Ken Kagawa


Born and raised in Japan, Ken Kagawa is a writer currently attending Goldsmiths, University of London where he working towards his MA in Creative and Life Writing.

His stories mainly concentrate on the magical realism. As a writer, he draws his inspiration from everything, from how the air smells that day to an interesting sentence one utters while he takes a walk. 


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View as PDF: Ken Kagawa - In memory of a house... 

In memory of a house long gone and now under water

(or, a memorial to The Abandoned City) 

I see him diving to the bottom of the lake to his home. It stands there perfectly preserved in memory. He crosses the front lawn now covered in algae, walks up to the large window at the front of the house and clears it of sediment. As he peers in, he sees everything as it was, sofas and TV set and grandfather clock and all. He looks on everything and remembers everything. He remembers how his father would cook meals on Sundays, how his mother would cradle him in her arms as they watched Christmas specials in Winter, how he used to play on the swing in the front yard. As fishes nibble at the suit’s outer skin and crabs crawl up his boots, he stands still and looks into the house, as if he has planted himself as a fixture in the yard.



His last girlfriend left him saying “At least my middle finger fucking moves. Christ, what the hell do you do with that thing besides pissing out of it?”

      He called me up right after she dumped him.

      “She dumped me.” He said.

      “Sorry about that.”

      “Can’t really blame her though.” He said

      “Oh, why is that?” I asked and got out of bed. It was three in the morning and I was about to go to sleep.

      “She was always after my manhood, and to be honest who could blame her.” He said. “I mean, we were finding it harder to have sex, no matter what we did. It wasn’t like I was losing interest in her, and she really did try to make things work. I was seriously thinking that maybe it was some kind of genetic disorder that meant I couldn’t get it up.”

      I made my way to the kitchen for a drink of water, half listening and half wishing he would suddenly lose interest in this talk and hang up.

      He was always like that, never blaming anyone and forever taking blame for everything that didn’t work. He always considered himself as the one dogs pissed on; drunks vomit on him because of his existence, fathers screw daughters because of him, middle east is never to see peace because of him.

      “She really did try to work this stuff out. We went out for walks, we went to movies together, we went to a relationship therapist together.” He continued, “I mean, it was almost sad the way she tried. She was trying so hard.”

      “Yeah, I bet she tried hard, she wanted to make this relationship work.” I said to him and fished for the remote control. This wasn’t the first time he pulled this off. Whenever something happened and he needed to take some steam off, or go somewhere he had to let the whole world know. Nothing against him, it’s just how he does things.  

      “Anyway, I gotta cool it off for some time. This shit is just too much right now. Besides, I haven’t been back home for a while, it would be nice to just visit the house.”

      “Okay” I said to him, knowing that he wasn’t looking for any kind of response. I couldn’t care less if he was going back to his home underwater or to Mars.

      “And don’t worry, everything is taken care of. I don’t need you to look after anything. All the plants have been sold to friends, my cat is staying with my sister while I’m away, all the bills have been paid in advance, it’s all been taken care of.”

      “That’s thoughtful of you.” I said and flipped through the channels.

      “I think this trip is going to be a real re-fresher for me. Going back home, remembering how things used to be, I think that’s going to remind me what I need to do. I think this might give me a clear direction.”

      “I hope it works.” I said and went to the kitchen for a drink.   

      “I think it’s all going to work out. I really do. Maybe all this trouble was set so I could be directed to this.”

      “That’s great you are finally going to get some direction in your life. Now, would you kindly leave me the fuck alone so I can sleep?” I would have loved to say that, but would have been no use. He just needed to hear himself say it all so he can reassure himself that he is going to do it. Forget the fact that it’s three in the morning, forget that I haven’t been able to have a good sleep for three days and tomorrow is the long awaited day off when I can finally sleep. He just wanted to say it, and saying anything back would be like telling the sun it’s too fucking bright. 

      So instead I said “Things really do have a strange way of working themselves out.”

      “Yeah, yeah they really do. God, look at the time. Gotta go. Thanks for the talk, I’m really glad I have you for a friend.”

      “Always glad to help.” I said to him and ended the conversation.

