sexual obsession and all-or-nothing love struck a deep chord in Japanese
readers. Published only recently, it set sales records in the millions of
copies and soon crossed over to other media as well—first as a radio and TV
drama, then as a blockbuster movie. The popularity of the novel has spread
across Asia as well, with hugely successful translations into Korean and
Chinese. In the West, readers may be reminded of The Bridges of Madison
County, another best-selling novel of blazing midlife passion—one with
a very different outcome.
Here the lovers are Kuki, a 54-year-old employee in a publishing company,
and Rinko, a childless, 37-year-old woman unhappily married to a cold fish
of a husband, a professor of medicine. Stuck in a dead-end job and an
uneventful marriage, Kuki is irresistibly drawn to Rinko from their first
encounter, seeing through her demure demeanor to the passionate woman
beneath. She returns his feelings with ever-increasing abandon, despite
lingering fears about where her sexual awakening may lead her. In the end,
both are prepared to risk all for their relationship: family, career, and
social standing, even life itself.
The story contrasts the lovers' defiantly freewheeling passion—described
in imaginative, smoldering detail—with a rigid society where people are
expected to play a prescribed role, whether as dutiful wife or compliant
office worker. In escaping these conventional roles, the lovers often escape
the city as well, immersing themselves in the traditional beauties of
Japanese nature and art as they give themselves over to each other and the
pleasure of the moment. And ultimately they make a much more radical escape:
one that will ensure that they are left in peace, to enjoy an abiding love.
Perhaps not all the choices they make will seem reasonable, or even
understandable, to Western readers. But their story, with elements as modern
as yesterday's headlines and as timeless as the tug between love and death,
opens a window into the secrets of the Japanese soul.
Download A Lost Paradise [PDF]
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