You may have noticed that I read a lot of literature from Asia, especially Japanese literature. I still have a lot of classic and well thought of titles to go but sometimes I simply select a title solely based on the perceived nationality of the author, whether I know the author or not. Luckily I have seldom been disappointed. So if the author is Japanese, I read the book. One hitch to this technique is that too often nowadays a unfamiliar title turns out to be a Manga and although I have several digital versions of Manga, I’m just not into following a graphic story: Watchman was bad enough.

One type of Japanese literature I do find exciting is the sometimes weird and often scary Japanese mysteries and thrillers. I suppose when you add to a spooky story the elements of a strong tradition of Japanese ghost stories and the somewhat unfamiliar background of Japan and Japanese customs, you get a little magnifying effect and the thrill becomes a real tingler.

There have been a number of classic and contemporary treatments of Hell: Dante is obvious, Barbusse, Palahniuk, and my recent read Hell by Yasutaka Tsutsui.

Tsutsui is showing up more and more on my reading list. Tsutsui is a very prolific writer and often has his own twist on what might have been a standard science fiction novel. Hell is a good example of his work. Although I can only comment of the translation, Tsutsui’s prose is well controlled if not terribly complex. His novels and stories are easy and enjoyable reads. It’s the imaginative and unexpected elements of the narrative that intrigue me more than the depth of the writing.


Tsutsui presents a Hell that is pretty much the same as the everyday earth. This is of course the main trop and the author works it out nicely. The tension, at least early in the novel, is not between Heaven and Hell but rather in trying to differentiate life on earth versus life in Hell: how do you know you are dead?

Well, there are a couple of ways. First, since the passage from life to death leaves behind the old container, the replacement provided in Hell is almost exactly the same … except any damage or infirmities that occurred in life are not replicated in Hell: after all, if you were mangled in a car accident or blown to pieces by a terrorist bomber, would you want your old body? The other method of knowing you are dead is noticing or interacting with old friends that you know are long dead themselves.

Now throw in the Yakuza and a number of fun characters and you have a very satisfying, if not too challenging, novel. My one comment would be that I would like to see the Hell vs. Life dicotomy manipulated by a more complex writer: perhaps Flann O’Brien or Brian O’Nolan.

Wikipedia gives an extensive bibliography for Yasutaka Tsutsui which I replicate below. Note that I’m too lazy to eliminate the kanji so readers who read Japanese are in luck.



Nanase Trilogy

  • 家族八景 Kazoku Hakkei (Eight Family Scenes/What The Maid Saw) (1972)
  • 七瀬ふたたび Nanase Futatabi (Nanase Once More) (1975)
  • エディプスの恋人 Edipusu no Koibito (Oedipus’ Lover) (1977)

Standalone novels

  • 48億の妄想 48 Oku no Mōsō (4.8 Billion Delusions) (1965)
  • 馬の首風雲録 Umanokubi Fuunroku (Chronicle of the Horse’s Head Crisis) (1967)
  • 時をかける少女 Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) (1967)
  • 霊長類、南へ Reichōrui, Minami-e (1969)
  • 脱走と追跡のサンバ Dassō to Tsuiseki no Samba (Samba of Running and Chasing) (1971)
  • 俗物図鑑 Zokubutsu Zukan (Picture Book of Vulgarity) (1972)
  • 男たちのかいた絵 Otoko Tachi no Kaita E (Tale of Two Men) (1974)
  • 俺の血は他人の血 Ore no Chi wa Tanin no Chi (My Blood is the Blood of Another) (1974)
  • 富豪刑事 Fugō Keiji (Millionaire Detective) (1978)
  • 大いなる助走 Oi Naru Josō (The Great Approachway) (1979)
  • 虚人たち Kyojin Tachi (Virtual Men) (1981)
  • 虚航船団 Kyokō Sendan (Fleet of Fantasy) (1984)
  • イリヤ・ムウロメツ Ilya Muromets (1985)
  • 旅のラゴス Tabi no Ragosu (Lagos on a Journey) (1986)
  • 歌と饒舌の戦記 Uta to Jōzetsu no Senki (War Chronicles of Song and Loquacity) (1987)
  • 夢の木坂分岐点 Yumenokizaka Bunkiten (Dreamtree Hill Junction) (1987)
  • 驚愕の広野 Kyōgaku no Kōya (Prairie of Astonishment) (1988)
  • フェミニズム殺人事件 Feminizumu Satsujin Jiken (The Feminism Murders) (1989)
  • 残像に口紅を Zanzō ni Kuchibeni o (Lipstick on an After-Image) (1989)
  • 文学部唯野教授 Bungakubu Tadano Kyōju (Prof. Tadano of the Literature Department) (1990)
  • ロートレック荘事件 Rōtorekku-Sō Jiken (The Lautrec Villa Murders) (1990)
  • 朝のガスパール Asa no Gasupāru (Gaspard in the Morning) (1992)
  • images-2.jpgパプリカ Paprika (1993)
  • 邪眼鳥 Jaganchō (1997)
  • 敵 Teki (Enemy) (1998)
  • わたしのグランパ Watashi no Guranpa (My Grandpa) (1999)
  • 恐怖 Kyōfu (Fear) (2001)
  • ヘル Hell (2003)
  • 銀齢の果て Ginrei no Hate (End of the Silver Age) (2006)
  • 巨船べラスレトラス Kyosen Berasu Retorasu (The Big Ship Bellas Letras) (2007)
    ダンシング・ヴァニティ Dancing Vanity (2008)

