Tanizaki and Murakami

January 14, 2021 By mk

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (1886-1965) is one of the most appreciated novelists of Japanese literature. The award named after Tanizaki is one of the most prestigious ones and was given to Murakami for HardBoiled Wonderland And The End Of The World in 1985.

Murakami highly respects Tanizaki. He met Mrs Matsuko Tanizaki (1903-1990), the maestro’s wife, at the reception of Tanizaki Award. He wrote that he felt so honoured when Mrs Tanizaki approached him and said that she really enjoyed reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Among Tanizaki’s novels, The Makioka Sisters, written in 1943-48 is regarded as one of the best among Tanizaki’s works and all of modern Japanese literature. It is the story of the Makioka family with a setting of 1936-41. Tanizaki depicted the upper-middle-class lifestyle in the suburban area in Ashiya. Matsuko Tanizaki, the author’s wife who talked to Murakami in 1985, is known as a model of Sachiko, the second-oldest Makioka sister in the novel.

The novel is beloved by many people and was made into a film three times, TV drama six times, and its theatrical adaptation was staged more than 1500 times.

The setting place, Ashiya is in the west part of Japan between Kobe and Osaka and known as a sophisticated residential place where educated wealthy people live.

Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and moved to Shukugawa (Nishinomiya), then Ashiya, and graduated from Kobe High School. He spends his young years in this area before 1968 when he came to Tokyo to enter Waseda University at 19. In his early works, this area often appeared as “the town”.

Now I’ll talk about the town. I was born and raised in it, and it was there that I slept with my first girl. (Hear the Wind Sing, Ch.28)

More than anything, it was the river we had to thank for creating the town. (A Wild Sheep Chase, Ch.18)

Murakami used to spend time at the library in Ashiya in his young days

At the age of six in 1955, Murakami went to the beach in this area with his father to get rid of a cat. It was fourteen years after The Makioka Sisters’ setting time and six years after the completion of its publication in 1949, the year Murakami was born.

When we were living in Shukugawa (part of Nishinomiya City, in Hyogo Prefecture), one day we went to the beach to get rid of a cat. (Abandoning a Cat, Memories of my father)

When the earthquake hit this area in 1995, Murakami conducted charity reading party in Kobe and Ashiya, and wrote: “After the Quake”.

When Mieko Kawakami was a teenager, she worked at the bookshop where the charity reading party was held and had a chance to attend it. Afterwards, she started to write a novel and won Akutagawa Award in 2008 and Tanizaki Award in 2013.

In the 2015 column, Murakami wrote “I was raised in the comparatively moderate area such as Ashiya and Shukugawa, and can relax when I was in a similar environment. However, my wife, raised in the middle of Tokyo, seems to feel in a different manner. The environment that one was raised in may significantly imprint to the way one feels”. For many Japanese, “Ashiya flavour” can be found in Murakami’s sophisticated text style and the way he speaks (but not in his verbal accent).

As Tanizaki wrote the novel’s character with modelling after his wife, some people thought Murakami modelled Midori in Norwegian Wood after his wife, Yoko. In 2015, Murakami replied to such a question and officially denied at his agony uncle column. He wrote that Midori was totally fictitious and “kindly corporate to keep peace in my family by not saying so”.

Tanizaki was born in Nihombashi Ningyocho, within walking distance from the theatre which staged the Makioka Sisters. His birthplace is now “Ningyocho Tanizaki” restaurant.

Initially, I started to write this post to introduce my favourite restaurant but found something different when I finished it. I hope it can be interesting.