Tanaka Yasuo :: Somehow, Crystal


Somehow, Crystal
by TANAKA Yasuo

Translated by Christopher SMITH

A journey into the carefree, today-centric generation of Japan's economic boom years, as they enjoy the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Tokyo while exploring new dimensions in Japanese society and self-image. It won the coveted Bungei Prize partly because it was so completely different from the relatively staid, traditional literature of the time, but also because it served as a guide into the evolving world of a rich, global, commercialized nation and a younger generation who grew up never knowing war.

Winner of the 1980 Bungei Prize
Finalist for the 1981 Akutagawa Prize.

The Japanese students inhabiting these pages pursue pleasure, fashion, and the recognition of their peers, forging new senses of identity through brand-name goods and music, but even as they drift from encounter to encounter they remain aloof from serious involvement, isolated from the essential interactions and demands of Japanese society. The book is clearly a product of the time, with a bewildering array of names and events that fix it in the young college scene of the 70s and 80s, and presents a dazzling cross-section of a generation.


  • ...the short work immediately became a cultural phenomena upon its debut. After winning the Bungei Prize in autumn 1980, Nantonaku, Crystal attracted a storm of media attention for the unabashedly consumerist and materialist nature of the writing. When the book finally hit bookstores in January 1981, the initial printing sold out on the first day and eventually became a “million seller.”
    David Marx, Neojaponisme


  • Pages: 152
  • Trade paperback 5" x 8" (127mm x 203mm)
  • ISBN
    Softcover: 978-4-909473-05-9
    Ebook: 978-4-909473-10-3
  • Cover: Sugizaki Megumi

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About the author

Tanaka Yasuo (田中 康夫, 1956–) entered the Faculty of Law at Hitotsubashi University in 1976, writing Somehow, Crystal while still a student there, and received the Bungei Prize in 1980. He graduated shortly thereafter, and worked briefly in the corporate world before switching to writing as a career.
In 2000 he was elected governor of Nagano Prefecture as an independent. He soon attracted attention in Japan for policies radically different from those of the bureaucratic establishment, including halting construction of new dams and campaigning for environmental issues. In 2002, he was forced from office by a vote of no-confidence brought by conservative assemblymen, but won the ensuing election with an overwhelming margin. In 2005 he established the New Party Nippon with a handful of reform-minded members of the House of Representatives, and has served in various positions in national and local government since.

About the translator

Christopher Smith teaches in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Florida. A specialist in East Asian Studies, he received his PhD from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Japanese Literature. His research centers on postwar Japanese literature, visual culture, and popular culture, and especially in how texts construct or deconstruct power and society, and how they can playfully undermine and inscribe social and political power simultaneously.