Short stories (collections)

  • 東海道戦争 Tōkaidō Sensō (The Tōkaidō War) (1965)
  • ベトナム観光公社 Betonamu Kankō Kōsha (Vietnam Tourist Bureau) (1967)
  • アルファルファ作戦 Arufarufa Sakusen (The Alfalfa Strategy) (1968)
  • 幻想の未来・アフリカの血 Gensō no Mirai/Afurika no Chi (Fantasy Future/African Blood) (1968)
  • にぎやかな未来 Nigiyaka na Mirai (A Bright Future) (1968)
  • アフリカの爆弾 Afurika no Bakudan (African Bomb) (1968)
  • 筒井順慶 Tsutsui Junkei (1969)
  • わが良き狼 Waga Yoki Ōkami (My Good Old Wolf) (1969)
  • 心狸学・社怪学 Shinrigaku, Shakaigaku (Psychology, Sociology) (1969)
  • ホンキイ・トンク Honky Tonk (1969)
  • 母子像 Boshizō (Mother and Child Portrait) (1970)
  • 馬は土曜に蒼ざめる Uma wa Doyō ni Aozameru (Horses Turn Pale on Saturdays) (1970)
  • 日本列島七曲り Nihon Rettō Nanamagari (Eight Bends on the Japanese Archipelago) (1971)
  • 将軍が目覚めた時 Shōgun ga Mezameta Toki (When the Shogun Awoke) (1972)
  • 農協月へ行く Nōkyō Tsuki-e Iku (Co-op Goes To The Moon) (1973)
  • おれに関する噂 Ore-ni Kansuru Uwasa (Rumours About Me) (1974)
  • ウィークエンドシャフル Weekend Shuffle (1974)
  • 笑うな Warau-na (Don’t Laugh) (1975)
  • メタモルフォセス群島 Metamorufosesu Guntō (Metamorphosis Archipelago) (1976)
  • バブリング創世記 Baburingu Sōseiki (Babbling Creation Chronicles) (1978)
  • 宇宙衛生博覧会 Uchū Eisei Hakurankai (Universal Hygiene Expo) (1979)
  • エロチック街道 Erochikku Kaidō (Erotic Avenue) (1981)
  • 串刺し教授 Kushizashi Kyōju (Professor on a Skewer) (1985)
  • くたばれPTA Kutabare PTA (Go To Hell, PTA) (1986)
  • お助け Otasuke (The Helper) (1986)
  • 原始人 Genshijin (Primitive Man) (1987)
  • 薬菜飯店 Yakusai Hanten (Yakusai Chinese Restaurant) (1988)
  • 夜のコント・冬のコント Yoru no Konto, Fuyu no Konto (Night Tales, Winter Tales) (1990)
  • 最後の伝令 Saigo no Denrei (The Last Despatch) (1993)
  • 鍵 Kagi (The Key) (1994)
  • 座敷ぼっこ Zashiki Bokko (1994)
  • 家族場面 Kazoku Bamen (Family Scenes) (1995)
  • 魚藍観音記 Gyoran Kannon Ki (Records of the Gyoran Kannon) (2000)
  • エンガッツィオ司令塔 Engattsio Shireitō (Engazzio Command Tower) (2000)
  • 最後の喫煙者 Saigo no Kitsuensha The Last Smoker (2002)
  • 睡魔のいる夏 Suima no Iru Natsu (Summer When the Sleep Fairy Comes) (2002)
  • 傾いた世界 Katamuita Sekai (The World is Tilting) (2002)
  • 懲戒の部屋 Chōkai no Heya (The Punishment Room) (2002)
  • 日本以外全部沈没 Nihon Igai Zembu Chinbotsu (The End of the World Except Japan) (2002)
  • 怪物たちの夜 Kaibutsu Tachi no Yoru (Night of the Phantoms) (2002)
  • 近所迷惑 Kinjo Meiwaku (Disturbing the Neighbours) (2002)
  • わが愛の税務署 Waga Ai no Zeimusho (My Beloved Tax Office) (2003)
  • カメロイド文部省 Kameroido Monbushō (The Cameroid Ministry of Education) (2003)
  • ポルノ惑星のサルモネラ人間 Poruno Wakusei no Sarumonera Ningen (Salmonella Men on Planet Porno) (2005)

3 thoughts on “Hell

  1. Sounds like a must read. I like to read Russian and French works, Zola, Balzac and Tolstoy, and their later countrymen. I have added Tsutsui to my booklist, as I have read very little Japanese literature.


    1. There is so much good Japanese literature, classical and contemporary. I often find a unique twist in a Japanese novel that I don’t see very often in Western literature (Murakami, for instance) that keeps it fresh and exciting. But don’t overlook the literature from Korea, China, and even Vietnam.


What are your thoughts on this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s