It was meant to be a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Nicola was working hard as an English teacher in Japan; she desperately needed a holiday. A long weekend with her boyfriend, Akira, and two other friends, Mai and Masashi, seemed ideal. The four of them would travel by Japan’s safest form of transport, the shinkansen (‘bullet train’), before boarding a ferry for the trip across to the quiet island of Sado. However, Nicola and her friends could never imagine that they would become caught up in a hijacking. Why would someone want to hijack this train? How would Nicola and her friends respond to being on a hijacked train? Would the police be able to catch those responsible? Hijacking Japan follows events in a real-time format during a dramatic day that threatens to bring the Japanese government to its knees.
Despite the cover image of the book, the book is not all about trains or the hijacking of a train – which is partly why the title speaks to Japan, rather than a train, being hijacked. The book is essentially in two parts. The first part covers the build up to the hijacking and the hijack itself. The second half deals with consequences of the hijack and features more on the police investigation and the hunt for who did it and why.
One of the key features of this book is that the main chapters are written in a ‘real time’ format. This was done as I wanted to avoid having the book lurch from one piece of action to another. Often in books, car chases, for example, only last a few lines, whilst they are said to go on for several minutes. On the other hand, a ‘short’ conversation may go on for several pages. To address this, I set a word per minute equivalence for the main chapters. If you read at 170 words per minute, you will find each chapter moves forward in ‘real time’ (although not every activity within that chapter will be correct in how long it takes). It’s not perfect as the system assumes no variation in the speed people talk at, for example. Likewise, it doesn’t take account of different lengths of words. It also led to the book becoming over 150,000 words long – the equivalent of about 500 pages – which is double the length of many novels.
Review by John R Cowton, October 2019; ‘This was a very different read, taking me into Japanese culture, but as one of the central characters, Nicola, was British, it enhanced the contrast to my culture through her eyes. I found the story had many facets to it, including political corruption, murder, terrorism, hijacking, and the relationship between Nicola and her Japanese friends…the story did not disappoint, full of unexpected surprises.‘
Review on Amazon.co.uk, October 2018, “***** I’m not sure I can ever go on a shinkansen again, but the rich descriptions make it easy to follow and very entertaining. Also, as the author is an academic working on Japan, the book does not exoticise Japan and is thus well worth a read for anyone interested in Japan.”
Review on Lulu.com, August 2018, “**** The level of realism is excellent in terms of technical train details relevant to the plot, the believability of the characters/scenario, and the little observations about life in Japan. This was helped by the real time format (reading continues at about the same pace as the plot develops), which worked well once the action got going. … if a good novel is about a little bit of escapism and immersing oneself in another world for a few hours, Hijacking Japan was definitely a good choice for my summer holiday read this year. For the most part I was just absorbed and keen to know what was coming next. Many action novels/films on a similar topic that I have read/watched follow quite a standard, cliched pattern. … I had no idea what the ending would be until it came.”
Review on Amazon.co.uk, February 2017, “**** An excellent book for students of Japanese and anyone interested in the culture of Japan. The tension comes from the hijacking and reasons behind it. Younger adult readers will enjoy the involvement of four friends in the drama. Older ones will appreciate the tension of political double dealing and the logistical nightmare for the authorities dealing with the situation . As the book is long, it will be most enjoyed by those wanting to take time to assimilate all the detail.”
If you would like to see some of the locations referred to in the book on a Google Map, click here. It is recommended that you look at this after or during reading the book as it effectively contains some storyline spoilers. The list is done largely on the basis in which locations are introduced in the text.
For further information see Amazon via mybook.to/HijackingJapan and also see my posts related to the book. (If Amazon tries to charge you more than 99p (or equivalent), then choose the option for better price found and copy and paste the following link in: https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/christopher-hood/hijacking-japan/ebook/product-1ermpzyw.html)
Posts about places and events that feature in the book and other posts related to the book:
- E4 series shinkansen
- Matsumoto Castle
- Sakura Cafe
- The Shin Oyama (New Otani) hotel
- Takasaki/E4-series shinkansen (front cover of book)
- U2 in concert in Japan
- Working titles
If you are interested in the shinkansen, you may also be interested in the following posts and pages of mine: