Study Guide

Japanese Hamlet

by Toshio Mori

Japanese Hamlet Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tom Fukunaga is a Nisei, a person born in the United States of parents who emigrated from Japan. He is more in tune with the mainstream culture in the United States than with traditional Japanese culture. Fukunaga is thirty-one years old but still a schoolboy. Besides free room and board, Fukunaga receives five dollars a week from a Piedmont home where he stays, just as he had done when he was a freshman at Piedmont High School. Ostensibly, the main reason behind Fukunaga’s decision to stay in school is his affection for William Shakespeare’s plays and his aspiration to become a ranking Shakespearean actor. Fukunaga’s relatives, however, believe that he is a worthless loafer and ought to be ashamed of himself for being a schoolboy at his age. Despite the fact that he has been disowned by his parents and is laughed at by his relatives, Fukunaga has been chasing his dream by practicing lines from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Fukunaga often visits the narrator’s house in the evening with a copy of Shakespeare’s plays. Because the narrator is free in the evenings, he does not mind Fukunaga’s visits and at first is willing to help Fukunaga practice his recitations. As the days go by, the narrator starts to wonder what role the prominence of his house and attention play in helping Fukunaga waste his energy and time; he suspects he has been drawn into the mock play that is Fukunaga’s life. At the age of thirty-one, Fukunaga...

(The entire section is 536 words.)