cover image Parade: A Folktale

Parade: A Folktale

Hiromi Kawakami, trans. from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell. Soft Skull, $11.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-59376-580-4

A pair of mysterious creatures from Japanese folklore become a young girl’s companions during a trying period in Kawakami’s sweet and original tale (a companion piece to her novel Strange Weather in Tokyo). After a leisurely dinner of somen noodles with her old teacher, Sensei, Tsukiko relates the story of the creatures, called tengu, who began to follow her in childhood. “The tengu had human bodies... long noses, and wings. Their faces were beautiful shades of red, just as depicted in books.” Tsukiko is shocked when the tengu first appear, but her friends and family see nothing amiss: her mother merely greets the tengu, and her third-grade classmates reveal that they’ve long had their own folktale companions, “a badger, a little old lady, and a rokurokubi woman with a very long neck.” Used to and somewhat comforted by the tengu, who drink the nectar of flowers and communicate through “bristling sounds,” Tsukiko is worried when one of them falls ill—an illness that coincides with the mass shunning of her classmate, Yuko: “a cruel game, administered according to sheer whim.” Part fairy tale, in which some readers will discern a moral, part gentle reminiscence of childhood’s passing miracles and memorable pains, Kawakami’s compact novel is gentle, charming and smart, as “pretty... and sad” as the sparkling touches of the tengu. (Nov.)