Hankyu Railway is a series of stories happened along Hankyu Railway. The stories are really ordinary everyday stories: young people who came across each other in the library all the time finally started talking and going out, a strong-minded woman becomes happy and hopeful again after losing her fiance to another woman, two students from a rural area found true friendship with each other in cities, a school girl’s worry about going to University, a young woman got rid of her violent boyfriend and became independent again, a housewife went out reluctantly with other rich wives, and a granny with her granddaughter. Nothing exciting.
But this is a novel by a Japanese author. Quite typically. Excitement is not what you look for in a Japanese novel like this. It’s like American tourists coming to the Lake District in England and saying, have you seen the Rockies, have you seen a tornado before? Implying: “what’s so special about the Lake District in drizzle?” And local English people turn around with an expression of contempt, despising their inability to appreciate subtlety.
Isolated passengers on parallel train journeys actually have influence on each other’s lives. After overhearing the funny story between the school girl and her older boyfriend, the young woman reflects on her unhealthy relationship with her violent boyfriend and makes up her mind to stop it. The strong-minded lady looks despisingly at the school girls talking loudly on the train. But when she gets knocked over on the platform, only the school girls come to help her.
I’m very interested in the setting of the novel as well. The whole novel finishes in a return journey. It’s a real railway in the Kansai Area in Japan. The author lived along the line. There are some really detailed descriptions of the stations, how the trains come in and out of the platforms, the surrounding areas along the line. All very vivid.
Here’s a map of Hankyu Railway, found on their official website. Just to give you a rough idea geographically, the west end of the blue line is Kobe area. Where the blue, yellow and green line meet is Osaka area. The top of the green line to the east is Kyoto area. Stores in the novel happen along the Imazu Line, which is the longest blue north-south line on the map below. It’s about equal distance between the two big cities of Kobe and Osaka. A quieter and friendly neighbourhood.