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Rising Sun (novel)


Rising Sun (novel)

Rising Sun
First edition cover
Author Michael Crichton
Country United States
Language English
Genre Crime thriller
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf[1]
Publication date
January 27, 1992
Media type Hardcover, paperback
Pages 385
OCLC 24216739
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3553.R48 R57 1992
Preceded by Jurassic Park
Followed by Disclosure

Rising Sun is a 1992 internationally best-selling novel by Michael Crichton about a murder in the Los Angeles headquarters of Nakamoto, a fictional Japanese corporation. The book was published by Alfred A. Knopf.[2]

Although a detective/murder mystery novel at first glance, Rising Sun deals with the controversial subject of Japanese-American relations, and questions the premise that foreign direct investment in the high-technology sectors of the United States is beneficial. Throughout the book, the differences between the Japanese and Western mindsets are highlighted, especially in the areas of business strategy and corporate culture.[3]


  • Plot summary 1
  • Characters in Rising Sun 2
  • Adaptations 3
  • Reception 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Plot summary

Nakamoto Corporation is celebrating the grand opening of its new headquarters, the Nakamoto Tower, in Downtown Los Angeles; the 45th floor of the building is awash with celebrities, dignitaries and local politicians. On the 46th floor, Cheryl Lynn Austin, 23, is found dead. Lieutenant Peter J. Smith, the Special Services Liaison for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), is assigned to the case. He is joined, on request, by retired Captain John Connor, who has lived in Japan and is well-acquainted with Japanese culture.

Upon arriving at Nakamoto Tower, the two policemen learn from officer-in-charge Tom Graham that the Japanese, led by Nakamoto employee Ishiguro, are stalling the investigation by demanding that the liaison be present. Although they have a valid pretense in that the virulently racist Graham is threatening to disrupt the celebration, it is obvious to Connor that a cover-up is underway. The detectives realize that the tapes from the security cameras on the 46th floor have mysteriously disappeared, and the security guards are deliberately unhelpful. Smith and Connor visit the apartment of the late Ms. Austin, realizing that she was a mistress for the Japanese Yakuza. It seems that Ms. Austin's home had been ransacked soon after her death. After several visits to friends and associates of Ms. Austin and Nakamoto, the two detectives find a suspect in Eddie Sakamura, a wealthy Japanese playboy from Kyoto. However, the two are inclined to release him, due to Eddie's previous associations with John Connor.

The two officers are summoned to witness Ms. Austin's autopsy; trace evidence strongly suggests a Japanese killer. Afterwards, Smith and Connor are approached by Ishiguro, who now presents them with seemingly authentic videos from the security cameras, which show Sakamura to be the murderer. Having solved the mystery, Connor returns home to rest, while Smith and Graham go to apprehend Sakamura. Upon arriving at Eddie's house, the two detectives are stalled by two naked women while Eddie escapes in a Ferrari. After a high-speed chase, Eddie's car crashes and bursts into flames, killing him.

The next day, the newspaper runs editorials criticizing Smith, Graham, and Connor’s actions as racist and accuses them of police brutality. Soon afterward, Smith receives a phone call from the Chief of Police, declaring the investigation officially over. Smith isn’t satisfied, and decides to take the tapes to the University of Southern California, in order to make copies. There, Smith meets Theresa Asakuma, a Japanese student who is an expert on computers and software manipulation. She is able to quickly point out that the tapes were indeed copies. After copying the tapes, Smith then picks up Connor after his golf game with several Japanese friends. On their way back to the USC labs, the two detectives are offered lucrative bribes from the Japanese, including a membership at an expensive golf club and extremely low-priced real estate offers. They visit and consult with companies and industries involved with Nakamoto, in order to learn more about the killer's motives. Along the way, they realize that they are only pawns in a much larger political and economic "war" between America and Japan, and how much the United States relies on Japan, which dominates the American electronics industry. Also, throughout the investigation, Connor educates Smith about the vast cultural differences between Japan and America, as well as the various underhanded business tactics Japan uses to maintain their technological edge over America.

