Touring the Land of the Dead

Translation: Haydn Trowell


Touring the Land of the Dead features two novels by Maki Kashimada – the titlular one, for which the author received The Akutagawa Prize in 2012, and Ninety-Nine Kisses – a story of four sisters, inspired by Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters.

The flow of these two stories is different, but they have something in common – family relationships are at the center of the narrative. On the one hand, those that are tender and close, and on the other – those complicated and toxic.

In Touring the Land of the Dead, Natsuko with her husband Taichi, who suffers from a neurological disease and is confined to a wheelchair, go on a journey to a resort (a once luxurious place where the Natsuko’s mother used to spend time years ago, first with her parents and then with Natsuko.) The familiar landscape evokes childhood memories; exploring the area with her husband, Natsuko reflects on her relationship with her toxic mother and selfish brother. Touring the Land of the Dead is a story about trauma, acceptance and finding solace, about how often we are hurt by those closest to us without realizing it.

The story in Ninety-Nine Kisses is told by high school student Nanako, the youngest of the siblings, who talks about her beloved sisters and mother with whom she lives in one of the districts of Tokyo. Love for the sisters, bordering on obsession and even lust, fills the pages of this novella – see for yourself.

«Meiko, Moeko, Yōko, I thought, chanting their names like some kind of love spell. Words have power, even by themselves. That’s why I don’t say them very much. Words like love, or death. Whenever I recite the names of my three sisters, I find myself drifting off into a deep fog. Even at college the other day, during a lecture about Marcel Pagnol, I wasn’t really paying attention to whatever my French professor, Monsieur Kimura, was saying. I just sat in my seat, repeating the names of my beloved sisters to myself over and over, writing them down again and again in my notebook. ... "Sounds like a sister complex to me," my classmate Tamura said when we went to Hanake to get a bite to eat.»

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