The Wave of Japanese Literature

When was the first time you heard a Japanese author’s name? It could’ve been a very long time ago or it could’ve been today, and it’s a possibility it would’ve been Murakami. The overwhelming popularity of Murakami’s books and Ikigai has transformed the world’s perspective on Japanese literature, and this is just the beginning.

Japanese literature is new, very new for us Indians. We were hit by this magical, generally meditative wave of modern Japanese literature only 10 years ago. While The Japan Foundation (New Delhi) wrote about their literature from an Indian perspective in 2014, the USA on the other hand received their preparatory share of Japanese translation from 1955, with modern Japanese literature transforming post-war America significantly.

Japan’s influence on the world as a country is very recent as it was cut off from most of the world for a notable amount of time. Though pop culture may make us assume differently, with movies like Pacific Rim and Star Wars being inspired by Japanese movies and fiction. Gaining inspiration from Indian Buddhist and Chinese works Japanese work itself is a motley of cultures, making it highly relatable and thus fast-paced in world domination.

It has been a total of 30 years of modern Japanese literature (before which all most of us knew was a Haiku) and there’s plenty more to come. With authors like Ogawa Yōko and Kirino Natsuo, India can see a more diverse culture available to our devices.

However, as always, there’s a darker side to Murakami’s domination in the modern era. The world categorizes all Japanese literature to be Murakami-esque, thus shadowing works of other authors. The world is going through a literary revolution that doesn’t seem to stop, making these authors more prominent everyday.

Here’s hoping that India welcomes other cultures just as much as we’ve welcomed the Japanese, along with the thought about what values our digital world will give greater importance to in the future; the magical world of Murakami or an existential approach of Ikigai.