Inferno in Tokyo — “The Imagination Station” Series


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Book Review

Inferno in Tokyo by Marianne Hering has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 20th book in the “Imagination Station” series.

Plot Summary

Patrick and Beth travel in an older Imagination Station to find Nicholas Tesla. When they land, a tsunami causes the Imagination Station to turn upside down, and it becomes stuck in lock-down mode. The cousins can’t get out.

A wave lifts the Imagination Station and carries it inland. It lands upright. A man appears, and one door magically opens. The man tells them to run. They run with him as water rushes inland. The Imagination Station is pulled under water.

As they run, Patrick and Beth see that houses are on fire and many people are running for their lives, too. The man running with them introduces himself as Toyohiko Kagawa. They reach a bridge. Crowds of people are struggling to cross it.

Mr. Kagawa tries to organize the people into lanes. When another tremor occurs, people fall into the water. A pink bundle rolls toward Patrick on the bridge. He grabs it. A baby holding a wooden doll is inside.

Beth gets across the bridge, but Patrick and Mr. Kagawa don’t. People have fallen into the river. Beth makes her way down a steep bluff and sees Mr. Kagawa. He points to the collapsed bridge. Patrick is in the river holding a pink blanket in his arms, which makes it hard for him to swim.

Beth plunges into the water to help him. There is a trumpet-like blast, as an elephant with a man on his back charges into the river and saves Patrick and the baby. The man and animal deposit Patrick on dry ground and leave.

Patrick sees Beth in the water hanging onto a branch. Mr. Kagawa and Patrick rescue her. Mr. Kagawa intends to take them to the American Embassy so their parents can find them.

A man holding an elephant by a chain appears. Patrick thanks Mr. Fukui, who is a zookeeper, for saving him. Patrick and Beth pet the elephant, whose name is Zou. Mr. Fukui is sad that he could not save the other animals in his zoo.

They all walk to the Shinto temple. Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion. Mr. Kagawa is not Shinto; he is a member of the Friends of Jesus movement. Zou suddenly bolts away from them and runs toward a pond, scaring everyone. The elephant takes a drink, which calms him.

Mr. Kagawa tries to enter the locked gate of the temple. He doesn’t understand why the temple priest isn’t helping people. The priest speaks with him and then leaves to sacrifice to Kami, the god of wind and fire.

Another aftershock shakes the earth and wakes up the baby Patrick has rescued. She waves her doll. Patrick remembers that Chibi-chan means “short stuff” in Japanese and calls the baby that name. A woman wants to hold Chibi-chan but Patrick refuses. She becomes violent and scares Patrick. Others try to grab the baby. The elephant sprays the woman, and she and the crowd move away from Patrick.

But once again the woman rushes toward Patrick. Mr. Kagawa talks to her. He learns that the woman’s baby died in a fire. Mr. Kagawa and the Friends of Jesus will help feed her and others as they preach the Gospel. Mr. Kagawa leads Patrick and Beth into a wealthier area of Tokyo.

Beth sees the embassy flying a mostly burned American flag. The upstairs of the embassy is ablaze. A well-dressed woman is looking for her husband, the ambassador, and his aides. Men carry boxes containing important papers out of the embassy. One in a military uniform tells them that Ambassador Woods is injured but at the Imperial Hotel.

At the Imperial Hotel, men try to put out fires around the hotel’s garden. Mr. Inumaru, the hotel’s manager, recognizes Mr. Kagawa. Mr. Kagawa and Patrick offer to help the hotel staff. They are especially busy because the Crown Prince Hirohito will visit.

Beth stays with Mrs. Woods and the baby, but Beth feels left out. Chibi-chan drops her doll, breaking it open. It’s a nesting doll, but the smaller doll that should be on the inside is missing. Beth snaps the doll together.

Patrick enters the hot kitchen, and Mr. Inumaru, the hote’s manager, shows him how to prepare 10,000 rice balls to feed the people. Beth leaves Chibi-chan with Mrs. Woods and goes upstairs where she finds a room on fire. She tells Maj. Burnett in room 230 about the fire, and he helps to put it out.

Patrick, who continues to make rice balls, leaves the kitchen to help when he hears there is a fire in the hotel. Sparks have ignited the curtains in room 208 because the window was open. While others put out that fire, Patrick and Beth begin taking down the curtains in 40 other rooms. Out of one window, Patrick sees a man on a white horse talking with Mr. Kagawa. Men are standing around them with rifles.

The man is the Crown Prince. Maj. Burnett wants to meet the prince. Patrick and Beth follow him into a room full of journalists. Mr. Inumaru and the prince are on a platform with a podium. A soldier steps up to the podium and says the emperor and empress are safely out of the city.

The Crown Prince explains that the hotel will house the foreigners and feed everyone. The navy will bring supplies. Maj. Burnett says U.S. ships will bring food and help transport refugees to safer areas. Another tremor shakes the ground.