      As I went to sleep, I imagined him packing up his diving suit with its metal helmet and breathing pipe, folding the whole thing into a nice pile into the trunk of his car and driving out to the dam that is now his home town. In my dream I saw him, Joseph Faye, 24, without a girlfriend, blaming himself for all the bad things that happen, packed up for a travel to the bottom of the lake that holds his ancestral home.



It all started, as far as he could tell me, when his great ancestors settled in the land surrounded by high mountains rich with trees and plantation hoping their offspring would multiply. Being born into a traveling family with no home, they knew that this land would be their home. They finally felt that they could settle down and fill the land like locusts. Multiply they did, not like the locusts, but they did create a moderate sized village, made some living through producing furniture. The quality was mediocre, but it was durable and people who bought their furniture were happy to buy lawn chairs that withstood cold rain and damp fog. This trade eventually allowed them to create a house big enough to host all of the family.

      As the village grew, people accumulated. The village grew up to become nearly a town, and people assured themselves that they would all grow prosperous. Some of the villagers even dared to think that they could expand their business. People were truly looking to the future. As they looked to the electric lamp post that illuminated the street, they finally thought there’s their lives settled. Those who made furniture will pass that craft to their sons, those who raised houses will teach their kids how it’s done. They thought to themselves, we finally have a home.

      But one day, some people from the government came and offered to buy the town. “We need to build a dam,” they said at one of the town meetings, “The country is growing, people need clean water to drink and bathe their children in,” they said, “we are willing to give you new houses, we are willing to pay for your loss. You are a part of this country. You do not have to give up your livelihood. You can continue your lives as they used to be.” 

      There was of course objection to it, but the fact was people needed clean water, and population of this country were growing in size. There was no way they could argue against the prosperity of the country. So people started moving out, thus started the great decline of the town and soon after ancestors of his family moved out, until all that was left were the original settlers who were settled in their ways and refused to move anywhere. It was said that one of the originals sat in his chair and kept mumbling “The house stands” over and over again. He told me that these people stood outside their houses with firearms in their hands and drowned with their houses.

      Out of that heritage of people who moved out came Joseph Faye. 



When I was a kid, I used to suffer from a lack of identity. My family, we used to live in the government housing given to them in my great grandparent’s time when they gave up their home to build a dam.

      I don’t know if it was the cramped space of that housing, or if it was because my father could never have a steady source of income, my parents always seemed to bicker about everything. Heating, gas, water, weather, contestants on the TV quiz show, fridge with little to no food, not being able to change the lightbulb when it went out, not being able to send me out for school, they bitched and argued.

      And because of the size of the housing, my family had to sleep on the floor together at night. That particular part was hell growing up, what with puberty coming up and you always woke with a hard on and your mother would say “You dirty little shit.”

      “You dirty little shit,” she would say to me.

      “You dare show your filth in this household? Have you no shame? Are you not happy enough to see the hellhole we are in? Now you have to show that disgusting shit? I swear if it weren’t for you fucking up my life I would have left that pig by now.” She used to say to me.

      What did I do in retaliation? Nothing. I just hung my head in shame and said I’m sorry mommy, and wept. At the sight of that sometimes she would tell me to stop acting like a pussy and man up.

      “Oh, crying now, huh? That supposed to make anything better? That’s gonna pay for the rent? That’s gonna pay the bill? Are your fucking tears gonna stock up the fridge? Will it, will it?” Then she would lock herself in the bathroom, the only place in the housing where you could lock yourself in.

      Left alone, I would tell myself to stop crying. Mommy’s like that because I cry. Mommy is upset because I cry. Daddy does not have a job because I cry. Daddy can’t work because I cry. Daddy shouts and Mommy shouts back because I cry. So stop crying you little shit. Stop fucking crying.

      Yep, that was my childhood alright. I think it only got better because I moved out. On the day of moving out, my parents told me,

      “Never come back. You don’t belong here.”

      I’ve been keeping to that advice ever since. 



I imagine him in a diving suit, going down to the bottom of the dam and walking up to his home. He looks in through that large window framing the family parlour. What would he see through that? Is everything still as it was when his home town was drowned?

