In the Miso Soup

In the Miso Soup


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From postmodern Renaissance man Ryu Murakami, master of the psychothriller and director of Tokyo Decadence, comes this hair-raising roller-coaster ride through the nefarious neon-lit world of Tokyo’s sex industry. In the Miso Soup tells of Frank, an overweight American tourist who 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143035695
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/2006
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 206,409
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ryu Murakami, musician, filmmaker, TV talk show host, and novelist, is the author of Almost Transparent Blue, 69, and Coin Locker Babies, which the Washington Post praised as "a knockout . . . a great big pulsating parable."

Ralph McCarthy is the translator of Murakami’s 69 and two collections of stories by Osamu Dazai.

Read an Excerpt

Frank was standing in the shadow of a pillar in the lobby of the Shinjuku Prince. I was passing by on my way to the cafeteria when he popped out from behind the pillar.

"Hey, Kenji," he called. It literally took my breath away. "Frank," I gasped. "I thought we were going to meet in the cafeteria."

It was kind of crowded, he said and winked. The world's weirdest wink: his eye rolled back in his head as he closed it, so that for a second all you could see was white. And the cafeteria, clearly visible from where we stood, was almost empty. Frank saw me looking that way and said it was really crowded a few minutes ago. He was dressed differently tonight--black sweater and corduroy jacket with jeans and sneakers. Even his hairstyle was different. The short, slicked-down bangs he'd had the night before were now standing straight up. And instead of the old leather shoulder bag, he was carrying a cloth rucksack. It was like he'd had a makeover or something.

"I found a good bar," he said, "a shot bar. You don't see many of those in this country. Let's go there first."

The bar, on Kuyakusho Avenue, is a pretty well known place. Not because it serves delicious cocktails or the interior is anything special or the food is particularly good, but simply because it's one of the few no-frills drinking places in Kabuki-cho. It's popular with foreigners, and I've taken clients there several times. It has no chairs, just a long bar and a few elbow-high tables along the big plate-glass window. To get there from the hotel we'd walked along a street lined with clubs and crowded with touts, but Frank wasn't interested in their lingerie pubs or peep shows.

"I just wanted to start off by wetting the old whistle," he said when our beers came and we clinked glasses. We could have drunk beer in the hotel cafeteria. Did Frank have some reason for not wanting to go in there? I remembered reading in a hard-boiled detective novel that if you drink in the same place two nights in a row, the bartender and waiters will remember your face.

I looked around for someone I knew. Jun had told me not to be alone with Frank, and I thought it might be a good idea to let someone who knew me see us together. Frank peered steadily at my face while he drank his beer, as if trying to read my mind. I didn't see anyone I knew. A wide range of types stood shoulder to shoulder at the bar. Affluent college kids, white-collar workers bold enough to wear suits that weren't gray or navy blue, office girls who were old hands at partying, and trendy dudes who looked like they belonged in Roppongi but had decided to drink in Kabuki-cho for a change. Later on, hostesses and girls from the sex clubs would stop in for a drink.

"You seem a bit funny somehow tonight," Frank said. He was gulping his beer at a much faster pace than he had the night before. "I'm kind of tired," I told him. "And like I said on the phone, I think I'm catching a cold."

I guess anyone who knew me could have seen I was a bit funny somehow. Even I thought I was. This is how people start the slide down into madness, I thought. Suspicious minds breed demons, they say, and now I knew what they meant. Frank kept peering at me, and I searched for something to say. I was trying to decide how much I should let him suspect I suspected. It seemed best to hint that I thought he was a dubious character, but not to the extent that I'd ever imagine he might be a murderer. If he knew I imagined any such thing, I was pretty sure he'd kill me. And if, on the other hand, he decided I was completely naession of people from overseas who seem to be having a good time. The foreigner's enjoying himself, so maybe old Nippon isn't so bad after all, in fact maybe this is a world-class bar, and we drink in places like this all the time, so maybe we're happier than we realized, is how the reasoning goes. This spot had some excellent jazz on the sound system--a rarity for Kabuki-cho--and the lighting was fashionably dim, so that not even the people standing right next to us could see Frank's face very clearly. Even as he slapped my shoulder and laughed, Frank's eyes were as cold as dark marbles. I had to force myself to return the gaze of those chilling eyes and try to look perky and cheerful. It was agony of a sort I'd never experienced before. I didn't know how long my nerves would hold up.

