Supermarket: A Novel Hardcover – Feb 3 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The surface story has shenanigans taking place in the fresh foods and clothing departments of one of Japan's new venture into 'supermarkets'. Our protagonist, Kojima, has taken the leap from banking to an industry he knows nothing about.
We follow him and his fellow employees through several years as they try to turn a profit from this new type of store that they copied from America.
Writing in a spare style, we learn only what we need to know to advance the story. I got the sense that the author and translator worked together to put this into English; and it resulted in a well written story.
'Supermarket' is a relaxing low key look at a section of Japanese life catching up with the west after the 1940's. Some of the underlying story is about moral and ethical issues that add depth to the book.
This is definitely a book with a unique plot. I enjoyed it.
Another reviewer provided comments on the plot, which includes succession issues in a family-owned business, weak management that allowed malfeasance, and contrasts between the old and the new in retail. Now in places the plot is a bit contorted, and some of the characters aren't convincing. That's characteristic of the Japanese "business novel" -- a genre largely lacking in contemporary English-language fiction (cf. Arthur Hailey's Hotel). Again, only a couple items out of hundreds have been translated. Again, that makes this translation welcome.
I may use it in the (college) classroom; I will certainly show the film that's based loosely on the novel, Supermarket Woman, released in Japan in 1996 and directed by Itami Juzo of Tampopo fame. If you read the book, the film provides the visuals for things that might not seem significant to someone who's not lived in urban Japan. As with Itami's other films, it is full of satire and slapstick yet accessible to viewers unfamiliar with Japan.
They make a good summer pair, neither heavy nor dull and with enough meat (yes, the book features Kobe beef) to reward the reader.
The depiction of everyday life in Japan at the times rings true and I like that everything isn't neatly resolved.