SHOSHAMAN by Shinya Arai


A Tale of Corporate Japan
Email this review


 On the evidence of the deadly earnest and virtually lifeless allegory at hand, the Japanese business novel (though an immensely popular genre in its homeland) would seem to have minimal export potential. The take focuses on Nakasato Michio, an archetypal organization man in his mid-40s who works for the Tokyo-based Nissei Corp. Although his employer, a multinational trading company that wholesales bulk commodities and industrial/commercial goods, has been losing ground, the careerist executive continues to thrive. Detailed to investigate the acquisition of an American restaurant group, however, he begins to understand that Nissei risks extinction if it does not diversify into retail markets. This flash of insight brings back memories of a youthful assignment to a floundering grocery operation that Nakasato sought vainly to salvage against the implicit wishes of his superiors. While bucking the hierarchy on this abortive project, he's mentor toand has an affair withan ambitious subordinate named Hozumi Masako. Almost ready to leave his shrewish wife and family, Nakasato is transferred to a US post. Some 15 years on, the shoshaman meets his lost love again. In the meantime, the enterprising Masako has borne Nakasato's son and become the proprietor of a successful dress-shop chain. Her experiences and enduring compassion trigger another epiphany. At any rate, Nakasato suddenly realizes he should have been more an entrepreneur and less a compliant corporatist. At the close, then, Nakasato is off to the New World with a fresh commitment to genuine excellence. If the narrative sounds silly in summary, it's even more so in amplified form since the author (a top hand at Sumitomo Corp.) injects rather more stilted harangues on venture capitalism than most Western readers may care to absorb. Nor does he trouble to bring his programmatic cost of characters to anything remotely resembling life. An oddity without redeeming literary value, of interest mainly to scholars or specialists.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-520-07141-7
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991