      I imagine what the house looks like and wonder if it will stand there forever. Is everything in the house going to stand forever too? What was it like on the day it went underwater? Was it like a flood ripping against it and the house miraculously stood? Was it the way the water level rises in the bath until the water reached up to the chimney? How long will his ancestor’s house stand underwater? Paint must chip after some time, wood must rot underwater. But somehow I know that it will all stay there as long as he lives and needs a place to rest his mind. Water will never invade the house, paint will never chip off and no windows will ever break under pressure. Paintings and furniture will never fade. Flowers in a vase will never grow old and wilt. As long as he demands a place to never fade away, as long as he is not willing to let go of his past, that house will never fade away from history.



“Well, I’m off to the house now. Thanks really, this talk made the difference. I really appreciate it,” he said. He is again dumped by his girlfriend. This time because once again he could not satisfy her sexually. And again he called me in the middle of the night to tell me about visiting his ancestor’s home.

      My answers were half hearted again, but he did not care. 



How did he find out about that place? You too? You wanna know about it too? Christ, what the fuck, that place is under water for christs sake, what do you care about? Fine, you wanna know about that place? Who gives a shit, but here it goes.

      Now, I already know that you know about how that house used to be, and how we ended in this government housing and cramped space and living like pigs.

      So my family lived cooped up in this chicken shack of government, and you know, life isnt that grand when you have to hear your parents go at it. All I could think back then was just I need to get out of here. But I just couldnt think of where else to go because the room was so small and you just couldnt think with all that noise.

      So I rented an empty room in the government housing. The face on my parents, they looked devastated. And I could hear them think too. They were thinking, my god, we just hit the bottom. Our son in government housing. Hes not striking out on his own. Hes not making anything out of his life. We are done for. But at least it was quiet in that housing.

      So I got the room, and I started working, right? And soon I get hitched to this girl at work, right? And the next thing is that shes my wife and shes pregnant with little Joseph. And I was like, alright, who gives a shit. And yeah, with the kid the house became a little cramped, but by then I just had it so I thought fuck it.

      And I guess that didnt work good with Martha, thats my wife. So she started bitching and shit, and she shouted at Joseph, and he cried. That didnt feel good, so I told him to never come back. After that, it was just me and Martha, and I just ignored all her bitching, because who gives a shit.

      Then one day Joseph called and told me that he saw this program about dam and how he saw a house and he wanted to know where it was. I just told him it was his grandpas house. And told him never call back, he doesnt belong here. But he doesnt give up and asked me where that house was, I mean where that lake was. So I told him what do you care about, that house is gone. And he told me about how that house is where his roots are, he needed to see for himself where he came from, that he needed to know where he belonged. So I snapped and told him alright you pussy hippie sonuvabitch that house is under crystal lake. Good fucking luck, never call back. And he said thanks and hanged up.

      And thats it. Happy now?

      Oh I can tell. You are just dying to ask me why I always told him to never come back here, do you? Well heres why. This shithole here, this is where dreams die. This little chicken shack shithole, this is where you come if you just give up and dont feel like giving a shit.

      Now get the fuck out and never come back here.



Three o’clock and he called again. Again, his girlfriend dumped him. He told me again that he’s going back to his home. Sleepy and full of fatigue, my mind slipped. After I said it I regretted it a bit, but as the words came out they felt natural. It felt like a natural payback for all those phone calls. I said to him

      “Just move into that fucking house and stop bothering me. You feel relaxed and calm in that house? You feel like you possibly can’t hurt anyone in that house? Great, move in then. Listen, you are going to hurt people as long as you live. If you don’t want that just move to the bottom of the lake alright?”

      After a pause, he answered in a weak voice. 

      “You are right. I will keep making people angry as long as I live. I think it’s about time that I find a way to mend that once and for all. Thank you for the advice,” and he hung up.  

      But though weak, his voice gave off the feeling of someone who was finally given an answer to all his problem.

      As I fell asleep, I imagined him driving up to the lake in silence, diving down to the bottom in total darkness, trekked through the bottom to the house and opened up the front door of the house, letting water in and finally bringing an end to a history.

      As I slept I saw him walk up to the house, open up the front door. Water gushes in from everywhere: from the chimney, through the kitchen vent, seeping in from the little gaps in the window frame, and torrent of water from the front door. Water fills the house, and he pulls the breathing pipe from his suit. Water fills his lungs and he is finally home. He looks about him, all the old furniture frozen and in its place. He nods to himself. 

      Just before I woke up I saw him about the house in his diving suit sitting himself comfortably in a chair by the fireplace.