||“Mogera Wogura” (short story) by Hiromi Kawakami
First published in Ryugu (The Sea King’s Palace), April 2002
Currently available from Kurodahan Press’s Speculative Japan (2007)
|Original: Japanese, 2002
Translated by Michael Emmerich, 2005
Synopsis: A clawed, miniature-man-sized mole lives as most moles do in Tokyo—underground with his wife and with a roomful of humans sleeping on futons. Most of his human captives are the kidnapped people from the same city where the mole works and are despondent or downtrodden on life, so his subterranean refuge is a type of convalescence, he says to himself. An office worker by day, a magical kidnapper by night—he stalks prey.
Analysis: Mogera wogura is the binomial name for the Japanese mole. By nature, it’s a solitary creature that lives day in and day out beneath the turmoil of the surface—by day, it toils about yet by night it slumbers in the same abode. The exact same could be said for down-trodden salarymen—their eyes hidden from the sun for most of their waking day, a salaryman toils in caves of concrete and glass, only to return home to abodes of wood, concrete and glass, all the while ensconced by the walls that surround them.
The protagonist mole in “Mogera Wogura” is the enlightened sort that you’ve never come across. He has a good life working in the city, but he just happens to have the habit of collecting the dispirited among the city dwellers. His intentions are not nefarious; rather, he would just like to kindle the spark in each of the dispirited. Most of his compatriot moles forever toil underground, living out their miserable lives; but he is an example, one of which has risen above the doldrums of the commonplace. He collects the downhearted humans for hope that they too do not have to be complacent with their city-ways of life. Eventually, some awaken to their purposes and are granted leave while others are stubborn to change and die miserably.