Finally, they meet with U.S. Senator John Morton, a potential presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. They learn that Morton fiercely opposes the Japanese purchase of MicroCon, a small Silicon Valley company that manufactures machinery. At USC, Smith and Theresa deduce that Eddie had been set up by the Japanese who had altered the tapes. They undo the changes, discovering that Senator Morton was apparently the real killer and Eddie had been a witness. Connor and Smith return to Smith’s apartment, where they discover Eddie Sakamura, alive; the man who had actually been killed was a Japanese security officer named Tanaka who had been in Eddie’s garage, searching for the tapes, before panicking and fleeing in Eddie's car, which led to his death. The trio then confront Senator Morton, who confesses to his role in Cheryl Austin’s death. The senator then shoots himself in a bathroom. Soon afterward, an angry Ishiguro arrives to confront Eddie and the two detectives, making subtle threats to their lives. Strangely, Eddie reacts calmly, leading Connor to conclude afterward that Eddie still possesses an original copy of the tape from the security cameras. Smith and Connor then travel to Eddie’s home, where they find him tortured to death for the location of the stolen tape. Connor drops Smith off at his home.

Upon entering his apartment, Smith realizes that Eddie had left the tape there. Ishiguro's men arrive; he quickly orders his babysitter to hide his daughter and herself in the upstairs bedroom. Connor sneaks back to Smith’s apartment, carrying a bulletproof vest. The two detectives then engage in a gun battle with the thugs, and Smith is shot in the back, although his vest saves his life.

The next day, the two watch the tape that Eddie had left behind; Austin wasn't accidentally killed by Morton, but deliberately murdered by Ishiguro after Morton and Eddie left. They go to the Nakamoto Tower to apprehend Ishiguro, interrupting an important meeting. The detectives show the tape of the murder to the meeting attendees, and a shocked and angry Ishiguro commits suicide by jumping off the building. Having solved the mystery, Connor answers Smith’s questions before dropping him off at his apartment. The book then concludes with Smith’s statements about America’s future with Japan.

