Every civilization has its myths. Only one is true.
When eighteen-year-old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.”
Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession–that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now insane. Keiko must decide if she will honor her father’s heritage and take her rightful place among the gods.
Keiko travels to Japan to fulfill her father’s dying wish, a wish that is filled with mystery. Her father left a note which told her to go to Japan, and find the Gate, using her camera to show her the way. Her father had also booked her with a guide service called Ancestral Travel, but almost immediately, Keiko wanders away from the tour, becoming lost and confused. She had no idea that there were so many Torii gates! Ancient spirits spring from the shadows and she is soon fleeing the chaos enveloping Tokyo. Her guide, Yui Akkiko, finds her and as they flee, Yui reveals that she is one of the few remaining spirits working to defend the world from an insane spirit. Keiko’s entire world has been turned upside-down and now she must decide if she will try to fulfill her father’s dying wish.
Keith Yatsuhashi has written an incredibly fast-paced, complex story which is told from a variety of points of view. The shifts in perspective are handled skillfully and effectively. I had no difficulty following the narrative and I thought that the different perspectives add depth to the plot. There are a number of characters involved, both spirits and guardians, and I found the interaction between the spirits and their guardians to be fascinating.
The various settings, especially those in Japan, are described vividly, with a richness that puts the reader right in the story. Myths and legends come to life in a very human way. I especially liked watching Keiko as she learns about a world which is totally foreign to her. It isn’t just traveling to Japan, although that is an enormous shock to her. She is an American, totally unfamiliar with Japanese customs, such as the Japanese baths. However, even more than learning about a new country, Keiko has to learn about spirits and powers, commanding elements, what it means to be a guardian, and so much more. And she has to learn it as a war erupts, a war begun by a spirit who has tampered with forbidden arts and in the process gone completely insane.
Kojiki is an action-packed, fast-moving, thriller, which is steeped in Japanese culture and mythology. If you are looking for an exciting fantasy novel, I definitely recommend that you give Kojiki a try. You won’t be disappointed.