The Name of the Flower by Kuniko Mukoda

The title of this collection comes from the very first short story. Kuniko Mukoda writes piercing vignettes of Japanese life which are really not so different from anyone’s life; we all have longings, insecurities, or choices we regret. The lives we lead are highlighted in her work, each story becoming an irony to ponder and reflect on when finished.
In “The Name of the Flower” a woman who has taught her husband everything about flower arranging discovers he is seeing a woman who is named after a flower…
In “Small Change” a mouse-like man named Shoji falls in love with a large, thick-waisted, girl who at the end of the story undergoes surgery to change her appearance…
In “I Doubt It” a man sits by his father’s bedside in the hospital, struck by the horrible stench coming from his father’s mouth, noting at the end of his reflections that he really is no different himself…
In “The Otter” Takuji unwillingly compares his wife to an otter because “otters love to tease. Apparently they kill numerous fish, not for eating, but just for the fun of it.”
Each story in this collection, and there are nine more I haven’t summarized here lest I spoil them, is an episode in itself. It came as no surprise to me to discover that Mukoda wrote radio scripts to support her hobbies of skiing, mountaineering and traveling. By the 1970’s she was one of the most sought after scriptwriters in Japan. Yet, she is also known for her essays and short stories. Mukoda earned the Naoki Prize for Popular Fiction with “The Name of The Flower”, “The Otter”, and “I Doubt It.”
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading her work this weekend. Thank you to Stone Bridge Press for sending me this collection of Japanese stories. I’d like to pass it on to another lover of Japanese fiction. Simply leave a comment if you wish to be considered for the give away, which is international, of course.

1.27.13 I have decided to give this book to Tony for his outstanding idea to host January in Japan. He has made it a marvelous month, filled with all kinds of information about Japanese authors and literature, and I am thrilled to add this book to his collection. Thank you, Tony.