Japanese Literature

Throughout this course, we explored readings that have not only expanded our vision into the world of individuals, but also the different ways in which people view the world. The different authors we have studied have given us the opportunity to take a peek into the struggles that people are facing and the ways in which certain characters become disconnected from the world.

We have also been able to look at the ways in which individuals in the society develop the skills that enable them to deal with their problems. It has been possible for us to observe that characters from various cultural background and with different upbringing struggle with the same issues which, in some ways, are interconnected.

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The texts have enabled us to visualize the indirect ways in which individuals are interlaced with each other’s lives as well as the ways in which they can be connected. The readings have also exposed the reasons explaining why family members and people who have grown up together cannot understand what one of them is going through. Perhaps, this is because they do not share certain variables that help shape their identity and worldviews.

Though one may judge the other, this judgment is often done without being aware of what influences the thoughts of that individual. There are moments when the authors of some stories make us want to reach out and interact with the protagonists and show them the mistakes they inflict on themselves. We see how some characters are scared of facing the reality that awaits them and, as a reaction, preclude themselves from the others and society and box themselves into a world where they can feel safe and protected.

We also see how some individuals interact with the people who surround them in building a kinship that gives them the strength to face the reality. They can open the doors into a world that they have not seen before. In this essay, we will explore the different stories where the characters struggle to deal with their lives or have accepted life as a failure, or fight to face reality.

We will explore the ways in which the interconnections between people can either benefit some characters or hurt the others. It will be established that reaching out to some people can sometimes help them find out something they have been unaware of. We will also show how relations can save lives in some cases and in others, how they destroy them.

In some of these stories, we come across the characters scared to face the problems, or overwhelmed by the difficulties in their lives. Such individuals choose to box themselves in an imaginable place where they can feel free and create a world of their own.

This is the world in which they are the creators as well as the managers, and can, therefore, maintain control over their lives. However, we are often made aware that by doing so, they inflict pain on themselves by convincing themselves that this lie is real and the only means of securing their emotions is by having a distraction.

In Missing, the woman feels the pain of desertion when her husband leaves for another female. This stirs up her hatred toward the male sex, which is motivated by her fear of getting hurt.

This is an example in which the protagonist is left wounded and scared even to take a risk of re-connecting with the others, especially with males. She invests her emotions into her daughter, envisioning her life in hers. Throughout the story, she claims that she does not want to goof up in her daughter’s upbringing making the first one follow in her footsteps repeating her mistakes.

However, as the audience, we observe her resentment toward her daughter getting into a relationship with a male which is partly because she does not want to be left alone. She is scared of losing her daughter, clings onto her and considers her the last hope of sanity she has. When her daughter, for example, asks her mother who cuddled her when she was young, she answers: “Only me…..I was the only one who cuddled you” (Ogawa & Snyder 81).

In The Quirk, the woman convinces herself that she lives a normal life because she carries through the role of a mother and works by going to clean the house. This is considered a systematic way of believing that one is normal. This is a woman who has not yet accepted that her life is broken because of her fears to face the reality and to know the truth about herself. She fails to proceed building a new life. She remains stagnant with the fear of loosing her daughter who hides her actual fears in the world.

In After Dark by Haruki Murakami, the character Takahashi is a musician who has chosen to delve into law. On speaking to Mari during one of their meetings, he discloses an experience he had once in court when he saw a man handed down a death penalty. On reaching home, a great pain engulfs him when he thinks of the man whose life was going to be taken away.

He explains to Mari that having faced the fact that he was going to have to endure more of these cases in the future, he would need to find a way to detach from the emotions. Just as in the case of the woman in Missing, trying to stop feeling the pain of guilt towards this man, he sees emotion in a form of an octopus with different tentacles leading to ‘darkness’.

This is his way of managing the pain and guilt he would endure when it dawns on him that he may be responsible for somebody’s death. This reaction is similarly escapist because it does not solve the real problem (Hashimoto 34).

In other stories, we see some characters who escape the reality by entering another world in which they are actually out of control. This is the world of sleep. In After Dark, Eri enters a world of sleep. The audience is aware that the reason for which Eri chooses to disconnect from the society and enter the world of sleep is that she does not want to come to terms with reality.

