to be anxious or scared and want to be with somebody but not to have to talk. I think people like Jun and me are becoming the mainstream in this country. Very few people of our generation or the next will reach adulthood without experiencing the sort of unhappiness you can’t really deal with on your own.

A good part of the novel tries to add ingredients to that miso soup recipe hinted at in my opening quote. Kenji describes in painful detail what it feels like to grow up in a modern metropolis, under the double influence of a money hungry social order and an increasing sense of alienation, of loneliness. He sees this loneliness in the eyes of the clients looking for a good time in Kabuki-cho, and in those of the girls and boys who are selling their charms on the streets or in the numerous bars and peepshows and love hotels.

She was more of a regular civilian than any other woman here, but she was here. Plainly no stranger to loneliness.

I might define empathy as the most important aspect of Kenji’s personality. The same empathy that tells the young man that there is something terribly wrong about his latest client. Ryu Murakami doesn’t beat around the bush much, and makes a very early connection between Frank and a couple of brutal crimes perpetrated in the district. Despite my familiarity with Japanese manga and their explicit display of violence and sex, I was still troubled by the way Kenji’s eyes are open to the true nature of Frank.

After some serious soul searching about the need for such horrendous scenes, I came to the conclusion that if you need to write about murder and criminals, it’s better to paint a nauseous, repulsive picture rather than make it into something glamorous and cool. [I’m looking at you, Tarrantino]

The aftermath of the left me with some personal misgivings, not so much about the violence, but about the mental hoops Kenji must go through in order to justify his continuing relationship with Frank. Any normal person would have run as far as possible from the scene at the earliest opportunity, yet Kenji seems paralysed like a rabbit caught at night in a car’s headlights. Hypnosis, Stockholm syndrome and extreme shock are all offered as potential explanations, and even if I found them poorly argumented, I continued reading, curious to find out where the author wants to take this story.

It’s easier to read the last part of the novel if you can disconnect yourself from the cold facts and look at it as a series of essays on the pressure society exerts on the individual, on cultural identity and on mental instability, shallow media influencers selling lies on TV and horror movies as a catalyst for violence. Kenji’s empathy and Frank’s deranged confessions establish in the end some sort of connection between American and Japanese points of view, and the author wisely refrains from passing judgement, leaving the ball in the reader’s court.

As the traditional Shinto bells in Tokyo prepare to ring in the New Year with 108 peals, one for each emotion a person must renounce on their way to Nirvana, Kenji and Frank are left to deal each with his own loneliness, with his own demons.
Profile Image for Mirnes Alispahić.
Author 5 books76 followers
July 29, 2022
What kind of people eat miso soup every day? Brown and plain, smelling of human sweat, which nevertheless is both delicate and classy. That's what Frank wonders ever since he ordered a soup at a restaurant in Colorado. Since then, he has wanted to come to Japan, but now, three days before New Year's Eve, the answer to that question does not matter. Like a piece of vegetable in a miso soup, he floats among people.
Although classified as a horror novel, Ryu Murakami’s “In the Miso Soup” is a brilliant allegorical story of the decadence of Japanese society, the disappearance of tradition, loneliness, the feeling of emptiness, and the Stockholm syndrome, from which Japan has suffered since the American postwar occupation. It takes an artist to tell a story within a story, dressed as a genre piece and only a few can do it. Murakami sure has done it.
Faceless Frank, an American from an unnamed city that fits the description of any American city, has a typical American childhood in the suburbs and a surname that is never the same, thus becomes America, while Kenji with his empty life without any purpose other than that of raising enough money to go to the United States, becomes Japan, and their relationship is morbidly symbiotic.
"In the miso soup" is a horror novel, don't be fooled by allegory and symbolism. The one that puts chills under your skin from the first page as it draws you into the underworld of Tokyo, its glittering streets and sex clubs ready to fill your every fetish. As Kenji spends time with Frank, in the three nights leading up to the New Year, he realizes how much society in Japan has changed, how Japanese high school girls give their bodies just enough to fill the void that rules their lives and drive away boredom unlike the foreign prostitutes who are there to make money for their families, but he also gets to experience true terror in the atmosphere that Murakami so brilliantly builds. It is also that social horror because through the novel we observe a lonely generation without a goal, gad about life in search of something that will move them.
It's not just symbolism in Kenji and Frank's relationship, Murakami leaves it everywhere while he guides us through the story with his simple yet so effective style, and thus becomes our Kenji, a guide to the demise of Japanese society. Unfortunately, this novel, like many others, has a somewhat prophetic and dystopian character because nowadays the decadence of society is ubiquitous, starting from various reality programs to other things.
If Ellis became the enfant terrible of modern literature of the far West with his "American Psycho", then Murakami with his "In the Miso Soup" is an enfant terrible of modern literature of the far East. It is a novel that simply has to be read for its ingenuity because this is Ryu's finger in the eye. Or rather a middle finger.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,213 followers
August 31, 2020
3.0 Stars
This was an incredibly dark thriller than explored the seedy underbelly of Japan's sex iindustry. I liked the beginning, but it built up to a climax that felt hollow and meaningless. Perhaps that is the actual point, but it made for an unsatisfying read. 

This book has a reputation for being very disturbing and it certainly delivered on that promise. The one scene was absolutely gruesome and downright sick. Easily one of the most messed up things I have read.

If you are fascinated with the darker side of Japan or simply wanting to experience a truly disturbing book, then you may want to check this one. While definitely not to the faint of heart, this was quite a unique little novel to read.
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