One of the fun parts of being a publisher of Japanese literature is hunting down through countless stories to find something that is truly great, and can be appreciated easily by a Western audience.
I stumbled upon Muro Saisei’s “Tokyo: City of Illusions” （幻影の都市）a few years ago, a story about a poet wandering through the streets of some of the seedier parts of Tokyo, seeking out an alluring woman with strange powers. At the time I was left with an impression of it having a compelling mysterious atmosphere, yet I didn’t quite understand everything (the text is quite difficult, and I was aiming for a quick read-through). I put down a few notes so I wouldn’t forget about it, but to be honest the impact of this story was so strong it hung around in a corner of my mind for quite a long time until I finally decided to give a more careful reading.
My second read through (about two months ago) really changed my perspective on this story from being about some mysterious city to what is arguably a piece of societal criticism being set in the real Tokyo, with several places and landmarks taken from back when it was written, around a century ago. After doing a bit more research, I began to see the depth of this story and even form theories about what it all meant. Despite not normally being much into history for its own sake, I ended up doing a lot of research about Tokyo in the early 1900s, which uncovered a whole new side of Tokyo for me.
After my second reading I knew that I had to translate this story, and I am happy to say I have just released the e-book of this story on Amazon. To help put the story in context I added a several-page essay where I detailed some of the things I discovered, and also some of my personal interpretations about the story.
I decided to publish the book in bilingual Japanese/English so that Japanese learners can attempt to read through the challenging text and then check their understanding. I also included the story in English-only format.
You can find the book on Amazon here.