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Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara

TITLE: Snakes and Earrings 
AUTHOR: Hitomi Kanehara 
TRANSLATOR: David James Karashima
PUBLISHER: Dutton Adult
FORMAT: Hardcover, 120 pages
GENRE: Fiction, Japanese Literature
ISBN: 9780525948896
An underground world.

A murder.

An international phenomenon.

Snakes and Earrings...

Enchanted by the snakelike tongue of a stranger called Ama, nineteen-year-old Lui takes a walk into another side of life. On the Tokyo streets, she finds a world where pain bleeds into pleasure. Where day fades into night. And where right turns into wrong.


This book was originally published in Japanese as Hebi ni piasu. Hitomi Kanehara is one of the youngest authors to have ever won the Akutagawa Prize, which she received in 2003 for Snakes and Earrings, her debut novel. 

Lui Nakazawa is a 19 year-old young woman who has a fascination with body modification, specifically “stretching” which involves inserting larger and larger gauge earrings in her earlobes to stretch the holes bigger and bigger. She meets an 18 year-old boy named Ama, whose snake-like forked tongue piques her curiosity. He explains the process by which he achieved the forked result: Getting his tongue pierced and then stretching the hole with studs that increase in thickness until you reach “00” gauge, at which point you can slice through the remaining tip with a scalpel. The two hook-up, and Lui decides that she wants a tongue just like Ama’s.

Ama takes Lui to a piercing/tattoo shop named Desire, which is owned by Kizuki “Shiba-san” Shibata. He pierces Lui’s tongue, and she mentions that she also wants to get a tattoo. While Ama is browsing the goods in the shop, Shiba-san and Lui chat and each reveals a predilection for S&M. Lui returns to Desire unaccompanied by Ama, and Shiba-san and Lui start a warped kind of relationship. Ama knows nothing of Lui’s penchant for sadism, and Shiba-san is the type of masochist that can satisfy her.

This book was a really quick read. It is dark, gritty, twisted, disturbing…and I couldn’t put it down. I enjoy flawed characters, and these ones are seriously messed up. I am a fan of Japanese literature, and I plan to read more of Kanehara’s work.

Although I really enjoyed this book, I would add a warning that this is the type of book that is unsettling and certainly not intended for everyone.


View all my reviews


  1. It sounds disturbing! I've really enjoyed the translated fiction I've read, but this one might be a little too out there for me.

    1. Oh, boy...then you better not read Hotel Isis. That one is way more twisted and disturbing than this one was! I'm glad you've enjoyed the translated fiction you've read, and I'll have to take a peek at your list for some recommendations :)

  2. Ooooh, this is the second review of it that I've read. I do like Japanese fiction, but this sounds really dark.


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