Although France and Japan were foes during the World War II, Japan’s influence on France is undeniable–from pop culture to literature. This March 2015, three celebrated Japanese women writers who go by the name of Ekuni Kaori, Kakuta Mitsuyo, and Wataya Risa shared their thoughts about creative writing and some issues in the sphere of the Japanese literature in the first day of the annual Paris Book Fair.
The Paris Book Fair of Salon du Livre is an annual event which showcases book exhibits of great writers all over the world.
Bookstores in Japan usually categorize books by the gender of the author. Until the early 2000s, it was normal in the country to have your fiction section divided into a novelist and a female novelist section. The writings of female authors is often treated as a separate genre called joryu bungaku (women’s literature) according to Kukuta Mitsuya, and seconded by Ekuni Kaori and Wataya Risa. There was no equivalent word for men’s writings, and thus was simply referred to as literature. According Ekuni Kaori, the categorization of genre based on gender also appears in literary criticisms or reviews often referring to female writers with the phrases like “feminine atmosphere or writing style.”
What these three writers have in common is that their characters focus more on women than men. Wataya-San has written only one book with a male lead and shared that her decision to make her protagonist a female is based on “technical reason” that she could easily identify herself with the same gender and that it is difficult for her to get inside the mind of a male character. On the other hand, Ekuni-san is introducing more male characters into her writing having realized that gender in novels is different in real life. But Kakuta-san said that her choice to write about more female characters in her books is deliberately decided. She simply put that women’s lives are far more interesting than men’s lives, since women face more problems than men which then reflect on their psyche according to her perspective.
Writing a novel after the disaster is quite a daunting task for a novelist. According to Ms. Kakuta writers are confronted with such difficult questions: How do you encapsulate these drastic changes that take place in words? What is the role of a writer in this particular event? Also confronted with the same questions, Ms Ekuni, on the other hand quips that the most important thing for a novelist is to have the time to assess and reflect on the experiences from the disaster and find a common point in which the foundation for what to write next lies. Ms. Wataya agreed with Ms. Ekuni.
However, she quipped that in as much as she wanted to share something with her readers, it was difficult to write immediately after the disaster because she was in a total shock.