Kenzo Kitakata

City of Refuge

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City of Refuge Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of City of Refuge by Kenzo Kitakata.

Originally published in 2012, Kenzo Kitakata’s crime novel City of Refuge tells the story of 20-year-old Koji Mizui. Koji is originally from Nagano but moved to Tokyo as soon as he graduated high school. Koji felt drawn to the bright lights of the big city and made the move without giving it too much though. Soon after his arrival in Tokyo, Koji landed himself a job delivering household appliances. He is happy enough with his job and his day-to-day life, and his only long-term goal at the moment is saving up to buy a boat, for which he puts money aside every month.

The action of the novel begins when Koji’s former classmate in Nagano, Numata, appears on his doorstep one night in search of a place to stay. Numata arrived in Tokyo around the same time Koji did. After three years, Koji has changed jobs twice, and Numata is on his third job, which seems to be a bad sign. He is working as a bartender and is apparently having a rough time.

The next morning, Koji politely asks his house guest to leave. He goes to work, where he finds out that the police have been looking for him. Koji has no idea why the police would want to speak to him. He goes about his day, reading the newspaper as he normally does, when he notices a story about the bar that Numata works at and how it was robbed. This gets Koji thinking that Numata must have somehow been involved in the robbery, hence the trouble with the police. Koji is disgruntled as he contemplates what kind of trouble this miscreant has stirred up for him.

The police eventually locate Koji and to his surprise, he is placed under arrest. The police question him about the suspicious stash of money in his apartment, the same money that Koji had been putting aside for his future boat. The police question Koji’s whereabouts the night of the robbery, and he tells them that he was spending time with Makiko Endo, a girl he has been seeing for the past few months. However, the police have a hard time confirming his alibi, and Koji ends up spending the next few nights in jail.

After this incident, Koji learns that the girl he has been seeing is not called Makiko at all, and the reason that she has been acting so secretive with him is that she is only 16 years old and sneaks around at night to see him after her mother leaves for work at the bar.

Once Koji convinces the police to release him, he arranges to meet with the girl formerly known as Makiko. They go to the same hotel they always do, and when they first meet, both seem slightly on edge, uncertain of where the night will take them. Makiko is coy, as he generally is, and suddenly, Koji is overwhelmed with his lust for her. He realizes that his actions are scaring her, but he can’t seem to help himself or calm his bodily urges. He forces himself on Makiko, as she screams in protest.

In a strange turn of events, the couple grows closer. Koji quits his job, and Makiko skips school in order to spend her days with him. However, Makiko does not realize that her mother has sent one of her lovers, Mr. Watanabe, to spy on her. When her mother finds out that Makiko has been skipping school to spend time with an older boy, she is outraged, and demands that Watanabe fetch her daughter at once and bring her back home. Koji attempts to follow, but Watanabe becomes violent and scares him off.

Watanabe turns into Makiko’s protector, watching over her day and night, and having his own fun with her when her mother isn’t looking. Koji confronts Watanabe, blinded with rage, and ends up killing the man. Still, he is not sure that he can forgive Makiko for her actions, and he is disgusted with her for sleeping with another man. Koji soon has bigger problems to worry about when he learns that Watanabe was part of a gang, and that there could be a retaliation.

Koji makes a run for it, in the process encountering a five-year-old boy who ends up accompanying him on the lam. The little boy, Hiroshi, seems to be all alone, so Koji decides that until one of his family members show up, he can take care of the boy. Koji and Hiroshi end up taking refuge in a summer home in Karuizawa in the dead of winter. The holidaymakers have long since departed, and Koji and Hiroshi have nothing much to do except to try to stay warm and hope that their whereabouts are not discovered. The rest of the novel consists of Koji and his sidekick getting up to all kinds of misadventures as they attempt to thwart the police.