"I want sex, Kenji, sex. I want to drink some beer here to get in a good mood and then go to a club where I can get sexually aroused."

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A writer with talent to burn . . . Fellini and Günter Grass, David Bowie and Dostoevski, García Márquez and Mike Leigh’s Naked all come to mind." —Gary Indiana, author of Rent Boy

"A blistering portrait of contemporary Japan . . . one of the most savage thrillers since The Silence of the Lambs." —Kirkus Reviews

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In the Miso Soup 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
KTPrymus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If America is a melting pot (or an ¿ethnic stew¿) then Japan is Miso soup ¿ a bunch of uniform vegetables floating around in a liquid that represents the exotic core values of a nation. At least that is how Frank, the American antagonist in a Japanese novel, describes it. Frank is the client of Kenji, a 20-year old who makes his living giving guided tours of Tokyo¿s sex district to gaijin (foreigners). Kenji gets more than he bargained for with this particular client as he begins to suspect that Frank is somehow involved in a series of murders which have recently occurred around the sex district of Kabuki-cho.Murakami¿s style has a bit of a Palahniukian feel to it, framing a story around an esoteric sub-set of the popular culture and eccentric characters to delve into relatively ingenious modes of social criticism. The catch here is that there are two cultures being criticized, American and Japanese, and the criticisms of both are voiced by individuals from both countries. Combine this with Murakami¿s own Japanese origins and you have an interesting feed-back loop that allows you to see both cultures from a very different perspective. Because of the graphic nature of the events depicted in the book these existential narratives have an eerily surreal quality to them.The book can be extremely disturbing at times ¿ this is, after all, from the man who brought us Audition. Not being a stranger to graphic content I was surprised to find myself verging on sickness while reading some of the passages. However this is one of the few cases where I can genuinely say that the gruesomeness is a necessary part of a larger artistic endeavor. Murakami does a brilliant job of making you feel you are there which puts you in the psychological frame of mind of the characters after witnessing such atrocities. As a result I would strongly suggest you read this short novel in a single sitting to get the full experience of the work. In The Miso Soup is quite extraordinary.
TreesAreOutside on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in contemporary japan, a sex-tourist guide's client turns out to be the mentally disturbed serial killer that's been popping up in the local news recently. I disliked the general gore, the meager plot and the pessimistic disposition of the main character made me a bit uneasy.I liked the characters, especially liked the social commentary, and the vivid descriptions were great. This could have been a much better book than what it was. I'd reread it only to kill some time, i know what's going to happen already, so most of the fun of trying to predict whether or not the main character will die is gone. This book encouraged future reading of contemorary japanese fiction, it's fun to compare with western fiction.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel shows the gritty and grimy side of Tokyo. I did not know what to expect and wasn't quite prepared for so much violence, but the character development and the descriptions are so vivid and realistic that I was just taken in by the atmosphere and the plot. Very eerie and very scary.
ben_h on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Ryu Murakami's books, but I wouldn't be tempted to say they were good. (Supposedly, much of the interest comes from his wordplay, which isn't captured by the English translations.) I found this book to be a little weightier than his other work: the characters are more solid, and the plot--his usual horror/mystery/sex phantasmagoria--was more memorable. I read this in the winter, but it would make a perfect summer read (if you like that sort of thing).