Patrick begins to feel tired from working so hard making rice balls and helping to put fires out. He falls asleep against a wall. Suddenly he hears the prince say the name Tesla twice. He turns to Beth and says they forgot all about finding Mr. Tesla. Beth realizes this is true. Then the prince asks Mr. Kagawa to speak to the crowd.

Patrick and Beth do not understand why Mr. Kagawa is asked to speak. His clothes are dirty and torn; he looks bedraggled next to the others. The prince asks Mr. Kagawa to help the refugees and help the police to keep the peace and avoid riots. Mr. Kagawa’s life work is to help the poor by organizing farmers and factory workers. He says the YMCA, American Christian mission agencies and the Red Cross will help them.

Guards protect the hotel, housing several thousand guests, sleeping six people to a room. Beth is glad she is in a safe place and prays a prayer of thanks to God. Beth and Patrick try to find Mr. Kagawa to ask him about Tesla. They are advised by the Dutch ambassador not to go outside because of the tornado-like wind. He tells them to stay away from the scoundrel Kagawa because he is a union man. Beth and Patrick do not know what that means. The fire in the city grows worse, and it begins heading toward the hotel, but the hotel’s copper roof is fireproof.

Patrick, Chibi-chan and Beth go to sleep on the floor of one of the rooms. Later, Mrs. Woods explains that a union man is someone who gets paid for organizing labor groups. Mr. Kagawa is like a pastor who helps the laborers organize. He doesn’t get paid; instead, he gives money away.

Mr. Inumaru gives Patrick, Beth and Chibi-chan a tin of canned meat provided by the U. S. Navy. Mr. Inumaru needs their help with the Tesla generator because all the kitchen stoves are electric. Mr. Tesla is in New York, but one of his generators is here. The prince wants the generator to start working. Beth goes with Mr. Inumaru, and Patrick stays with Chibi-chan. Mr. Inumaru finds the generator on the patio. It is in disrepair. Japanese soldiers are working on it.

Mr. Kagawa and hotel staff hand out rice balls in the garden. A missionary is coming to take the lost children. Patrick looks for Chibi-chan’s parents so she won’t have to go with the missionary. He lets a sumo wrestler play with Chibi-chan. Then the child is given to Beth.

A trumpet blast sounds. The zookeeper and elephant arrive. A crowd of refugees surrounds them. A boy suddenly appears and rushes to Beth. He pulls the missing nesting doll out of his pocket. He is with a woman in a white scarf and a man leaning on a crutch. They are Chibi-chan’s parents.

Mr. Kagawa speaks to them. Chibi-chan’s real name is Miho. Miho’s parents, the Itos, agree to listen to more about Jesus and how Jesus will care for Miho for all eternity.

Patrick and Beth return to the kitchen to roll 10,000 more rice balls. A grinning Mr. Kagawa enters the kitchen and tells them the U.S. Navy sent them a gift. They put it in the garden. It’s the dirty and damaged Imagination Station, with no battery power. Mr. Inumaru grabs the crank from the Imagination Station and churns it several times. A light comes on inside. Then a burst of light explodes from the headlights. Inside is Mr. Tesla.

Christian Beliefs

Patrick prays for God’s help during the earthquake. Beth prays a prayer of thanks to God for her safety. She knows God will heal the woman’s heart whose baby died. Mr. Kagawa belongs to the Friends of Jesus and tells a Shinto priest he needs to show mercy to orphans and widows.

Mr. Kagawa says the Friends of Jesus will soon arrive to provide tents and supplies as well as share God’s message of hope with the refuges. When Beth wonders if the people will want to hear about Jesus, Mr. Kagawa reminds her that the Christian’s job is to show love and share the Gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can help someone make the decision to believe. Patrick recalls that even the people Jesus fed didn’t all follow His teachings. Mr. Kagawa is happy that the lost baby’s parents are open to hearing more about Jesus.

Other Belief Systems

The kids and Mr. Kagawa come to a Shinto temple. Mr. Kagawa says Shinto is the ancient religion of the Japanese and explains that Shinto means “the way to the gods.” The many gods of the religion, called kami, are more like spirits of nature than people. Mr. Kagawa urges the Shinto priest to take care of the poor. The priest refuses to let the refugees into the temple because he doesn’t want them to pollute it. He says the kami will help the people. He says the kami are angry, and he must go make sacrifices to them.

Authority Roles

Mr. Kagawa helps others and gives money generously. The kids learn he became an author while in prison. The American ambassador warns the kids to watch out for Mr. Kagawa, saying he is dangerous because he’s a union man. But Mr. Kagawa tries to look out for all he meets who are in trouble. He shares of his time and resources, and he also shares about Jesus. The Crown Prince of Japan helps his people during the crisis.

Profanity & Violence

The tsunami and a collapsed bridge kill people. A woman becomes violent and tries to grab baby Miho from Patrick. She lost her baby in the disasters.

Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments

Smoking: The reporters covering the earthquake all smoke cigars and cigarettes while typing their stories.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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