Characters in Rising Sun

  • Lieutenant Peter J. Smith — Special Services Officer[4] assigned to this case. He is a divorced father with a two-year-old daughter named Michelle.
  • Lieutenant Tom Graham — LAPD Homicide detective. Graham and Smith were once partners in the LAPD. Tom is on the scene of a murder at the opening party for the new Nakamoto Tower in downtown LA, but some of the Japanese nationals at the event ask for the assistance of the Special Services Liaison—Lieutenant Smith at the present moment—and so Tom calls Pete for help.
  • Fred Hoffmann — watch commander at DHD[5] downtown. After Tom has called, but before actually rolling out, Fred calls Pete and suggests that he get the assistance of semi-retired Captain John because Pete's only been on the job six months and it's a big event.
  • Captain John Connor — Semi-retired officer, on indefinite leave. Helped the department solve an important case involving Japanese nationals years before, and was subsequently invited to Japan for private security work for a while, but returned. In the 1960s became the first LAPD officer to speak fluent Japanese, despite LA's status as the largest Japanese city outside the Japanese home islands. He is alternately respected and disliked by Japanese who think he understands their culture or by westerners who think he understands all too much and is no longer a loyal American. The night of the murder is the first time he and Pete Smith have met. At Connor's suggestion, they adopt a sempai/kohai (senior/junior) relationship, meaning that Pete is apparently in charge, but upon an agreed signal Connor takes over and Smith fades into the background.
  • Cheryl Lynn Austin — the murder victim. A Texas-born prostitute, party girl and one-time model in Japan, given to wearing Yamamato dresses.[6] The discovery of her body on a boardroom table on the 46th floor of the Nakamoto Tower, one floor above the high-profile opening bash, is proximate cause of the police presence — and Ishiguro's high-hand playing of the race card has already prevented the crime scene team from taking possession of the crime scene nearly one hour after their arrival.
  • Akira Tanaka — an officer of Nakamoto Security, who blithely takes digital camera footage of the crime scene while the police are still being held at bay. Later killed in a high-speed chase while driving Eddie Sakamura's car (see below).
  • Masao Ishiguro[7] — a junior executive of the Nakamoto Corporation; Ishiguro, despite speaking faultless American English, is the Japanese person who has called for the Special Liaison, claiming that Graham was behaving disrespectfully to numerous distinguished guests on the floor below where the body was discovered (including the Mayor, 2 US Senators and Pete's ex-wife). Pete quickly discerns that Ishiguro has no need of a "liaison" and is merely obstructing the investigation — suggesting that the dead girl is a "woman of no importance" — but Lieutenant Smith is little more successful than Graham in getting Nakamoto people under control until Connor steps in and uses some Japanese profanity to bring Ishiguro into line. Connor explains later to Lieutenant Smith that he did Ishiguro a favor by playing the out-of-control American, because Ishiguro was being monitored by his real boss who was likewise in the background exactly as Connor was initially.
  • Eddie Sakamura — a wealthy Japanese pimp, son of a wealthy man in Japan who owes Connor a favor, small-time drug dealer, and promoter of the interests of his father's business empire in Japan, which are directly contrary to those of Nakamoto. Sakamura was at the party, and made off with a security tape which captured the murder, with the help of Tanaka. He becomes the first murder suspect when he brags about knowing the girl, his picture is found in Cheryl's room, and is later seen present at the scene on the camera (this later is seen to be an alteration). When police go to his house, his car becomes the target of a high-speed chase that ends in a crash which seemingly kills him, but the driver is later revealed to be Akira Tanaka. Sakamura himself is later tortured and killed by Ishigura's men, but does not reveal the location of the original tape they were looking for.
  • Ellen Farley — Assistant to the Mayor, whom Pete Smith has been dating recently, who recognizes the dead girl but is unwilling to identify her.
  • Jerome Phillips — junior Nakamoto Security man on duty at the time John and Peter start their investigation, but there's been a change of shift and Ted Cole should have been on shift before him, but Phillips cannot verify that because Cole left early. By engaging Phillips in apparently irrelevant conversation, and squeezing Pete in the shoulder extremely hard to prevent him from interfering, Connor learns that the tapes from the five separate advanced security cameras that were monitoring the murder scene had been switched. They are wireless and high resolution but don't record sound.
  • Ted Cole — Smith and Connor track down Cole at the Palomino bar near LAX, where they secretly advise him to stay away from home for a few days, for his safety. Cole advises them, by way of a message on a napkin (as some Japanese bar patrons are eavesdropping) that Nakamoto/Ishiguro stole the security tapes.
  • Sen. John Morton — a senator who protests the Japanese industries' influence in America. He turns out to be Cheryl's real lover.
  • Yoshida — CEO of Akai Ceramics America, a Nakamoto subsidiary which is looking to buy MicroCon.
  • Bob Richmond — Counsel to Akai and Nakamoto, a former assistant to the U.S. Trade Representative in Japan. He attempts to get information on the investigation but Connor shrugs him off. Richmond then compares opposition by Sen. Morton to the sale, to Fujitsu's attempt to buy Fairchild Semiconductor, a company which backed Seymour Cray's supercomputer research, and calls it racist. (Connor later explains to Pete the real reason why Congress opposed this sale).
  • Professor Sanders — an imaging specialist, he and his student Theresa Asakuma[8] discover a lot about the crime from the security cameras.
  • Willy "The Weasel" Wilhelm — an unethical reporter covering the case; he is biased against the police. As Pete takes over the investigation, Wilhelm attempts to blackmail him by asking questions about the way he earned custody of his daughter. It is later revealed that he did this at the urging of Nakamoto personnel.
  • Lauren Davis — Pete's former wife and mother of his daughter. Works for the District Attorney. Rarely shows concern for her daughter, and only when Wilhelm calls her does she reveal wishes to take custody of the girl.
  • Elaine — Michelle's nanny; she hides Michelle while Pete is confronted by hitmen outside his home.

The names Iwabuchi, Moriyama, Shirai (for some of the executives in the Nakamoto boardroom) and Koichi Nishi (a pseudonym Eddie Sakamura used to aid the police) are taken from the movie The Bad Sleep Well, which is later mentioned by Connor though not by title.


Random House abridged the novel into an audiobook read by Keith Szarabajka, which ran approximately three hours.

The book was adapted into a film, the 1993 release Rising Sun starring Sean Connery as Connor, Wesley Snipes as Smith, Tia Carrere as Asakuma and Harvey Keitel as Graham. Several changes were made in adapting the story for the film. Caucasian Peter Smith was changed to African-American Webster ("Webb") Smith, Ishiguro became Ishihara, and Theresa became Jingo. Additionally, the identity of the murderer was changed from Ishiguro/Ishihara to Bob Richmond, and reflected in the solution to the film. The film received mixed reviews from critics but was a commercial success, grossing over $107 million worldwide.


