[Adrift: Wanders in Search of the Konnyakuya]
Bungeishunjū (Bunshun Bunko), 2014. 496 pp. ¥810. ISBN 978-4- 16-790060-1.
Also published in: n/a
This is a nonfiction account of a journey that Hoshino Hiromi made in search of her roots through six generations in Tokyo, Chiba, and Wakayama Prefectures. The author wanders around Japan (and back through time) without any particular destination in mind, compiling the reminiscences and anecdotes shared by her relatives. The result is a family saga set against the backdrop of modern Japanese history. Hoshino’s parents ran a small factory in Tokyo, but her ancestors were fishermen. Her grandfather, originally from Sotobō on the Pacific Coast of Chiba Prefecture, moved to Tokyo and started the factory business. The family was known by the curious professional name of “Konnyakuya” (the “konnyaku sellers,” where konnyaku refers to a food made from a tuber known as “devil’s tongue”)—a puzzling name with no obvious connection to the sea. The author’s research brings her to the memoirs of her beloved grandfather, where she discovers that her forebears on the “Konnyakuya” side of the family originally emigrated to Sotobō from the distant land of Kii (modern Wakayama Prefecture). The book brings vividly to life the cheerful plebeian ways of this fishing family, full of energy and laughter. The writing is imbued with a rich sense of the excitement and joy of discovery as the author’s untiring fieldwork leads her on to new discoveries—an enthusiasm that has captured the imagination of many readers. (NM)