PostModern Japan Forum: Who is [more] Japanese?

Post
Modern Japan


Earl
Jackson, Jr.


talkingcure2000@aol.com

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Postmodern Japan Forum Two

 

From: Mercury

Re:(who is more japanese? (are
you kidding?)

I wasn’t in class the day this question
was asked: Who is more Japanese, Oe
Kenzaburo
or Murakami
Haruki
? But I’d like to address this question. 

The idea that there are degrees of
Japaneseness is ridiculous, I think. That implies that there is something
we can measure and quantify in terms of ethnicity. It is a dangerous question,
it is the type of question that led Hitler to exterminate 6 million German
Jews. It is the kind of question, that by merely being asked, leads to
the discrimination of Okinawans on the part of „mainstream“ Japanese. 

But
to attempt to answer the question: in terms of these authors in particular,
clearly we ARE dealing with two writers who came into fruition at different
times and in different circumstances. Oe is definitely more Showa than
Murakami, if that makes any sense. But Murakami’s alienated, dropped-out
protagonists and his constant references to Western culture (be it pop
or high) do represent Japan. Just look at his sales figures, folks. 4 million
copies of Norwegian Wood, recipient of almost all the major literary prizers
his country has to offer. And he’s nearly as popular in America. I’m explicitly
defining my answer to this question in terms of size of Murakami’s reading
audience because it shows that contemporary middle-aged and younger Japanese
people relate to his work at least as well (and I’d venture to say quite
a few of them relate to him better) than they do Oe’s. 

Perhaps these would be better questions
to ask and atempt to answer:

Does Oe confront us more strongly with
the idea of an „other“ than Murakami does? In what way? Do we relate to
Murakami
better than we relate to Oe? Do Murakami’s references to
American popular culture
and his general [post]modern ennui reduce
our internalized colonialist anxieties? 

-Merc

 

From: Matt Picoloa

Subject: Re:  Who is more Japanese?

Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 00:00:14 -0400

 


I think that Who is more Japanese
is a good question to ask in this

class
because it tests our idea of Japaneseness. It was nice that

people just answered it because they
were being honest about which

text they experienced as more Japanese,
or at least more

disorienting.

In class I responded to this question
with the attempted

explanation that people in the class
found Oe to be „more Japanese“

(they said that didn’t they?) because
of the sexual imagery in his

novels. I brought up Prize Stock and
I was greeted with

„What sexual imagery?“

„Yeah. Go watch Birth of a Nation.“

So with hopes of a more wordy, drawn-out
dismissal
(hyper link

that,
earl :)
here is what I was trying to get at.

I am aware that in western culture
the black man’s body is a site

of persecution in part because it has
been represented as hyper-

sexual, possessing beastly virility.
But in the myth of the black

rapist this construction of the black
man’s body is supposedly a

criminal or moral indictment, standing
against rape or violence

against women (yes?).

 


Oe’s Prize Stock on the other hand
directly confronts the black

soldier’s „magnificent heroic unbelieveably
beautiful penis.“ You

would be hard pressed to find a black-rapist
narrative from the

U.S. that confronts the black penis
this directly (wouldn’t you?).

I still haven’t seen it (the movie!),
but I doubt that Birth of a

Nation gives that kind of direct attention
to the black penis

,itself. (Does it?)

Oedipal sex is also adressed in way
that may be more direct than

we are used to in Oe. In Wipe My Tears
the narrator says flat out

that he should make babies with his
mom and he uses his mom’s words

to get it up with his girlfriend.

I know I am getting into very dangerous
ground here since as a

class we haven’t agreed on a PC way
to apply Freudian theory to the

texts without becoming literary colonizers.

I think that the Japanese texts that
we have seen so far have

confronted sex in a way that some of
us are not used to. Oe may

have seemed more „Japanese“ (or at
least disorienting) than

Murikami to people in class because
the latter only nominally

adresses sex in the stories we have
read so far (the three stories

from elephant vanishes and the first
chapter of wild sheep).

I do not want to say that the Japanese
are different than us

psycho-sexually. I’m not ready for
that kind of commitment. I would

argue though that the Monday night
viewers of Picnic were

incredulous upon hearing that it was
a made for TV movie

originally,
because in part of the vigourously masturbating roommate

and the teacher who pissed out of an
8 pronged dick.

James Matt Picola

 

 

From: D. L. Anderson

Re: Who is More Japanese?

„I wasn’t in class the day this question
was asked: Who is more Japanese, Oe

Kenzaburo or Murakami Haruki? But
I’d like to address this question.“

Yes, the question was tongue-in-cheek,
meant to provoke us into realizing 

how problematic the idea was…

„The idea that there are degrees of
Japaneseness is ridiculous, I think. 

