Murakami Haruki and Tawada Yōko: Narrativising Cultural Traumas in A Transcultural Space

Ms Laura Clark1

1The University Of Queensland, Australia

In the wake of major natural and man-made disasters, authors face the challenge of trying to confront and narrativize traumatic events beyond their own lived experiences. This paper compares two very different attempts: Murakami Haruki’s post-Kobe Earthquake short-story collection after the quake (2000), and Tawada Yōko’s response to Japan’s 3.11 triple disaster The Emissary (2014). As they craft narratives of disaster from afar—both temporally and spatially—we see these authors negotiating their own transcultural practices and their position as story-tellers. For Murakami’s characters the quake itself is anchored in personal traumas and demands confrontation with the past, with mobility across both Asia and the world serving as self-exile as well as an opportunity for healing. Whereas Tawada invites her readers to consider the future of Japan and its place in Asia, as current social issues—super-aging, birth rate, migration—are taken to the extreme in her dystopian post-nuclear fallout novella. These authors use temporal and spatial distance, as well as linguistic play, to explore the presence and consequences of cultural traumas beyond the power of individuals. What is more, these approaches are strongly informed by Murakami and Tawada’s positions as insider/outsiders within the transcultural literary space.


Laura Clark completed her PhD at The University of Queensland, specialising in contemporary Japanese literature and culture. Her research interests concern the meeting of hegemonic cultural discourses and popular cultural products. She is currently a research fellow at Showa Women’s University as a recipient of the Mariko Bando Fellowship.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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