Backlight – Kanji Hanawa

Backlight is the first book I’ve read from Kanji Hanawa. It is nothing like I’ve read before and the story is right up my alley. I got lost a lot of times while I was little, so it took me back and brought out all the feelings.


This little (but huge) book uses a true story as a ‘backlight’. A little boy is left on a mountain road near the woods by his family because he was being naughty. When the family went back to get him minutes later, he was nowhere to be found.

Backlight - Kanji Hanawa

Hundreds of people search for him for days with no luck. In the meantime, a Professor of Psychology works on the case as well. We listen to him and his colleagues talk about the case. All the while, delving into the Japanese culture, identity, fears and being a child.

Read about the true story here. Now I cannot wait to read his The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro and get lost in it as well. Enjoy!

Backlight - Kanji Hanawa


This thought-provoking and intriguing tale, by the Akutagawa Prize-nominated master short story writer Kanji Hanawa, revolves around the extraordinary real story of the seven-year-old boy who went missing in the bear-inhabited forests of northern Japan for six whole days in 2016, after his parents had apparently abandoned him as a punishment. In Backlight, translated by Richard Nathan, a child is left alone at the side of a road in the mountains of Hokkaido in northern Japan by his parents.
When they return moments later, the boy is gone. Ishida, a Professor of Psychology is enlisted as part of the search team. As days pass, the search goes on and the number of people involved reaches more than a thousand. Ishida and his colleagues assess, analyse and discuss taking them on their own journey from theories concerning the whereabouts of the child, to the very heart of the Japanese psyche. A complex and challenging look at an unfolding emergency, a culture and a country.

Kanji Hanawa

Kanji Hanawa is a master of the short story. He has written several hundred since he published his first collection, Garasu no natsu (Glass Summer) to critical acclaim in 1972.  In 1962, after graduating from Tokyo University, where he studied French Literature, he spent a few months in Paris, his only stay in the county to whose literature he has dedicated much of his life.  

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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