After reminiscing about Tokyo recently, I felt a bit depressed knowing how long it will likely be before I can ever visit there again. I decided that if I can’t travel there with my body, I’ll settle for traveling there with my mind. I started searching for books based in Tokyo. I was drawn to Banana Yoshimoto’s novel Moshi Moshi as it was set in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo — Shimokitazawa. Once I learned of Yoshimoto’s fame as a world-renowned author, I immediately picked up the book.
I finished it in a few days. The story and character development is gripping and powerful. I definitely found myself raising an eyebrow at many moments in the story — there are some questionable arcs to the storyline. But I believe the unique stories and characters are what makes Yoshimoto’s work so compelling. It’s also worth noting that I read the book’s English translation, which seemed like it could use some improvement. I don’t speak Japanese (yet!) and have not read the original version, but there were some glaring issues which seemed likely to be caused by translation (typos, awkward and clunky phrasing, etc.)
The lack of elegant prose was unfortunate, but somehow the technical quirks fit with the story. Moshi Moshi is about a woman who is grieving the loss of her father, and depicts her wayward journey of recovery as she tries to move on and find peace. Her journey is messy and painful. Life is never perfect. Not everything has a fairy tale ending. Yoshimoto’s story deserves better translation, but the messy medium fit her message.
One of my favorite memories of visiting Shimokitazawa was stopping at a coffee shop called Yeti Roastery. It’s where I met my friend Amit, who served me some delicious Himalayan specialty coffee. He just launched a new location in Setagaya. If you’re ever in Tokyo, be sure to stop by and try their coffee (and say hi to Amit for me!)