The future that never was. Will “TOKYO 2020” become a concept that symbolizes the “lost future” of Japan? The word “vaporware,” which happen to be the origin of the musical genre Vaporwave, refers to software and hardware projects that were announced to be released but were never completed and their development halted. The government’s Olympic leaders are still determined to go ahead with the event, even though they are looking at an absence of spectators. If this happens, the quadrennial celebration will be nothing but a grotesque kind of vaporware produced by the government.
Naruyoshi Kikuchi’s Before the Next Tokyo Olympics Comes (次の東京オリンピックが来てしまう前に/Tsugi no Tokyo Orinpikku ga kiteshimau mae ni) (Published by Heibonsha) seems to have become a requiem for the Tokyo Olympics. As is to be expected from a “master of requiems,” this book is a true testament to his talent. There is still no sign that the Tokyo Olympics will come.
I feel uncomfortable talking about myself in what should be a book review, but I have been influenced by Mr. Kikuchi as much as anyone else (or so I think). The first book I read in my life that felt really human was his Spanish Space Food (スペインの宇宙食 / Supein no Uchūshoku)—before that, I had read only mystery novels from Japan and abroad. He is a manic and eloquent writer, backed by his extensive knowledge. Behind it all, there is a sense of melancholy and sensuality. From his writings, I learned about vocabulary such as “analogies” and “Freudian slips,” encountered his music, especially the electric Miles of the 1970s via Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden (DCPRG), and learned about Happymate from his and Yoshio Otani’s radio program “Wednesday Wanted!” At the time, I was still in my late teens and Mr. Kikuchi was still in his early forties. Before I knew it, I was 32 and reading his essays from his fifty-seven years. Somehow, I call myself a writer like Mr. Kikuchi, yet here I am writing a book review that is not even a book review. Life is unpredictable.
As usual, his writings soak into my body like sweet poison—a feeling that can only be obtained from his works. However, this is only through the first half of the book. In the way Kikuchi refers to Donald Trump, there is no (apparent) rhetorical irony or cynicism, which was characteristic of Kikuchi—which left me flinching and tense.
I am not going to go into the details of how an intelligent writer like Mr. Kikuchi ended up betting on Trump. If I were to try my hand at psychoanalysis here, he would probably laugh at me as a Freudian. However, if I may dare to make one extravagant remark, it seems to me that Mr. Kikuchi is more deeply experiencing transference with the United States than is generally believed. For example, in his literary debut, Mr. Donuts and pseudo-history (post-truth!) play an important role; “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” which opens “Spanish Space Food,” begins with a quotation from an encyclopedia of kitsch and bad taste mass-produced in the U.S., and another from an American pilgrimage novel by an exiled writer. (On a personal note, I really liked the liner notes of “The National Beefsteak Art League” (全米ビーフステーキ芸術連盟 / Zenbei Bīfu Sutēki Geijutsu Renmei).
A deep love and hatred for America. It would not be surprising if this brought him closer to what Richard Hofstadter calls the “paranoid style” of American politics.
The latter half of the book is marked by irritating and derisive disses against liberals and the general public (all hysterical people, according to him). Mr. Kikuchi was a man of irony, jokes, and big laughs. It seems as if he has somehow become characterized by anger, irritation, and ridicule. It may not be anyone’s fault in general, but it still makes me a little sad.