She can not live with her loss as a normal person. It also shows that she is consumed in her selfishness while her inability to listen to what the others are saying displays that she does not want to connect with them. She, therefore, boxes herself out.

Mari constantly describes her as ‘the beautiful sister’ who had attention from her parents, was modeling in magazines, and was always regarded as the best example to be emulated (Murakumi 152). However, this lifestyle spoils Eri and allows her to think only of herself. This makes her selfish, and when she finds out that she has lost touch with reality and cannot reconnect with the normal human life, she goes into a long deep sleep.

The kind of superficial life she has lived alienates her from the normal human life and by extension, from having some human relationships. When Mari speaks to Korigi who tells her that she is running away from something and feels happy only when she is asleep, Mari makes everything clear and assists Korigi to realize that she is actually running away from reality. This conversation gives Mari some insight into the reasons behind Mari’s constant falling into a state of slumber.

Having a sister can make one feel as if life is easy for them until they realize that the life planned out for their sister may not have had the same outlook as the one predestined for them.

In After Dark, Mari goes through her life repeating the same events as she visits to the same places at the same time and knows that there is a comfort zone around. Without acknowledging the issues Eri may be developing, she feels unlucky because she does not look like a model, and on detaching from her hopes of being like her sister, she starts building on her world as a working woman.

She says, “from the time I was little, though, my parents always told me I’d better work hard, because I am too ugly for anything else” (Marikumi 119). This hopelessness that has been impeded on her makes her aware of her future in the world and provokes her to build a wall around her (Bernstein 31).

In Clearing the Thickets, we similarly see a younger sister who looks up to her older sister. However, on being deprived of the attention from her sister and her mother, she refuses to confront the world at present and connects with an imaginable world in the garden where she is able to feel as though she belongs to something, and this in return embodies her. In Pregnancy Diaries, the younger sister is unaware of her attachment to her older sister.

When she sees her losing her appetite and grip of reality, she starts to associate the life living inside of her to that of any other responsible person. She begins to cook the meals her sister craves. Meanwhile, she begins developing anger towards everything that inflicts pain on her sister. Throughout the process of taking care of her sister, she recollects memories where they spent their time together.

Within the stories we have studied, we also see instances in which the characters are not able to identify with each other due to their lack of understanding of the thoughts behind their actions. In Clearing of the Thickets, we are shown a family of two sisters and a mother. The younger daughter has created a world for herself different from the one she shares with her family. However, her undisclosed desires and secret life seem puzzling to the other members of her family.

They do not understand the reason for which she is so introverted and disconnected from the rest of the world. Their lack of understanding is caused by the fact that they have not experienced the same feelings that she does. As a result, they are confused by her actions. In her retrospect, she chooses to run away from the pain of living a life deficient of attention (Atwill 21).

In Yoko, we similarly see a girl who is an amateur to the rural world; and as a way to deal with her upbringing, she chooses to connect with the urban world. She decides to reunite one with nature and allow herself to become embedded with the environment that grows around her. Mr. S, who comes into her life in the future, finds her stranded on a pile of rocks that are on the verge of falling down onto her.

He saves her life and after that, he works to help her fuse into an urban world. He teaches her how to get to places and find her way around. However, in doing so, he lacks understanding of why she behaves the way she does and what made her become like this (Armstrong 45).

In certain books such as Yoko, the author does not only allow us to see how words are lost in translation between the different characters, but he also allows us to understand the reasons due to which the characters are different and behave towards the world around them respectively. We are able to observe how, in Yoko’s upbringing, she wants to distinguish herself from her older sister and live a life that is not so formulaic, though we also see how in Mr. S’s life, he lives a classic role as a working man adapted to a working world (Ansari 34).

In Pregnancy Diaries, we meet two sisters who have grown up together. In their upbringing, they never had confusion or doubt about each other’s identity. However, when one of the sisters gets pregnant, the other one is confused as to how she is feeling. At first, she thinks it is just a phase but after a while, her concern for her sister grows and she blames the life that is inside of her for causing her to suffer.

Her lack of understanding and ability to communicate with her sister causes her to hate someone who is not even born. We can also say this similar to the case in Missing as the mother is unable to communicate or understand what is happening with her daughter and so, assumes that she is suffering.

