The Cage by Kenzo Kitakata (1947-) is the first Japanese novel I have read that focuses on the world of the yakuza gangsters. It is the first novel that centers on a professional criminal and the police officers who combat him. I have posted on the much better than this novels of Natsuo Kirino which also have a crime as their central focus but in her case they are sort of accidental crimes committed by ordinary if socially marginal people at the end of their ropes. One of my goals in reading Japanese novels is not just to get to know individual writers (I have now placed four Japanese novelists on my "read all I can list" and I think there are numerous more that will be added as Japanese Literature 4 gets underway soon) but to come to at least a partial understanding of the Japanese novel as a whole. So I thought I should read this new to me type of crime novel plus I figured it might be fun to learn about the yakuza.
The Cage is about a former yakuza member now trying to lead a respectable life as the manager of a super- market. He is having problems with sabotage in the store. Red dye is being put in the milk and rats are being mixed into his meat display. Soon he finds out a big supermarket chain that wants his store to be closed down or sold to them is behind all this and finds they are employing a yakuza gang to force his store to sell out at a low cost. The supermarket manager confronts an enforcer for the gang and is soon drawn into a conflict with local yakuza. The plot moves on from here to show the role of the police in fighting the yakuza etc. I was disappointed in this book as it really does not give us much of a look at the world of the yakuza.
The only people I would recommend this book to are those really into crime novels. If you just want a look at the lower depths of Japanese society, there are better options such as Kirino. I found this novel a bit boring and ended up speed reading my way through it. If you check some of my other posts on the Japanese novel you will find at least 50 books better than this one. Still I am glad I read it as every book broadens my understanding of the Japanese novel as a whole.
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