Book Review: 『向田理髪店』by Hideo OKUDA 奥田英朗

向田理髪店 (むこうだりはつてん)
Title: 向田理髪店 (むこうだりはつてん)
First published: 2016
Published: 2018
Format: Bunko
Page Count: 295
『向田理髪店』 is a novel that contains 6 chapters written between 2013 and 2016. Each chapter is a different story, but they all feature the same characters and are in chronological order.

Tomazawa is a little coal mine town in Hokkaido. Like many other similar towns, it flourished during the 19th Century but lost its vitality and most of its appeal when the energy policy changed and the coal mines shut down. Most of the youth left the town to Sapporo or even Tokyo.

Our protagonist is Yasuhiko MUKOUDA, one of the two barbers of Tomazawa. He was 28 when he came back from Sapporo to his native town and take over the shop. He is now 53-year-old, lives with his wife and mother and has two grown-up children.

If Tomazawa has lost its glory, its vitality, its youth and most of its population, those who stayed or returned, know how to make the most of any event.

Why I loved it

『向田理髪店』is an extraordinary heartwarming story, I loved every single page of it. We get to share the lives of Tomazawa inhabitants, get exciting or worried about the same things, get involved in their disputes and share their comradeship.

I liked how the stories depict real problems of towns like Tomazawa: the ageing population, the lack of public services, the lack of youth and the difficulty to get married… But Hideo OKUDA is a fantastic storyteller and all the stories in this novel made me either smile or got me involved.

I liked all the stories, but my favourites are 中国からの花嫁, 小さなスナック and 赤い雪. The story 小さなスナック was particularly funny, I loved it.

In the end, I felt like I was myself a part of Tomazawa, and I wish that there more stories to read… I highly recommend it!