In After Dark, Mari has been always certain that her sister lives a perfect life without ever questioning the possibility that she may be enduring a lot of pain. When she comes to realize that with age, her sister’s beauty has deceived her, she also becomes suddenly aware of the pain that has traveled through her and the reasons for which she sleeps as often as she does.

In certain books, we are also made aware of how the connection between characters helps them focus on and solve the problems that they are going through in their lives.

There is a way in which one character can help the other open up and do some things they are not able to do. By simply getting in touch with each other, characters can discover things about the world that they have not known before. For instance, in Dormitory, we see the girl who feels responsible for the health of the old man who lives in the dormitory (Kojima & Tanaka 148).

As the number of her visits increases, she begins to feel an attachment to him and an attraction to his knowledge of the world. She wants to learn from him, and by doing so, she feels she is reconnecting with a part of the world that she did not know. However, as this is happening, she is loosing grasp on her marriage.

Her husband writes her ‘to do lists’, but her feelings towards meeting these expectations change as she becomes more interested in her connection with the old man and her curiosity of the world to which he belongs. This shows how, by opening up a part of her, this character is also letting go another part of her life.

In other cases, involving a two-way connection, one character can influence the others and help them get involved in a world that is more like theirs, and can help them see things that they were not aware of before. In Yoko, Yoko allows Mr. S to see beyond the boundaries of a man-made world and meet the life that involves him looking out of the window and onto what is happening on the outside. In return, Mr. S helps Yoko understand how to find her way around the man-made world.

He teaches her how to get from one place to another, how to enter coffee shops and how to understand the ways in which society works. She pulls him out of his repetitive life, while he, on the other hand, brings her back down to earth (Tsushima 87). It also shows how in a world of repetition, there can be a singularity, and this can mean a bond between two people. He pulls her out of her box and forces her to face her fears, and in return, she shows him the reasons of her fears (Antloev and Hellman 45).

In After Dark, we are often shown the slight connections between the characters and how either their experiences or the things they have encountered influence other individuals. We are also able to establish how certain characters may have so much in common but never encounter each other.

Throughout the book, we hope that they will bump into each other. In After Dark, Murakami shows us the way in which the characters go through a lot of similar situations. He proves that sometimes, to make things happen, it requires someone else’s involvement in their lives in order to reconcile the relations between two people. For instance, Mari’s acknowledgment of her sister Eri and her curiosity of Eri’s life is awakened once she acquaints herself with Takahashi.

Takahashi’s confesses that he had a conversation with Eri in which she revealed her feelings towards her family and Mari. On hearing this, Mari becomes awakened and apprehensive of the changes in her sister. In other cases, we see characters that suffer from the same problems and go through the same troubles but are never able to encounter someone to talk about the fears they have faced.

Works Cited

Ansari, Sarah. Life after Partition: Migration, Community and Strife in Sindh : 1947-1962. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Antloev, Hans and Joergen Hellman. The Java That Never Was: Academic Theories and Political Practices. (Southeast Asian dynamics, no. v.2). Germany: Lit Verlag, 2005. Print.

Armstrong, Charles. Korea at the Center: Dynamics of Regionalism in Northeast Asia. U.S.: M E Sharpe, 2006. Print.

Atwill, David. The Chinese Sultanate: Islam, Ethnicity and the Panthay Rebellion in Southwest China, 1856-1873. U.S.: Stanford University Press, 2006. Print.

Bernstein, Andrew. Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics and Social Change in Imperial Japan. U.S.: University of Hawaii Press, 2006. Print.

Hashimoto, Ryutaro. Waga Kyochu Ni Seisaku Arite = Vision of Japan. Tokyo: KK Besuto Serazu, 1993. Print.

Kojima, Nobuo, and Yukiko Tanaka. Embracing Family. Japan: Dalkey Archive Press, 2005. Print.

Murakumi, Haruki. After Dark. Japan: Kadonisha, 2007. Print.

Ogawa, Yoko, and Stephen Snyder. The Diving Pool: Three Novellas. News York: Picador, 2008. Print.

Tsushima, Yuko. The Shooting Gallery (Pantheon Modern Writers). New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. Print.

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