Seventeen (2003): Hideo Yokoyama


It’s 12 August 1985. Journalist Kazumasa Yuuki is trying to wrap up his work at the North Kanto Times so he can head off for a weekend climbing with his colleague Kyoichiro Anzai. They plan to tackle the demanding Tsuitate rock face on Mount Tanigawa, something far more challenging than anything Yuuki’s attempted before. However, just as he’s about to leave the office, he and his colleagues hear a shocking news report. A Japan Airlines jumbo jet carrying 524 people has disappeared from the radar; soon, news comes that it has crashed into a ridge near Mount Osutaka, with almost complete loss of life. The staff of the paper are stunned into silence. This is on their patch. Suddenly their small provincial paper is on the front line for the deadliest airline crash in history. Hideo Yokoyama’s novel covers the seven days that follow, as the editorial staff struggle to overcome internal factions to deal with the crash. Based on the true story of the Japan Airlines Flight 123, and inspired by Yokoyama’s own experiences working as a reporter for a regional newspaper in Gunma Prefecture at the time, this is a sobering and thoughtful story about rising to meet challenges – both in and out of the office.

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Six Four (2012): Hideo Yokoyama


There’s definitely something very distinctive about Japanese fiction. It lavishes attention on the apparently inconsequential, the trivial, the minutiae of life, in a way that creates a strangely detached picture of life. I’m pleased to report that I found Six Four more engaging than other Japanese novels I’ve read recently – Parade or Slow Boat – but it’s still very definitely not a Western novel. Focusing on a cold-case kidnapping from fourteen years ago, it follows the staff of a provincial police station as their investigations become caught up in internal power struggles, distrust and mutiny.

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