The Bonsai Tree
Jun Nagai, heir to a prominent Japanese spinning empire, takes his new English wife Kate back to Japan after some time in England absorbing Western technology. This is a marriage his arrogant and powerful mother Itsuko, who controls the family business, finds hard to accept and she sets out to destroy it. Jun, fighting for his independence, is pulled between the two cultures owing loyalty to both.
Thrown into a strange and incomprehensible world, where the role of a wife is so different, Kate is soon stripped of all her romantic illusions. Her struggle to retain her individuality and adapt to her new environment after a shattering encounter lead her to work as an interpreter. In a bar she meets Tamura, a business rival of the Nagais. When escaping from him Kate finds herself in Kamagasaki, a place she thought could not exist in the modern miracle of Japan. Here she discovers Japan’s race of untouchables the Burakumin, the gangsters, the destitutes and an ancient area of prostitution like no other in Japan. Her terrifying flight through the red-light district – the dustbin of a society in which failure has no place – and her rescue by Father Ota, a Japanese Christian missionary, brings her to a new understanding of the culture she has married into.
In this powerful yet sensitive novel the author highlights not only the contrast between Japan and the Western World, but the barriers that face the foreigner who tries to assimilate with a people who for much of their history closed their doors to the outsider.