bardsfingertips on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a philosophical novel. I do not believe that In The Miso Soup is intended to be a thriller, and if it is perceived as such, that is due to the reader's own volition.I believe that the issue presented in this small novel that is about a Japanese sex trade tour-guide first-hand experience with a serial killer is isolation.The novel is not about the human monster that murders. The novel is about what this monster sees when he looks as other people; and how other people refuse to see what is inside themselves.The way it is set up is the narrator is a sex trade tour-guide in a less-than-savory part of Tokyo. He is young, but has been doing this long enough to support himself and be good at what he does. Often (his count is about two hundred) he gets foreigners, mostly Americans, looking for a sexual adventure. One night, he gets a man by the name of Frank.Frank, as it turns out, is a serial killer. After much is-he-a-murder is is revealed in a very violent episode of the book.To me, the gore is secondary. However, the gore is necessary to involve the narrator in seeing that those getting murdered before his eyes, though not people he actually liked, are composed of the same flesh and blood as he: they have organs that he also has. As they cease to function, that which is inside him still function; and this is only due to the fact he has not been killed. He has been allowed to live.After this scene of violence, the narrator and Frank leave the establishment, and thus begins the philosophy.Isolation.Frank grew up no knowing how to relate to people. As soon as it was determined that he was a killer (at an age for him that was well within his childhood), he was shuffled from prison to mental institution. He was lobotomized and medicated. But, he was never shown how to rehabilitate. He was never shown that he, too, was human.As an adult, Frank was driven to kill again. The idea surveyed is that Frank started to see within others their own isolation ¿ and their rejection of others. To Frank, others were just as bad as he was, if not worse.A comparison is made: Frank is a Virus while others have devolved. Frank goes on to tell our narrator that viruses are necessary for human evolution; for what doesn't wipe out the species will encourage evolution.The other issue is Japan. Frank explores that Japan has never been fully occupied. Even after the two bombs were dropped, the United States never fully occupied and conquered Nippon. There are a great many Western influences within Japan, but the isolation still seems to hold sway. Frank sees this as a problem with Japan; and, so does the narrator. This is were the semblance of a friendship takes root between the narrator and Frank the serial killer.And it is with that dull glimmer of a friendship that Frank sees that there are those who are worth not killing, and truly savoring their lives as something good because they do not keep themselves in isolation.
poetontheone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My introduction to Ryu Murakami was his first novel, Almost Transparent Blue; a lurid slice of contemporary surrealism swimming in grime, sex, and drugs. This novel was published twenty years later, and Murakami's growth as a writer and storyteller is easy to discern. He has crafted an arresting thriller, comparable to the better efforts of Thomas Harris, but retaining the author's knack for nightmarish imagery and unflinching social criticism. In the Miso Soup is a searing glance into the dark side of Japanese society and human nature alike.
gimmemoore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really quite dark modern chiller set in the sleazier size of tokyo, a sex tourist and his local guide showing what the city has to offer amidst a background of serial murder and mutilation.
noblechicken on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fast adventurous read if you are drawn in or fascinated by the subject matter. We meet Kenji, a young fellow in Japan who takes foreigners on tours of the seedier side of Tokyo for extra income. Hookers, massage parlors, food; you name it, he will set you up. There is also a recent murder of a high school girl who was involved in "compensated dating"; another word for prostitution of sorts. Kenji then meets Frank, an American with a lot of oddities...and lies. What starts as an odd romp through the flesh underworld turns grisly as our suspicions of Frank comes to a head. His mannerisms and attitude grows more alarming and worse page by page. Murakami does not let up during the books most panicked scene and it will make you cringe. Plus there is a constant sense of danger looming as we are more and more suspicious of Frank. A really visual book with some interesting commentary on the modern world, hypocrisy, and double standards as well. This would make a great Miike movie. A great cringer from Murakami.
ocgreg34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kenji drives a cab among the bright lights of Tokyo. But he doesn't stick to the usual stops; his tours take passengers -- usually foreigners -- through the seedy nightlife, exploring the sexual sights and sounds of the bustling metropolis. A few nights before New Years Eve, Kenji picks up an unusual passenger, an American who goes by the name of Frank. Frank's a big man, with an oddly pale skin, and from their conversation, Kenji's not sure what to think of him. His odd behavior, telling stories then contradicting himself, the way he seems to mesmerize the locals at one of the clubs, add to Kenji's growing unease. The unease only increases when a young girl is found dead, and Kenji begins to suspect that Frank may not be who he says he is."In the Miso Soup" does a great