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By Otohiko Kaga
Translated by Albert Novick

ISBN: 9781628974041

Publication Date: 7/9/2024

Otohiko Kaga’s Marshland is an epic novel on a Tolstoyan scale, running from the pre-World War II period to the turbulence of 1960s Japan. At forty-nine, Atsuo Yukimori is a humble auto mechanic living an almost penitentially quiet life in Tokyo, where his coworkers know something of his military record but nothing of his postwar criminal past. Out of curiosity he accompanies his nephew to a demonstration at a nearby university, and is gradually drawn into a friendship, then a romance, with Wakaka Ikéhata, the brilliant but mentally unstable daughter of a university professor. As some of the student radical groups turn to violence and terrorism, Atsuo and Wakaka find themselves framed for the lethal bombing of a Tokyo train.

During their long imprisonment the novel becomes a Kafkaesque procedural, revealing the corrupt intricacies of the police and judicial system of Japan. At the end of their hard pilgrimage to exoneration, Atsuo and Wakaka are finally able to return to his original hometown, Nemuro, on the eastern-most peninsula of Hokkaido island. Here is the marshland of the title, a remote and virtually unspoiled region of Japan where Kaga sets a large number of extraordinarily beautiful pastoral scenes.

Marshland is a revelation of modern Japanese history and culture, a major novel from the hand of a master well-known in his own country, but virtually unheard-of—so far—in the United States and Anglophone world in general.


“The result of Kaga’s effort is a sprawling indictment of modern society’s modes of organizing bodies and labor…Here’s where the novel’s length works well, as the repetition of experiences with institutionalization becomes analogous to the repetitive nature of the experiences themselves. Kaga’s examination of the lives of dozens of prisoners, characters both major and minor in his sweeping drama, is some of the most powerful and compassionate writing of the novel. His criticism of the criminal justice system of mid-century Japan could just as well have been written about the United States today, and Anglophone readers interested in the subject will find Kaga’s work here highly rewarding, though it is quite divorced from the racial conditions that underlie the prison-industrial complex in the United States…Readers interested in a brilliant, high-definition portrait of postwar Japan will find little to compare to this that is readily available in the English language.” —Jack Rockwell, Words Without Borders

Biographical Information

Otohiko Kaga (1929-2023), one of Japan's few Christian writers, worked as a hospital and prison psychiatrist before becoming a novelist. His studies in France inspired his 1967 debut novel, Furandoru no fuyu (Winter in Flanders), for which he received the Minister of Education Award for New Artists. Marshland, his second novel to be translated into English, was awarded the Osaragi Jiro Prize in 1986. In 2011, Kaga was recognized as a Person of Cultural Merit.

Albert Novick was born in New York City in 1948. He served in the United States Air Force and attended San Francisco State University. He studied Japanese at the Waseda University Language Research Institute, then graduated from Meiji University and received a master's degree in sociology from Saitama University. He was a columnist and reporter for English- and Japanese-language newspapers. For the past thirty years, he has been a freelance writer and translator.