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The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa 0th Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520241824
ISBN-10: 0520241827
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Editorial Reviews

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"The book evokes aspects of urban Japan at the end of the 1920s better than anything else I have read. Donald Richie's introduction is a great asset to the book."

From the Inside Flap

"Freedman and Richie bring to the non-Japanese reading public the chance to read a heretofore untranslated work by Nobel-prizewinner Yasunari Kawabata, one of Japan's most famous modern authors. The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa is a revealing recreation of the rough and racy atmosphere of Tokyo called Asakusa during the late 1920s and early 30s, and it is quite different from notions of aestheticized Japan often associated with Kawabata's other work. The translator is to be commended for turning an idiosyncratic and difficult text into compelling English."—Liza Dalby, author of Geisha

"Kawabata is an important writer in world literature, best known for delicate, sometimes other-worldly novels like Snow Country. The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa shows another side of the writer, which is experimental and most definitely of this world. Nevertheless, one can see aspects of the novelist—especially his relationship to women and their (in his eyes) short-lived physical beauty—which would be developed and refined in his later work. The book also evokes aspects of urban Japan at the end of the 1920s better than anything else I have read. Donald Richie's introduction is a great asset to the book."—Theodore W. Goossen, editor of The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (April 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520241827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520241824
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa was one of Kawabata's earlier works, written after he had already achieved some recognition in Japan with The Izu Dancer, but well before his worldwide breakthrough Snow Country. The novel (now translated into English for the first time ever) takes place in a thriving entertainment district in Tokyo, at a time when Japan was rapidly industrializing, building universities, importing Western technology and making its own, in order to establish itself as a world power. Kawabata's choice of setting was especially well-suited for capturing the spirit of these times, because a place like Asakusa was a perfect illustration of the way the Japanese culture itself was changing: jazz music and flapper dresses became popular, music-halls and vaudeville theatres edged out traditional forms of entertainment, and gender roles were suddenly much less rigid, ambiguity was fashionable, images of ennui-ridden "modern boys" and provocative, alluringly dangerous "modern girls" became so iconic that the words designating them ("mobo" and "moga") entered everyday vernacular. This novel can be read as a valuable document of this interesting and short-lived period in Japanese history.

Nominally, the story revolves around The Scarlet Gang, one of many youth gangs running around Asakusa at the time. Their exploits are related by a nameless, first-person narrator, whose association with members of the gang gives him an excuse to wander around Asakusa and observe various aspects of life there, in a detached and casual manner. Often, the things he sees are unrelated to each other, and he flits from place to place without lingering anywhere for too long, which makes his account seem more like a set of anecdotes about Asakusa life than like a coherent narrative.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is right at the start of Japans modern age, right after the Kano earthquake and the narration occurrs in the 1930's.

Do not look for a narrative. Do not look for a love story. Look for the scene of the OSAKURA former zone of bohemian life with all tis humanity, beggars, theatre, brothels, women used and neglected. It is a short book divided into many scenes which consists of descriptions or sketches of daily life. It gives a good idea of low Japanese society completely different from the modern technology based system. Thee is no story, there are simply impressions of a slice of humanity which you revisit hundreds of times.
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Format: Paperback
The bruised characters of the underbelly of Asakusa Tokyo life are introduced to us in this early book by the brilliant author Yasunari Kawabata. This first English translation of the master's work contains some "extras"- ncluding Donald Richie's memories of a first meeting with the author.

This was my first introduction to Kawabata, and was a wonderful read. It made me want to know more about the time and that world, and to read more Kawabata-an author I have learned to deeply respect and admire and cherish.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"This book is exactly what I was looking for in my research for a novel I'm writing called 'The Chicken Sexer.' My protagonist is a young Nisei man from Los Angeles who was sent back to Japan for school (and discipline). His uncle was a yakusa in the Asakusa area. The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa by Kawabata is basically plotless but full of impressions of the seedy slum of Asakusa. A colorful parade of actors, hawkers, dancers, bums, con artists and prostitutes, Asakusa was a place that never slept.
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