Everyone must have wanted to express their worries at least once. Sometimes just telling a story to someone can be a boost. Here is someone who performs this role very well. It is an old man from Namiya General Store. His warm heart has been passed on to the readers, so the book has been loved so far, and it was released as a movie in 2017. The Argus looked at the book and the movie in detail to find the message they wanted to convey, and in what ways the plot changed.
Introduction to Book and Movie
Japanese writer Keigo Higashino’s “Miracles of the Namiya General Store” dominates the best-seller lists for the sixth consecutive year since it was published in Korea in 2012. The book has sold more than 1 million copies in Korea and 12 million copies worldwide from 2008 to 2017. The movie was also released in Japan under the same name in 2018.
Shota, Atsuya and Kohei are three thieves. In 2012, they enter a house with no one with intent to steal but rush out when the landlord comes in. They run away and stop by Namiya General Store. It seems like it has been a long time since it was abandoned, but when a letter comes into the house, the three thieves get tangled up in a strange way.
Letter from Fish Shop Musician
After dropping out of college, Matsuoka, under the pen name of Fish Shop Musician, leaves his home and plays music in Tokyo. Matsuoka, hearing of his grandmother’s death in 1980, comes back home in three years and finds his father, who runs the fish shop, has become decrepit. Matsuoka agonizes over whether it is right to quit the music and take over his father’s fish shop. Then he finds Namiya General Store by accident and writes a letter. The answer written by the three thieves includes blaming Matsuoka, who is not taking over the store and is focusing on music that is not making him money. Matsuoka writes a reply saying that the fish shop is almost going bankrupt and he really wants to do music in reply, and he plays his own song on the harmonica in front of the mailbox of the general store.
The three thieves instantly realize that the song has been remade by a famous singer, Seri. It is a remake of Matsuoka’s song as a tribute to him, who saved Seri’s brother and sacrificed his life when a fire started in the Maru Garden orphanage. The three thieves who already know Matsuoka’s future send a reply again saying they support his dream.
Letter from Green River
Midori, under the pen name of Green River, pregnant with a married man’s child in 1980, writes a letter to Namiya, wondering if it would be right for her to give a birth. Namiya replies, “If you can make your child happy, give birth.” Soon after, Namiya sees a newspaper in which a woman tried to kill herself with her baby by driving into the sea. Fortunately, the baby survives, but Namiya, who finds out that the woman is Midori, falls into despair that his letter has left her unhappy.
This leads Namiya to wonder if his answers to many letter were helpful. He comes back to the general store that he should have left because he was sick, and he finds that letters thanking him for his answers have arrived from the future of 2012. Meanwhile, Namiya receives a letter from Green River’s daughter, saying she is happily doing well. She informs Namiya that her mother did not intend to commit suicide with her, and that the accident was caused by drowsy driving. After finding out that Green River had been living her life for his daughter as best as possible, Namiya realizes that his letter of counseling was not in vain.
Letter from Confused Puppy
In 1980, a woman named Harumi, under the pen name of Confused Puppy, works for a small company by day and at a bar by night. A guest suggests her to offer a loan in exchange for becoming his lover.
She agonizes over whether she should accept the offer because her grandparents need money because of poor health. The three thieves let Harumi know future economic situations in a letter such as where to invest and how to build up economic wealth. Thanks to the letter Harumi becomes rich in eight years through a jackpot.
Harumi, who grew up in the Maru Garden orphanage, tries to take it over after hearing about the fire at the orphanage and the embezzlement of the orphanage’s head. However the three thieves, misunderstanding that she is trying to get rid of the orphanage, steal Harumi’s money and bags and bind her. They later find out Harumi has revived the orphanage through a letter in her bag.
Feeling strange about the letters to and from the past and the present, the three thieves put a white sheet of paper in the mailbox after sending all the counseling letters. It arrives to Namiya, who is in the past, and he sends his last reply.
“Your map is still blank. Even if you try to set a destination, you do not even know where the path is. But because it’s blank, you can draw any map. Everything is free and the possibilities are endless. I sincerely hope you believe in yourself and live your life to the fullest.”
Top 1. Difference in chance to find out time crossing
At the beginning of the book, the fencer has a busy day to train to compete in the 1980 Olympics. Her lover, who is terminally ill, is in the hospital. She agonizes over whether to take care of her lover or concentrate on her training. Knowing that Japan boycotted the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics, the three thieves advise her to quit training and stand by her lover’s side, but the letter concludes without convincing her. The three thieves in the novel find that the time background of the counselor is in the 80s, based on the movies and pop songs written in the letter.
Starting with this letter, they learn that the past and the present are connected.
However, the above is omitted from the movie. Instead, early in the movie, the three thieves run away from Namiya General Store, but discover an old alley and the train passing through their bodies. After a mysterious experience, the general store is in front of them again. Through this, they find themselves entangled in delicate matters that go back and forth between the past and the present.
Top 2. Maximizing the growth of three thieves
The book concludes with the three thieves realizing that the house they broke into was the home of Harumi who exchanged letters with them.
