The Sheltering Rain is a collection by Ryō Hanmura. This edition was translated by Jim Hubbert.
The Shinjuku district is no longer a seedy hive of open criminality, but it’s still not quite respectable. Its bars are home to people who don’t fit in elsewhere.
Senda’s hostesses all understand the boundaries of what they can and cannot do with customers. All save Takako, a young woman seemingly incapable of saying no. But there’s more to her story than simple naïveté.…
Although the author is known for speculative fiction, this collection is for the most part an entirely mundane collection of anecdotes about a small community of friends. This story is the sole exception. But that’s a good enough reason for me to review the collection here.
The Two of Us
Working together, Yoshi and Kyoko have made their small bar a success. They focus on what they know they can do well, while eschewing services outside their competence. Both women have enjoyed a succession of lovers. Of late Kyoko has been fascinated by the aloof and good-looking Yamazaki. If only he weren’t a professional hit-man…
This could very easily have turned into a grim story of a businesswoman drawn into a dark world of contract killers. It doesn’t. The author isn’t focused on writing about monsters.
The Sage of Shinjuku
For years the Sage has shared his decades of accrued wisdom about the district with Shinjuku residents. Time has changed Sinjuku. Where does that leave the Sage?
A Man of Shinjuku
The effort to save a young hood from his gangster enemies gives an old crew a chance to relive the old days. There is a terrible cost.
He was a one-hit wonder but that was enough to gain him one adoring fan. For a time…
The Sheltering Rain
Seeking shelter from the rain, Kuniko takes refuge in Senda’s small condo. What could have been a one time encounter develops into something more. But what exactly does the young woman want from the bartender?
Back to the Old Days
The bars, nightclubs and cabarets of the district might look like rivals. One over-confident outsider discovers that the owners form a community when he tries to force an old favorite out of business.
Make one measly joke at the wrong time and become a pariah.
The people living and working in Shinjuku are for the most part decent folk who are happy to help each other out. There is a fading criminal class, but it was driven primarily by post-war economic desperation. Most misbehavior is small scale stuff. Any serious crimes are committed (with one exception) by people who aren’t part of the community
The stories display human foibles without disapproval. Netflix subscribers might find that the collection reminds them of the anime Shinya Shokudō, based on Yaro Abe’s manga.
The collection is a pleasant slice of life set in a particular place and time. It’s all different now, but, as the stories point out, Shinjuku has been changing for a long time. Nothing is fixed. It’s just how it is.