job at taking the nervousness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs when we know something isn't quite right and twisting it into full-blown paranoia. And much of that is thanks to the way author Ryu Murakami created the character of Frank. He's big and unassuming. His skin, his facial expression (or almost lack thereof), the way his ease loose focus when something seems to anger him, the way his whole persona changes in almost the blink of an eye, all conspire with the local news reports to coax Kenji into believing that Frank is pure evil. And when Kenji's mind picks up an idea, it runs with it, twisting what he "sees" to mesh with what he "believes". I couldn't help but go along with Kenji because I started feeling the same sort of mistrust toward Frank, even without anything to prove it.It's an intense read, violent and gory at times, but a fine psychological thriller.
Jacey25 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First of all if you're thinking of reading this book make sure you have a cast iron stomach, this is not a read for the faint of heart. If you're good to read sexual & gory content and you have an interest in serial killers/ horror type genre work than you'll probably enjoy this story. This is Ryu doing what he does best; grossing you and enthralling you simultaneously. The story of a tour guide to the sex districts who meets a slightly odd American flows nicely & quickly, the translation seems spot on and by the end you'll probably be surprised to find that this is a surprisingly literary take on the serial killer story. Oh, last comment- the book moves quickly; I picked it up and couldn't put it down last night- probably a two hour read all told for me. Reccomended but if you're new to Ryu the newest translation of his work [Audition] is where you want to begin to see if his work appeals to you IMO.
leahdawn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A creepy murder mystery. Not usually a fan of this type of book so I might be a bit biased when I say that I didn't dig it that much. A fan of the genre would probably appreciate it more.
Fluffyblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Japanese noir. This was a strange book about a 20 year old man who works as an escort to men, mainly American, looking for a 'good time' in the outskirts of Tokyo.The first half of the book was interesting, but as I got further into the book I started to get a little frustrated with the plot, particularly after the main incident happened. The characters could have been more interesting, and for me personally, I would have liked to have known more about life in Japan.
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ugh. Prurient and gruesome. Well-written in terms of style - but there are lots of 'clues' in the first half, which aim to ratchet up the tension, which then go nowhere (the cold, metallic nature of Frank's body?). I didn't buy the philosophical disquisitions on modern anomie or US-Japan relations either...
TooHotty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book starts out ok, but the whole thing seems to ride on one gory scene that, once over, doesn't get developed into anything terribly satisfying. I dunno, maybe there are layers here that my easy, suburban upbringing doesn't allow me to understand, but I'm fairly certain the book is just average.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The books is very dark and hard readable... I prefer more optimy books..
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Sianne_Rice More than 1 year ago
His characters in this book are so amazing. It's set in the red light district of Japan, very gritty and honest. Nothing is hidden here it's great. Not as "twisted" as his other works.
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Janus More than 1 year ago
Those familiar with Ryu Murakami will find a great treasure in In the Miso Soup. Murakami's surrealistic and gritty style of writing are back in fine form and his attention to detail and realism is as astounding as ever. In the Miso Soup may attract some because of its heavy blend of sex and violence, but at its heart, this is not what the story is about. It is chiefly a commentary on modern morality and a social observation of Japanese behavior. This is the kind of bizarre story that will teach you a lesson in ethics or culturalism right after it has made you cringe with the gory details of a murder. The actual scenes of violence are really quite few; but what few there are will make even the most seasoned murder literature veteran wince. Kenji (the narrator) is very much an every-man and he serves his literary purpose of pulling the reader in perfectly. Frank is one of the most interesting characters to pop up in a book in a long time. He is the perfect antagonist to Kenji's "that's just life" views. In the Miso Soup is the kind of book that once a reader starts it, they will be unable to stop; even though at many times they will want to. A very affecting novel and highly recommended.