Meanwhile, the movie goes further and ends with a scene in which the three thieves run in front of Harumi. The facial expressions of the three thieves show intensively that they have gained a lot of enlightenment and achieved self-growth over a short period of time.
As a result, the book does not show the future of the three thieves. In the movie, however, they start a new life becoming a doctor, aircraft mechanic and cook, respectively.
Top 3. Maximizing the impact of the book
The relationship between Akiko and Namiya as well as Akiko’s story about the establishment of the orphanage is described in detail in the book but only briefly in the movie.
Originally Namiya and Akiko were in love, but at the time Akiko was a person of higher status than Namiya. Because of the difference in status, the two were finally unable to make love and broke up.
While these cause and effect relationships are described in detail in the book, they are portrayed in a slightly different way in the movie. In the film, when Namiya comes to the general store just before his death and reads letters of thanks from people in the future, young Akiko in his memory appears in front of him. In his fantasy, they talk together.
The book, which describes in detail the relationship between Namiya and Akiko and the establishment of the orphanage, helps readers to understand the content better than the film that shows a more superficial view. Also, by understanding these relationships, the book is more poignant.
“You must not ignore whatever sounds that flow in the human mind.”
Seo Jun-gyu, management and foundation consultant: This quote comes in the scene in which Namiya talks to his son Takayuka. People always live with their anxieties. In fact, everybody knows that the answer to every question must be decided by themselves and they should be responsible for it. However, most people want to confirm whether their decisions are correct. Therefore, they look for advisers from their family, friends, seniors, juniors, etc. in consideration of areas such as faith, respect, and professionalism. As far as the process goes, the counselee does not get a word out to the counselor easily. I absolutely agree with this quote, which says that we should never ignore anything someone says because it comes out of their mouths after a lot of agonizing in their mind.
“Your map is still blank.”
Kim Eu-gene, blogger: This is the phrase that Namiya wrote in his last letter. As I read this book, I was concerned by the three thieves who had been consulting others. It was impressive that the three thieves, who arrive at a dead end, grew up gradually through counseling other people with letters and receiving answers to the letters. I think that they could grow up in a short time because they were recognized for their presence. Also, the figure of the three thieves is probably the reflection of college students now. Features of college students who are pressured to gain experience and compare themselves with others interrelate with the three thieves. If there are those who are losing their presence, I would like to convey to them the above phrase and support their lives.
Seo Jun-gyu : You want to be a famous musician, but you agonize about going on the path because of the circumstances of the family and your situation. I empathize with your situation that is hard and difficult. I also have been through that period, and I am still experiencing it. Nevertheless, I hold out the hope for myself because I have a strong affirmation and clear goals about my future.
You know what you want to do; therefore, if you try to do it, you will naturally come up with ways to achieve it. The good thing about youth is to have the strength to be able to stand up quickly when you failed. Even if you say goodbye to the world tomorrow, it would be better to live without regrets in your life.
Kang Han-sol, a reporter of the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity: I think you are standing at the corner of a difficult choice. I know how valuable family is to you. The most painful moment for a person who loves something enthusiastically is when his or her loved ones are having a hard time due to own choices. However, giving up your dreams is not for those who love you and those whom you love. If you gave up your dreams, they would think that they took away your dream, so they would feel sorry for a long time. Likewise, it is painful to live with lost dreams and love those who have taken away your dreams. Therefore, you should not stop singing for your sick father and yourself. I think you can only make yourself and others happy when you make choices for yourself, not anyone else.
Kang Han-sol : I work as a graduate student during the day and as a science reporter and writer at night who communicates with people through writing. Until I started studying at a graduate school, I had a lot of twists and turns during writing, pushing through my studies for a long time. I participated incessantly in contests and I rarely received a manuscript fee. By the time I gave up writing, a friend who cherished my writing from the old days recommended me to be a science journalist, so I became a reporter. Sometimes I could experience a moment when there are people who recognize me and who have the same thoughts as I. Like those who went through the Namiya General Store, I get the strength to work harder thanks to those who find and read my articles.
Ko Jun-seok, a college student: Last summer, I participated as an admission mentor at a university fair. There I met a student who came from Daegu to Seoul for admission counseling. I remembered my past as a student studing in the province when I was anxious about the entrance examination. Therefore, I relayed to the student my experience for a long time. In the following spring, I met her in the same department of my school. She thanked me and said that she was encouraged through our meeting at that time. From that moment on, I realized that my experiences can be a great force for others and that others could be tied to each other under the name “we” through the link of sympathy. With that in mind, I now have a YouTube channel for students who are not guaranteed equal education opportunities due to the imbalance of admission information, in a club of the school. I produce videos that can ease examinees’ anxieties and communicate with them through comments and e-mails.
The time to finish this semester is coming. You may have been in a lot of trouble while you are in school. If there are such troubles, the reporters hope that a place like the mysterious Namiya General Store will appear in front of you and have a chance to resolve your agonies. Plus, if you see someone who has worries in the surrounding area, how about performing a role like Namiya? Our daily life will shine more when we share and listen to each other’s thoughts.
By Jang Yu-jin and Kim Min-ji
Associate Editor and Staff Reporter of Culture Section