Mr. Kaor Yamamoto. The intriguing story of a mysterious Japanese man, a Volendam hotel and thousands of letters
Original title: Mr. Kaor Yamamoto. Het intrigerende verhaal van een mysterieuze Japanner, een Volendams hotel en duizenden brieven
When stories are great, you want to share them. Suddenly you hear yourself talking about them to others. “I read something…” That’s the kind of story this is. Enthusiastic writing style. A curious story that cheers you up. – Jury review of the Narrative Journalism Foundation
As a reader, you soon become just as fascinated by these strange occurrences as Boon. Partly because of his prose: the story is a stylistic gem. Like a novelist, he describes his search for Mr. Kaor Yamamoto in a very personal way. The quest provides all the ingredients for an excellent page-turner, according to the jury. – Jury review of the Mercurs 2019
According to Blende Mr. Kaor Yamamoto is one of the most intriguing stories of the year and we couldn’t agree more. It reads like a work of fiction. – Linda.nl
It is extraordinary for a journalist to get so much time to write about something that – according to all rules of journalism – isn’t worth writing about. For forty years a hotel in the city of Volendam receives letters from Japan, but why? has no ‘social relevance’ whatsoever. The story doesn’t reveal anything. There are no injustices or scandals. There are no horrific details about crimes, accidents or disasters. Why do people read this? It challenges a widespread assumption: people don’t read long stories anymore. After all: people are reading less, they don’t have time, they have a thirty-second attention span, etc. Mr. Kaor Yamamoto proves them all wrong. It moved me. But why? Hard to say. I suspect it has something to do with something the American writer Heather Havrilesky calls ‘The Miracle of the mundane’. You know it in your heart. Deep down, if you look past your fears, worries and the struggles of everyday life there is a creature made of beautiful colors. And there comes a moment, no matter how imperfect, and you think: this is what it’s all about. – De Limburger
High-level narrative journalism about a cheerful mystery. – Nbd biblion
The best story of the year. – Ester Naomi Perquin, Dutch author
Reads like an exciting detective. – NH Nieuws
I could read a really big novel here. – Hebban.nl
For years, a hotel in the Dutch city of Volendam has been receiving handwritten letters from a certain Mr. Kaor Yamamoto. Sometimes they receive four in one week. Occasionally, the letters contain a sample of a Japanese shampoo or cream, without any further explanation. The hotel staff throws them away unopened. They are always the same. “Dear Sirs, how are you and How is the weather?” Is the opening of every single one of them. On the bottom there is an autograph in a scratchy handwriting, written with a black pen – “Yours sincerely, Mr. Kaor.”
Who is – or hides behind the name – Mr. Kaor Yamamoto? Why does he write these letters? Why is the message of all the letters identical? Journalist Lex Boon decided to investigate this story, and with the help of the hotel manager, a woman from Amsterdam with the same name and a young artist, he goes on a search for the mysterious writer behind these letters. They find him in the village of Iza, on the Japanese island of Shikoku.
A shorter version of this story appeared in the Dutch paper Het Parool and won a Mercur Prize for best journalism of 2019. The Narrative Journalism Foundation agrees and considers the story to be one of the ‘best pieces of narrative journalism’ of the year.
- English sample available