Reviews for the novel were widely mixed (owing mostly to the controversial subject matter), to positive. The New York Times's Christopher Lehmann-Haupt gave the novel a mixed review, saying, "The trouble with Rising Sun is obviously that as a serious discourse on why we should begin waging economic war against Japan, the book is far too entertaining. And as an entertainment, it is far too didactic."[9]

An online reviewer called it “a completely over-the-top anti-Japan polemic--kind of like Robert Ludlum interspersed with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and that it should read only as a reminder of “how little attention you should pay to the ideological ravings of our intellectual elites.”[10]

Another critic wrote "The author claims that the Japanese are the most racist people in the world and that no foreigner will ever be viewed at the same level as a pure Japanese. All Japanese characters are portrayed badly."[11] Later it was reported that these types of reviews surprised the author. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote "he knew Rising Sun would ruffle feathers, the vehemence of the reaction came as a surprise. Challenges to his economic premise - that the United States is selling its future to Japan - failed to materialize. Instead, he recalls with obvious annoyance, American critics labelled him racist."[12]

In his Associated Press obituary his rebuttal to the criticism of Rising Sun was quoted, saying "because I'm always trying to deal with data, I went on a tour talking about it and gave a very careful argument, and their response came back, 'Well you say that but we know you're a racist.'"[13] Furthermore Crichton has gone on record as saying that he intended his novel to be a "wakeup call" to U.S. industry and that he is more critical of the United States than Japan. According to activist Guy Aoki "if that was his intention, he failed miserably,” and “what you had instead was every character going on for pages about how unfair Japanese business practices are[...] the book was a very one-sided view of what the Japanese are doing, saying that there's reason to not trust them and not like them."[14]


  1. ^ Roraback, Dick (1992-03-01). "The Conquest of America : RISING SUN, By Michael Crichton (Knopf: $22; 355 pp.)". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  2. ^ Parker, T. Jefferson (1992-07-05). "LOS ANGELES TIMES INTERVIEW : Michael Crichton : 'Rising Sun' Author Taps Darkest Fears of America's Psyche". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  3. ^ Jones, Robert A. (1992-02-12). "Japanese Bashing--a Novel Tack". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24. 
  4. ^ The novel postulates that Special Service Liaison officers are used for dealing with special situations, such as politicians, high-profile entertainers, and high-profile foreign VIPs who do not speak English. Indeed as the novel opens, Smith is trying to learn some Japanese from a language tape, but his daughter wants him to put a Mr Potato Head back together, and meanwhile still he is watching (not listening to) a Lakers game on TV. It also makes ominous claims that Japanese businesses choose SSLs if they possess checkered (yet hidden) pasts. For example, years ago, Smith found a cache of drugs (that he would be unable to legally account) while investigating a domestic disturbance, but accepted a large bribe anyway. If SSLs have these kinds of incidents in their pasts, they are more controllable—if the liaison uncovers something inconvenient, he is blackmailed with exposure to force his cooperation.
  5. ^ Detective Headquarters Division (not explained in the book).
  6. ^ She was wearing one at the time of her death, meaning that she paid between $5000 (used) and $15000 (new, not counting the trip to Tokyo to get it).
  7. ^ In keeping with Japanese custom Ishiguro is the family name but usually stated first in a Japanese context
  8. ^ Theresa is shown as partly black, partly Japanese, and partly disabled, and attracted to Pete Smith, although this is not pursued within the novel (the novel's time frame is only 2 days)
  9. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (1992-01-30). "Books of The Times; Investigating a Murder Japan Wants Unsolved". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Rising Sun (1992)". 20 September 2000. 
  11. ^ Peters, Tony (2 June 2010). "Book Review- Michael Crichton- Rising Sun". Gather Inc. 
  12. ^ Dutka, Elaine (June 13, 1993). "Racist Rap for `Rising Sun' Stuns Author".  
  13. ^ Italie, Hillel (5 November 2008). Jurassic Park' Author Michael Crichton Dies of Cancer"'". New York: Associated Press. 
  14. ^ Payne, Robert M. (March 1996). "Rising Sun: Interview with activist Guy Aoki – Total eclipse of the Sun". Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media (40): 29–37. 

External links

  • "RISING SUN By Michael Crichton (Author)".  
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