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!

9 thoughts on “Book Review: 『向田理髪店』by Hideo OKUDA 奥田英朗

  1. Oh I actually hate this author… I think I tried reading イン・ザ・プール and/or 空中ブランコ years back (2012?? lol) because he won awards but it was too pedestrian for me. His writing style did nothing for me either. I felt like I’d be more productive watching House MD. I think I gave up or heavily skim-read to the end. I was just shocked because his books won awards and read the gushing reviews on amazon. I’m weary of this author but i guess it’s possible his other works are more enjoyable.

      1. I’ve actually bought the last Nanami Wakatake 若竹七海, but then I realised that it was part of a series (葉村晶 series) and wondered if I had to read them in order (starting with the first one). Have you liked 静かな炎天?

        1. I liked shizuka na enten and I just read it not knowing that it was part of a series. It was a fun mystery book and I plan on reading the other books in the series. I do recall references being made to stuff that happened in the previous books but I wasn’t lost whatsoever since the author did a good job. I read it because the geinin cars laser (maple chougoukin is the conbi name. I’m assuming KAZU REZA is cars laser because I’m too lazy to look it up ) recommended it on dokusho geinin. He reads 200+ books a year and I find him to be an interesting person so I went for it. It is sad when a person I like on TV recommends a book and I don’t like it. They do say on the show it was his or her favorite books and they really enjoyed it but they can’t guarantee that the viewers will like it. It’s happened with a book that wakabayashi of O-DORI (audrey) recommended.

          1. I’m glad to hear that it was a good mystery! It makes me want to read the whole series. I might start with the first one and keep the one I have for later. I should have looked more closely before buying it! Thanks for your answer!

    1. they even made an anime based on the book and i checked it out a bit to see if they improved on the book but it was just as banal and trivial.

    2. I’d never read Hideo Okuda before, so I cannot tell if his style has changed… but sometimes I dislike authors that are unanimously acclaimed, and I wonder if everyone has gone crazy or lost their sense of judgement, haha.

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