Strangers by Taichi Yamada

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Strangers Translated from the Japanese by Wayne P Lammers

Five words from the blurb: ghost, parents, grief, isolation, reality

Strangers begins with Harada, a recently divorced scriptwriter, spotting a man who looks like his father. This is impossible as Harada’s parents died when he was just twelve-years-old, but a deep longing leads him to ignore this fact and he finds himself in a relationship with the parents he lost all those years ago:

A thirty-something couple could not possibly be the parents of a 47-year-old man – no, make that a 48-year-old man, as of today. But being with them had made me feel like a boy again. Of course, a boy could not have been drinking whiskey, but in a moment of alcohol-induced carelessness, I had actually addressed the man as “Dad”, and he had answered “Yeah?” exactly as if I were indeed his little boy.

Strangers is one of those rare novels that can be enjoyed on many different levels. It may simply be read as a gripping ghost story, but it also contains many layers beneath the surface and with thought it quickly becomes more complex than it initially appears.

This book encapsulates everything I love about Japanese literature. It is weird, but wonderful and contains a unique approach to literature that you won’t find in many Western novels. The simple, but powerful text seamlessly blends the Japanese spirit world with reality – creating a strangely convincing situation that the reader never questions.

I loved the way it captured the emotional intensity of grief without becoming depressing. The need for an adult man to maintain a relationship with his parents was wonderfully portrayed and I found the entire book touching. There was also a beautifully creepy atmosphere, but it retained a hopefulness and never became overbearing or scary.

The pacing of the book was perfect and I was gripped throughout. The simple, pared-back language allowed the reader to fill in the blanks and, whilst this won’t appeal to everyone, it allowed me to immerse myself in this bizarre situation. The ending was particularly satisfying and I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time to come.

Highly recommended, especially to those wanting to try Japanese literature for the first time.


I read this book for Tony’s January in Japan project. Head over there to find out about many more wonderful Japanese books!

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  1. Tony says:

    Good to hear you enjoyed this :) It isn’t one I’ve tried myself, but maybe next time…

    1. Jackie says:

      Tony, You really should – it’s one of the best :-)

  2. Caroline says:

    I loved this. I don’t rate books but I would have given it a full five stars. “In Searhc of a Distant Voice” is quite good too, but not as good as this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Caroline, It almost got 5 stars, but it has to become an all-time favourite for that to happen – a very rare occurrence! I haven’t tried ‘Distant Voice’ but I’m looking forward to it!

  3. Parrish says:

    I loved this book so much so that within a few pages I found others by this writer & order then, I also loved I haven’t dreamed of flying for a while.

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