“A Family Supper” is told alternately from the narrative perspective of a young man joining his father and sister for dinner at their father’s home and in the form of a dialogue among the members of the family. The young man has just returned to Tokyo from California, where he has been living for the past several years. His father, a World War II veteran and widower, has been forced to retire because the firm in which he was employed as an executive collapsed. The dinner is being held to reunite the family for the first time since the mother’s death, and the father has prepared a special dish for the occasion. In the first paragraph of the story, the narrator mentions that traditional Japanese dishes made from fugu (puffer fish or blowfish) have a special significance for him because his mother died in somewhat ambiguous circumstances after eating the fish. The preparation of the fish involves a great deal of skill because some of its glands contain a deadly poison and must be carefully removed.
While the son was living in the United States, he was not in close contact with the other members of his family. At the dinner, he learns that after the firm failed, his father’s partner for seventeen years, Watanabe, killed himself as a matter of “principle and honor.” His mother had always refused to eat fugu but accepted an invitation from an old schoolfriend “whom she was anxious not to offend.” His father expresses the hope that the narrator will remain in Japan, but the son tells him that he...
(The entire section is 628 words.)