Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story
by Renae Lucas-Hall
For all the ceaseless babbling of Japan’s musical-chairs politics and the skips and stumbles of its massively indebted economy, there are some things about Japan that have remained virtually untouched for the past few decades: that is, the Japanese urbanite's obsession with trend and fashion, and, of course, the timeless, universal theme of love and romance that has the power to both transcend and subvert any socioeconomic arrangement.
Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story begins as a story about a female-male couple, Haruka and Takashi, who are devoted to shopping and going out in Tokyo. These two up and coming young Japanese are blissfully immersed not only in each other, but in the trendy youth culture of the Aoyama and Omotesando area of Tokyo, awash with fashion boutiques, and Japan's huge and often luxurious department store scene. These form the backdrop of much of the book, and we are introduced to the couple in their haunting of industrial-ceilinged cafes where they are attended by waiters in thick black glasses frames and John Lennon haircuts, sipping cappuccinos over their latest Yoji Yamamoto garment purchases.
Yet a literal, and an emotional, earthquake shatters this bliss. Haruka’s Kyoto connections start to get in the way, not least in the form of an ex-lover with whom the flame reignites. Physical distance in Haruka's short return to Kyoto, Japan's ancient and gracious ex-capital city, creates emotional distance, further underscored by physical injury that boyfriend Takashi suffers in an earthquake that hits Tokyo. This crisis is introduced and undertaken convincingly, and the reader is led through to its denouement and conclusion.
Renae Lucas-Hall paints the doings and passions of the protagonists in detailed pastels that do ample justice to the meticulous significance with which they invest their cafe-hopping, department-store-exploring and fashion purchasing. Do not expect a rollicking read. Tokyo Hearts demands almost a meditative frame of mind in which the reader can reinvent for him or herself the essential - and even inessential - details that compose the characters’ lives.
If any criticism were to be leveled at Tokyo Hearts, it might be that the narrative often takes on in an explanatory way what might often be better left to the dialog and portrayal of unfolding circumstance. Nevertheless, the author's style is very much in keeping with the tone of Japanese daily life, rarely rocked by anything more alarming than a mild temblor, the theft of a pot plant, or accidentally dropping one's smartphone. Takashi's and Haruka's romance in Tokyo Hearts is an artifact explored with albeit ambulatory precision and a clear love of the culture in which it is set.
To find out more about the book and its author visit Renae Lucas-Hall's webpage.