That

implies that there is something we
can measure and quantify in terms of

ethnicity. It is a dangerous question,
it is the type of question that led

Hitler to exterminate 6 million German
Jews. It is the kind of question, 

that

by merely being asked, leads to the
discrimination of Okinawans on the part

of „mainstream“ Japanese.“

Would you deny that there is a such
thing as „Japaneseness?“ The question 

that we should ask is what constitutes
„Japaneseness,“ what does 

„Japaneseness“ signify? For us? For
them? To reduce „Japaneseness“ to an 

either/or duality immediately seems
to be drastic. We should look closely at 

the question of degrees of „Japaneseness“
(if we allow the concept to exist 

at all); the Okinawans, for instance,
are a part of Japan (geographically 

and historically), and „Japanese,“
while at the same time vehemently 

claiming an otherness, an alienated,
outsider status (that the mainland is 

happy to agree with). Not that the
„Okinawans“ are a unified group, but from 

the Fields reading there is a tension
between their „Japaneseness“ and their 

„non-Japaneseness.“ What determines
„(blank)ness“ anyway, and why can’t 

-ness be a degree? There are degrees
of „redness,“ „heat,“ „loudness,“ and 

so on (these are all „physical“ characteristics
and can be both 

„subjectively“ and „objectively“ measured
[cherry red as opposed to 

almost-pink, cool as opposed to sweltering,
soft flute as opposed to jet 

engine, while „objectively“ you can
say x reflects light in the infrared as 

opposed to y which reflects ultraviolet,
70 degrees as opposed to 98, 35 dB 

as opposed to 100 dB]. Ultimately
the „-ness“ signifier calls upon certain 

signifieds – would matching more of
the signifieds lead to a greater degree 

of „-ness“? And since we’re talking
about signifieds, that introduces 

linguistic uncertainty – since no
two subject’s idea of a signified is 

exactly the same. And this uncertainty
is working on several levels – my 

signifieds for „Japanesenes,“ x,y,z,
are different from your signifieds 

x,y,z – but this is a moot point because
your signifieds for „Japaneseness“ 

are a,b,c, and not only that, but
the signifieds that my reading of Oe 

produces are d,e,f, while yours are
g,h,i. Without a common 

pseudo-definition of „Japaneseness,“
we can’t talk about the same thing. 

Once we do decide on what „Japaneseness“
is, then the question of 

attributing degrees of „Japaneseness“
arises. Can „Japaneseness“ exist as a 

duality when what constitutes it is
so uncertain? Can „Japaneseness“ exist? 

Should we even be talking about it?

„But to attempt to answer the question:
in terms of these authors in

particular, clearly we ARE dealing
with two writers who came into fruition 

at

different times and in different circumstances.“

In class, Prof. Jackson said that
these writers are contemporaries, so 

although they grew up in different
times and circumstances they are not so 

very far apart from each other.

 

 

„Oe is definitely more Showa

than Murakami, if that makes any sense.
But Murakami’s alienated, 

dropped-out

protagonists and his constant references
to Western culture (be it pop or

high) do represent Japan.

Just look at his sales figures, folks.
4 million

copies of Norwegian
Wood
, recipient of almost all the major literary prizers

his country has to offer. And he’s
nearly as popular in America.

I’m

explicitly defining my answer to this
question in terms of size of 

Murakami’s

reading audience because it shows
that contemporary middle-aged and younger

Japanese people relate to his work
at least as well (and I’d venture to say

quite a few of them relate to him
better) than they do Oe’s.“

 

oo

Represent
Japan
?“ Do you mean he really represents Japan, or creates a 

fiction called „Japan“ that is supposed
to represent the Real Japan? Who is 

his work supposed to be representing
„Japan“ to? The „Japan“ that Japan 

wants to imagine itself as? The „Japan“
that America wants to imagine Japan 

as? Since you bring up issues of popularity
and people „relating“ to the 

text in relation to „Japaneseness,“
these are valid questions. What do 

degrees of „relation“ have to do with
making a writer „Japanese,“ or 

„not-Japanese,“ or „more Japanese?“


„Perhaps these would be better questions
to ask and atempt to answer:

Does Oe confront us more strongly
with the idea of an „other“ than Murakami

does? In what way? Do we relate to
Murakami better than we relate to Oe? Do

Murakami’s references to American
popular culture and his general

[post]modern ennui reduce our internalized
colonialist anxieties?“

s Oe representing a „real“ Japan
that we don’t want to see, so we declare 

him to be „less Japanese“ than Murakami?
Is Murakami more intelligibly 

„Japanese“ or „not Japanese“ because
he introduces „Americanness“ (the 

specter of global capitalism lurking
in its shadows) into his texts, 

creating a „Japan“ that we can recognize
and relate to more comfortably 

because of our „shared context,“ as
opposed to Oe’s more difficult 

(narratively and historically) „Japan?“
Does Oe get „Japanese cred“ because 

he seems to be more „Japanese,“ leaving
out pop culture references to 

„American“ products and focusing more
on a pre-Occupation Japan (note: I’ve 

only read three stories, so I have
to generalize Oe down to what I’ve read) 


or postwar Japan without so much
postmodern capitalist globalization 


„American“ signifiers? 

 

Or does he
seem less „Japanese“ since he writes in such a difficult manner, confusing
readers instead of making a more transparent „Japan“ for us to consume?

I wish I had answers, but all I can
think of are more questions.

D.J. Anderson

 

 

Conversations
with Oe Kenzaburo
Murakami
Haruki biography
Oe
Kenzaburo’s Nobel Prize Lecture
Murakami
Haruki, Raymond Carver and the American Scene
A
Japanese Page on Murakami Haruki [very good but in Japanese only]
An
Untitled Essay on Murakami by Gareth Edwards
List
of Oe’s Works
Roll
Over Basho: Who Japan is Reading
Publisher’s
Weekly Interview
Hiroshima
Notes Excerpt
Murakami
Bibliography [in English]


Post-Modern
Japan Forum One
Post-Modern
Japan Forum Two
Post-Modern
Japan Forum Four
Post-Modern
Japan F
orum Three
Post-Modern
Japan Forum Five
Post-Modern
Japan Forum Six

Post
Modern Japan


Earl
Jackson, Jr.


talkingcure2000@aol.com

Yen
Economies


Variations
Without A Theme


Another
Scene