By: Min Jin Lee
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rated: R (Language, sexual content)
Pachinko is a story that begins in Korea (Yeongdo) in a little fishing village before the separation of the country into North and South during the annexation of Korea to Japan. It spans five generations beginning with Hoonie’s parents, and continues with the life of his wife Yangjin who raises their daughter Sunja as she continues to run Hoonie’s family’s boarding house after his death. Sunja becomes pregnant from a “Yakuza” who can not marry her, however she is helped by Izak who marries her and they move to Osaka, Japan hoping for a better life. Sunja becomes a young widow, and is helped by her brother in law and his wife to raise her two sons. As they grow older Sunja’s two sons become involved with the Pachinko business.
Do they become successful in The Pachinko business?
I picked up this book thinking it would be taking place in Korea. I wanted to know more about Korea where my great grandfather (Sin Kun Cho) is from (He escaped from the North). However most of the story takes place in Osaka. I did find it interesting that the rice peddler from Hoonie’s fishing village was Cho, which means (according to a Korean friend) little grains of yellow rice. Our Cho family T-Shirts are yellow. Also interesting to me were the two characters in the story both named Okada. (Pharmacist & Pachinko parlor worker) This is my great grandfather Masayuki’s surname. Both great grandfathers came to Hawaii to work. Thirdly , Sunja’s son is accepted to Waseda University. Our family had hosted students from Waseda University for 9 years who have become our “hanai” adopted family. Finally, our family traveled to Osaka, Japan this past June ( 2018). As I read I tried to visualize the Osaka of the past.
There were many ways that I connected with this book, and learned a little more about Korean traditions, and culture.