SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

WU Ching-wen I have encoutered Japanese Literature


I read the Japanese novel “Hukai Kawa (Deep River)” written by ENDO Shusaku which was recommended by Japanese language teacher in my last year of high school. It was just after the year 1987 when we could buy any Japanese literatures translated to Chinese language at bookstores in Taiwan. (The Taiwanese Martial Law was released in 1987.)


I, as a non-religious person, have been trying to find connotation in “Hukai Kawa” and it means I was the reader who drifted in the history of long river like Chiang Jiang.  


One of these days, when I was going around bookstores with my classmate who was searching for annotation of Chinese novel “Hong Lou Meng” for mock exam, I found “Waga Hai wa Neko de Aru” (I am a cat) by NATUME Soseki as the title fascinated me. It was the beginning of my exam of Japanese literature and read “KOKORO (heart or spirit)” too and I left my hometown where I could enjoy warm sunshine and pleasant breeze and went to a University in Taipei to learn Japanese language.    


The more I learn about the Meiji Era which NATUME Soseki lived and about a life in Taiwan which was full of social success and struggle for survive, the more I realized schooling-oriented society in Taiwan. The youth in Taiwan who study at a university in metropolis feel stress about not only high cost of living and bad residential environment but isolated human relations and social expectations also. The number of children who suffered from psychosomatic illness due to muggy climate in Taipei is quite a lot.   


Recently TV drama titled “Children are not your possessions” which criticized society became a topic in Taiwan. I think such acceptable drama should be produced earlier. I grew up under the parent who were not concerned about social status and have been keeping strange feeling about educational system in school. Especially when I talk with the youth who comes from metropolis, has increased my awareness that the youth who grow up in utilitarian atmosphere in the society, live up to expectations of “love” by their parents and teachers. The youth are impatient thinking that “being personage” rather than “it is enjoyable to challenge”. Such common issue in the East Asian countries where academic histories are regarded highly should be pursued continuously hereafter in the field of education.   


At the beginning of my doctoral course, new educational system which considered practical utility to be important like in the United States started together with promotion of national security alliances between Japan and the U.S. Exclusion movement of social sciences in Japan affected educational system in Taiwan. One of my colleagues who was translating Japanese contemporary novels confused saying that “what is the good of novels?” One junior of mine decided to be enrolled in go to a good college. But he felt frustrated about how he would be considered after taking doctor’s degree. The causes of his frustration are low birthrate in Japan, sharp drop of the post in universities and unstable employment. Tragedy or political failures follows. Unbalance ratio between demand and supply in the field of social science which came from increasing of the number of students of doctoral course, social looking down on the unemployed despite their high educational background, loss of self-identity of postgraduate students etc.


I was feeling depressed after coming to Japan. I have been bullied through social media by my senior who came from Taiwan. When I said I would like to attend an academic conference, I was treated inadequately and rumors spread around the people among same field. When I shared my private living on Facebook, snide remarks were made. I was accused falsely saying I have disrupted the future of others. When I made my research presentation, I was told on through teacher. I was introduced to a male who was looking for marriage partner saying that it is difficult to find jobs for foreign students in Japan and Europe and a female should marry. I think they are in the “co-dependency” relations. Desire of others is own desire. The end justifies the means. They betray immediately when they have conflict of interests.     


I recall “Hukai Kawa” which guided me to Japanese literatures. A hero in this novel made a long trip to India in search of meaning of life. I have been living in the life of unbelieving and uneasy human relations. I like to ask myself what shall I trust?


My world of existence in Japan is quite different, blessed with nature. I was told this area was developed recently but my heart was calm surrounded by big and calm forest at the night before exam. I saw spiderweb was shining in gaslight near a bus stop. At bookstore, there was a section “enjoyable living with forest and birds”. On a clear day, parents and children relax running around fields and feeding fish and ducks. One of my junior studying graduates said jokingly “since many foreign students here purified by nature, they are all gentle and kind”.


The reason why we feel relaxed when we read SAIGYO and BASHOU is we travel with SAIGYO and BASHOU in our hearts.

By the way, before studying Japanese literature I heard people go travel when heartbroken.

I wonder why? In Taiwan, when they are heartbroken, they go to drink or for songs. The world of Japanese culture which I became familiar is too classy and its interesting generation gap among parents and brothers.  



SGRA Kawaraban 676 in Japanese (Original)



WU_Ching-wen/2020 Raccoon, Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature at National Taiwan University


Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala