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The Dark Side of Japanese Business: Three ‘Industry Novels’

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BY IKKO SHIMIZU
TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY TAMAE K. PRINDLE
ARMONK, NEW YORK: M.E. SHARPE, 1996
277 PAGES

Reviewed by Gordon Matthews

This book consists of three novels dealing with aspects of Japanese business life, written over a span of twenty-four years. The first, Silver Sanctuary, dating from 1969 and included in slightly different form in Prindle’s earlier translation, Made in Japan and Other Japanese “Business Novels,” concerns a breach of bank secrets, eventually traced to a female bank employee seduced and rejected by her coworker, a man on the executive track. The story illustrates the tension in gender roles and expectations in Japan, and the different career trajectories that these different roles entail. The second novel, The Ibis Cage, first published in 1968, is about the negotiations and manipulations involved in the defloration of a geisha: an eighteen-year-old well coached in her role of attracting the desire and earning the money of rich old clients. The third novel, Keiretsu, first published in 1992, makes up by far the bulk of the book. It concerns a first-tier keiretsu parts supplier, Taisei Automobile Lighting Company, and its strained relations with Tokyo Motors, its parent company and major customer, by whom it is ceaselessly exploited. The novel unfolds through Shigeya Hamada, the aging president of Taisei, and his efforts to install his son as president, as against the efforts of Tokyo Motors to take over Taisei’s presidency; this takes place against the backdrop of the 1985 Plaza Accord, the 1987 stock market crash, the death of the Showa Emperor, and other events of the late 1980s.