The Snapping Turtle Quest

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The Snapping Turtle Quest
Author: Akito Inui
Specifications: ISBN  978-4103178231
123 pages
13.6 x 19.6 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2013
Awards: Kawabata Yasunari Prize, 2013
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A young man and woman find a brief escape from their day-to-day existence in this story with the feel of a road movie.

The 27-year-old Tano makes his living driving a light delivery van. Two months ago he was rear-ended at a traffic light by a beautiful woman in a BMW; the whiplash he suffered has forced him to take some time off. One day he meets a 19-year-old girl named Momo as he emerges from the clinic where he goes for physical therapy. She says she’s been thrown out by her boyfriend and has no place to go, but seems rather nonchalant about it. When she asks Tano to treat her to dinner, he obliges, and then they get a room for the night at a love hotel and have sex. Later, they are watching a gourmet food show on TV, when Momo says she knows where they can catch snapping turtles, near where she used to live, and proposes that they go there to catch one and sell it to a specialty restaurant in exchange for a full-course turtle meal.

The next morning the two hop on an eastbound train from the nearby station, and make their way to the river Momo spoke of. They successfully spot a turtle, but when Tano tries to capture it, it chomps into his finger and refuses to let go. Momo comes to his rescue by grabbing a rock and bashing it against the turtle. Returning to Tokyo with their dead and smashed turtle, they find a restaurant that serves turtle dishes, only to be told that the place only buys from turtle farms. Momo tells Tano she’ll get a cousin who lives in the suburbs to help her find work and a place to live, and the two go their separate ways.

The snapping turtle, known for never letting go, is juxtaposed with this casual and fleeting hook-up between two young people in contemporary Tokyo. The author deftly shapes the story of a chance meeting to throw light on the lonely realities of life for jobless and low-wage youth in today’s urban society.