“Otowa has woven a series of delightful vignettes of life in Japan, from a true historical story of feuding villages to a man who steals shoes at temples…and some highlighting the cultural differences between Japanese and American sensibilities, especially for women.” — Ginny Tapley-Takemori, translator of Convenience Store Woman
The collection includes:
- A Year of Coffee and Cake—A young American wife in the Tokyo suburbs suspects her next-door neighbor of murdering an elderly relative.
- Rhododendron Valley—An elderly man decides to commit suicide to deal with his terminal illness and to spare his family pain.
- The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper—A reclusive young Japanese man enjoys the strange hobby of stealing shoes from temples, but it gradually consumes him.
- Genbei’s Curse—A downtrodden woman loses her temper with her demanding, sick father-in-law. Years later, old and sick herself, she can now empathize with him.
- Trial by Fire—A true story passed down through the author’s family of a gruesome trial to settle a land dispute in 1619.
- Love and Duty—The Japanese custom of “duty chocolates” (chocolates gifted by women to men on Valentine’s Day) has repercussions for an American and a Japanese woman.
- Uncle Trash—Told in the form of newspaper articles, this is the story of an old man, his hoarding addiction, the annoyance it brings his family, and his eventual revenge.
- Watch Again—A man starts stalking his ex-wife and learns something about himself in the process.
- Three Village Stories—A tea ceremony teacher, a vengeful son, and an old man ostracized by his community are the protagonists in three vignettes of village life.
- The Rescuer—After meeting his death in a train accident, a young man finds himself in the position of rescuing others from the same fate.