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On Memory: New Japanese Writing

March 2015

Image: T. Enami, No. S-562 Mt. Fuji Viewed from Lake Yamanaka, and its Reflection. Ca.1907

Image: T. Enami, No. S-562 Mt. Fuji Viewed from Lake Yamanaka, and its Reflection. Ca.1907

This month we present new writing on memory from Japan, guest edited and introduced by David Karashima. From nationwide disasters to childhood trauma, in tranquil remembrance and merciless flashback, ten contemporary writers consider the role and the power of national and personal memory. Mitsuyo Kakuta tells an intimate yet chilling tale about a beauty’s dark secret. Akutagawa Prize-winner Natsuko Kuroda turns to tradition to keep the dead alive through memory. In two stories of widowers, Kyoko Nakajima shows a man rediscovering his wife in the kitchen, and Toshiyuki Horie sends an elderly bowling alley owner down Memory Lane. The sudden noise of a window breaking in the night shatters Shun Medoruma’s narrator. In two stories of journeys, Matsuie Masashi’s old woman wanders through the city and into the past, and Meiko Kawakami’s floundering young woman sets off to fulfill a teenage promise. Keiichiro Hirano’s bullied schoolboy finds himself trapped in a recurring nightmare. Hideo Furukawa sees rogue fruit infecting people with memories that threaten to “corrupt public morals.” And Yoko Tawada imagines all of Japan rendered uninhabitable by a contamination of a different kind. We hope you’ll enjoy this, well, memorable work. We thank the British Centre for Literary Translation and the Nippon Foundation for their generous support.

On Memory: New Writing from Japan
By David Karashima
We have recently been made increasingly aware of the everyday failings of our own memories.
Mihama Nuclear Power Plant
Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Far Shore
By Yoko Tawada
In Yoko Tawada’s dystopian tale, the entire Japanese archipelago is rendered uninhabitable when a fighter plane piloted by a teenager loses control and crashes into a recently reactivated nuclear plant.
Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles
The Memory
By Mitsuyo Kakuta
And then what did you do, he asked, and she said, I watched.
Translated from Japanese by Polly Barton
By Hideo Furukawa
We simply couldn’t tolerate rogue fruit infiltrating Tokyo and corrupting public morals.
Translated from Japanese by David Boyd
When My Wife Was a Shiitake
By Kyoko Nakajima
“When you hold an egg in your hand, its memories are communicated to you through its shell, you know.”
Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
By Shun Medoruma
The fragments of the girl come tumbling down.
Translated from Japanese by Sam Malissa
The Trapped Boy
By Keiichiro Hirano
I watch the city lose its shape like a dripping watercolor.
Translated from Japanese by David Karashima
Stance Dots
By Toshiyuki Horie
Not once in his bowling alley had he heard that special, unforgettable sound.
Translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Telegraph Pole
By Masashi Matsuie
The bus stop by the train station had moved. It was further away.
Translated from Japanese by Michael Emmerich
Where Have All the Sundays Gone?
By Mieko Kawakami
No matter how old I become, I will still go on like this, not knowing.
Translated from Japanese by Hitomi Yoshio
By Natsuko Kuroda
The flowers depicted, which must have differed from one to the next, are also hazy.
Translated from Japanese by Asa Yoneda