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Kaori Ekuni: きらきらひかる (Twinkle Twinkle)

At the start of the novel, Shoko has been married to Mutsuki for ten days. Things seem to be going well. The only thing he really requires of her, is to iron the sheets of his bed, before he goes to bed, so that the bed is warm when he gets into it. She works as a part-time translator from the Italian and he, like his father, is a doctor. However, each brings a particular problem to the marriage. She has been diagnosed as emotionally unstable, a condition exacerbated by her drinking problem. Her doctor had recommended marriage to help make her more emotionality stable. The first seven prospects had been rejected and Mutsuki was the eighth. Mutsuki is aware of her condition and it does not seem to bother him. For example, when he is doing the housework on Sunday morning, which he likes doing, she has to put her feet up and, in some annoyance at this, sings at and then shouts at the plant, a gift from Mutsuki’s friend, Kon, and at the various pictures they have on the wall. Finally, she throws things at them.

Mutsuki’s problem is that he is gay. Again, Shoko is well aware of this but is not too concerned. Sex does not really interest her, she says. Kon, as well as being his friend, is also his lover. Mutsuki is very happy for her to have (heterosexual) lovers but she does not seem too interested. She married him for emotional stability and he married her because his mother said that, for the sake of appearances, a doctor should be married. Both parties and his mother seem happy with the arrangement. Her parents are happy because she has married a doctor, though they are unaware of his homosexuality, and his mother is happy because her gay son has married a woman. It is only his father who objects, who thinks it entirely inappropriate that his gay son should marry a woman (like embracing water, he comments).

Despite the obvious problems, the marriage seems moderately, but only moderately, happy. (We make a pretty good couple, you know, you and me. Like two peas in a pod, he says. She disagrees.) Shoko likes Kon. Indeed, they seem to become quite close, seeing each other when Mutsuki is at work. (Kon, who is still a student, later says that he is not generally attracted to men, just to Mutsuki.) She still does not like his weekly house-clean but seems to enjoy his company and the way he looks after her, cooking and bringing her food, for example, or running a bath for her when she is tired. She has one close female friend, Mizuho, who is married and has a child but who does not know about Mutsuki’s homosexuality.

Inevitably, the issue of children comes up. Mutsuki’s mother suggests artificial insemination and Shoko seriously considers it, even discussing it with a (gay) doctor friend of Mutsuki. Her parents naturally are hoping for a child the conventional way. Kon even suggests that he has sex with Shoko, solely for reproduction. He rejects the idea and seems determined that neither he nor Shoko want children. When she is feeling stressed, she returns to her psychiatrist, and he suggest she has children to help. She is not happy with his diagnosis. Things go wrong when Mutsuki tries to set Shoko up with her old boyfriend (who is still interested) and the deception starts to unravel.

This is a very amusing story about a quirky relationship, a topic the Japanese seem to like. It could be accused of stereotyping homosexuals, with Mutsuki being obsessively tidy and obsessive with the ordering of his books (which he divides and likes to keep in a special order). Shoko herself is aware that she can be guilty of stereotyping. (They don’t really seem effeminate, do they, though they’re all gay?” (Shoko seemed to expect all gay men to prance around like beauty queens.) However, Shoko could be said to be the stereotype of an emotionally unstable Japanese woman. However, it is all very skilfully done and Ekuni does come out with a very clever and original ending. Whether they all live happily ever after is another matter.

Publishing history

First published in 1991 by Shinchōsha
First English translation by Vertical in 2002
Translated by Emi Shimokawa