‘Taiyaku’ is a 1990s tragicomic crosscultural love story, set in northern California ́s Silicon Valley electronics industry. Its theme is how that stressful high-tech environment affects relationships between men and women. Its plot revolves around the Japanese folk-wisdom notion of a person ́s ‘critical year’ or ‘taiyaku-doshi,’ a cultural construct which is somewhere in between a numerological superstition and the American idea of ‘midlife crisis.’ Taiyaku is literally translated as ‘big bad luck’; ‘doshi’ means ‘year.’ A man’s critical year is believed to occur at age forty-two; a woman’s, at age thirty-three. Oregon small-town boy Ray Wenzinger and Japanese immigrant Kanako Matsumori Slemmons, coworkers at Cortexx Semiconductor, go through taiyaku-doshi together. Their birthdays are almost exactly nine years apart; Ray turns forty-two one week before Kanako turns thirty-three. At the outset, Ray is a manufacturing engineer, and Kanako is the Inside Sales Manager. Each is in a failing marriage to someone else. Ray’s religious-fanatic wife Gretchen throws him out; Kanako’s abusive husband Clint moves back to his home state of Texas without her, to take a high-level job. Divorce proceedings follow in both situations. Ray and Kanako fall in love, start a passionate affair, treat each other badly, quarrel bitterly, and break up. Then they each have their lives shattered, by personal and business events related to their stormy relationship. Ray keeps on pursuing Kanako at work. She complains to Cortexx Human Resources that he is sexually harassing her. He is laid off in a 40% RIF during a sales downturn. She loses custody of her beloved daughter. Both have affairs with other people. In despair over her troubled life, Kanako nearly commits seppuku. Then she is injured during an ill-conceived and dangerous security drill. She sues Cortexx and its founder/CEO, Dr. Jerry Cornelius. Ray has several desperate months. At first he’s out of work; soon he takes on a low-paid commission-sales job. But then he lands a very good job back in the semiconductor industry, at a startup company founded by a former Cortexx v-p. Kanako wrecks her sports car up in the Sierras, and is hospitalized not far from Sacramento. Well-intentioned friends try to bring Ray and Kanako back together. He visits her in the hospital, and both are overcome with emotion. They confess their love for each other, and make peace. He impulsively proposes, and she impulsively accepts. Subsequently, Ray saves Kanako ́s life when Jerry Cornelius, now fired as Cortexx Chief Executive Officer because of the security-drill fiasco, tries to kill her. She moves in with Ray. As taiyaku-doshi ends for them, Ray and Kanako are starting out on a new and better life, together as equal partners. #
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