Book Talk: In Japan, the aftermath of a baby's kidnapping

Wed Feb 9, 2011 6:16am EST
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - When Mitsuyo Kakuta decided to write about motherhood, she chose an unusual angle: a distraught woman who impulsively kidnaps her married lover's baby girl, then raises her for years until apprehended.

Adding a further twist, the second half of "The Eighth Day" -- due to be released as a Japanese movie in April -- centers on the abducted child, who was returned to her family and is now a grown woman, as her life takes on parallels to that of her kidnapper and she goes in search of her past.

It was, Kakuta says, a way to look at the issue from all possible aspects, including the ways that Japanese thinking about motherhood puts modern women under pressure.

The prize-winning Kakuta, who was born in 1967 and has written more than 30 novels, spoke with Reuters about her book and being a writer in Japan.

Q: How did you get the idea for this?

A: "In Japan, there was a real incident where a secretary sneaked into the house of her married lover and set fire to the room where his two children lay sleeping. Both of them died in the fire. I asked myself why she killed the children when it was her lover who'd wronged her, the children were innocent. Wasn't there a way that she could have avoided killing them? That was the start of the story.

Q: You said you emphasize themes when you write. What was the theme for this book?

A: "I wanted to consider what motherhood is. Now in Japan there are many incidents of child abuse, especially where the mother abuses the child. Whenever these are taken up in the newspaper, without fail they start questioning the idea of motherhood. There's a lot of articles asking why the woman is able to abuse the child even though she is its real mother. Motherhood is being seen as something that just comes naturally. This idea is being forced on women, and I thought, was putting women under a lot of pressure. That was the start of the book.   Continued...

<p>Author Mitsuyo Kakuta speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>