Book: Hokkaido Popsicle by Isaac Adamson 

Hilarious novel about a hard-boiled journalist in Japan 

Isaac Adamson
Hokkaido Popsicle
Perennial, 2002
ISBN: 0-380-81292-4
329 pages

Hokkaido Popsicle is a hilarious novel about Billy Chaka, a journalist for the teen magazine Youth in Asia (say it aloud). The magazine is, unaccountably, published in Cleveland.

Before the book begins, a Japanese director has made a movie of Billy's life, but with enough details changed that he didn't have to get Billy's permission. One of the details that he changed is that Billy's character plays golf, and Billy considers that and a few other liberties to be sufficient grounds for slapping the director. A reporter who slaps Japanese movie directors isn't good for a magazine that's about teen popular culture in Asia, so Billy's editor sends him off on a mandatory vacation to an odd hotel in rural northern Japan. While he's there, a hotel employee dies in his room. At about the same time, Yoshimura Fukuzatsu, the lead singer for the famous rock band Saint Arrow, dies in Tokyo. So Billy's vacation is over and he's sent to Tokyo to report on Yoshi's death.

What follows is a good story, but the characters and the way it's told are even better. It turns out to be a sort of mashup of Haruki Murakami, Mickey Spillane, and Hunter S. Thompson. Billy is a hard-boiled martial artist in addition to being a gonzo reporter for a teen magazine and he meets ex-cons from Osaka, a doddering CEO, a bar-girl from Sweden, two kick-boxing bodyguards who know every bit of rock and roll trivia, and plenty of other colorful characters. I doubt there's any other book in which you could read something like:

    My love for Tokyo is one of those boozy, bare-knuckled
    kind of loves that make normal people uneasy. A gritty
    love like a kung fu noir written by Tennessee Williams.
    The city and I had done a lot of damage to each other
    over the years, but I always came back, and she always
    accepted me. Dysfunctional, yeah -- but with a place like
    Tokyo and a guy like me, now could it be anything
    else? (pp. 32-33)

If a hard-boiled American investigating a story in a Tokyo that's slightly more surreal than the real one sounds at all appealing to you, Hokkaido Popsicle won't disappoint.

There's "romanji" where "romaji" is wanted (p. 121) and "Chuo Dori Street" (p. 108) is redundant. 

Posted: Fri - September 2, 2005 at 08:19   Main   Category: