The Waseda International House of Literature (The Haruki Murakami Library)Waseda University


Grant Report on the Symposium “Haruki Murakami and International Literature”―The Waseda International House of Literature

■ Grant Report on the Symposium “Haruki Murakami and International Literature”

Date and Time: November 28 (Thurs)  6:15pm-8:40pm
Venue: Masaru Ibuka Auditorium, International Conference Center, Waseda campus
Organized by: The Waseda International House of Literature
Co-sponsor: Top Global University Project Waseda University Global Japanese Studies
Cooperation: HoriPro Inc., Shinchosha Co., Ltd.


■Symposium Overview

1. Opening Remarks (6:15pm-8:40pm)
Hirokazu Toeda, Director of The Waseda International House of Literature and Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

2.Part 1: Theater Performance (6:15pm-6:20pm)
Stage Direction: Sonsho Inoue
Stage Appearance:
Katsumi Kiba (as Nakata)
Mame Yamada (as Kawamura)
Yukio Tsukamoto (as Otsuka)
Kate Doi (as Mimi)

After Talk
Katsumi Kiba (as Nakata)
Interviewer: Tetsuya Terashima, Shinchosha Co., Ltd.

3.Part 2: Panel Discussion on “Haruki Murakami and ‘Translation’” (7:20pm-8:35pm)
Moderator: Motoyuki Shibata, Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo and Translator
Mieko Kawakami, Author
Michael Emmerich, Professor at UCLA and Associate Professor at Waseda University
David Karashima, Associate Professor, Faculty of International Research and Education, Waseda University

4.Closing Remarks (8:35pm-8:40pm)
Yoshihiro Watanabe,  Vice President for Cultural Affairs and Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Emcee: Richi Sakakibara, Vice Director of the Waseda International House of Literature and Professor, Faculty of International Research and Education, Waseda University



The stage adaptation of “Kafka on the Shore,” directed by Yukio Ninagawa, has been seen all over the world in the seven years since its premiere in 2012, not only in Japan, but also in London, Singapore, Seoul, and New York. It opened in Paris in February 2019. For today’s performance, Sonsho Inoue, who has been Ninagawa’s production assistant for many years, directed the scene in which Satoru Nakata talks with a cat. Video of the 2019 Tokyo performance, coupled with the actors’ enthusiasm, strongly expressed the allegorical elements of Murakami’s work in just 30 minutes. The curtain call saw resounding applause from the entire theater.



The interviewer for the After Talk was Tetsuya Terashima of Shinchosha, who has been one of Haruki Murakami’s editors for thirty years. Katsumi Kiba, who played Nakata, talked about what he felt in his role in the stage production of Murakami’s work, and about reactions to the stage production of “Kafka on the Shore” in various countries. Kiba talked about the imaginative power of stage, which he felt while acting out non-human roles from the world of Murakami’s literature, such as the cat in “Kafka on the Shore” and the frog in “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo.” He also mentioned the difference in laughter brought on by the grammar when performing in the various languages of other countries. Terashima pointed out that the nuances of words gradually changed through repeat translations and adaptations into other languages. This topic bridged the discussion into the second half. By putting on the theater performance, Part 1 concretely illustrated the problems of “translation” between media and “translation” between multiple languages.



In Part 2, a lively discussion was moderated by Motoyuki Shibata, who became a close personal friend of Haruki Murakami through translation. Mieko Kawakami, as one of the next generation of authors following Haruki Murakami, started by talking about the technical aspects of the novels and how the uniqueness of Murakami’s literature cannot be imitated, despite its influence. She appealed for carrying on the balance of evocative and informative techniques that Murakami’s works had achieved in recent years. She also used examples from “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World,” “Norwegian Wood,” “A Wild Sheep Chase,” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” etc. Kawakami had experience interviewing Murakami himself in “Haruki Murakami: A Long, Long Interview by Mieko Kawakami,” and her examples illuminated the textural characteristics of Murakami’s literature, and made them visible.

While Kawakami focused on the contents of the novels, David Karashima instead began his discussion on their format, starting with the question of how translations had been distributed in foreign countries. Karashima explained that Murakami’s novels were translated in a way that fit into the distribution format in English-speaking countries, and that their success could be a model for subsequent writers. At the same time, Karashima mentioned that as Murakami’s work gained greater acceptance in the Anglophone publishing field, it became possible for him to publish longer works–originally published as multi-volume books in Japan–without them being abridged.

Finally, based on his experience as an English-speaking researcher of Japanese literature, Michael Emmerich suggested that the position Murakami occupies in the contemporary English-language literary world is substantially different from the sort of exotic image that Edward Fowler saw being promoted by postwar translations of works by Yasunari Kawabata, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, and Yukio Mishima. Emmerich argued that the 1993 publication of the The Elephant Vanishes in by Knopf represented a watershed moment in the history of Japanese literature in English translation. He paid homage to the idea of considering Haruki Murakami in the context of postwar Japan, as the late literary critic Norihiro Kato did in his many works about Murakami. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of considering Murakami’s works as world literature and accepting them outside the context of regional studies. Emmerich’s points once again set forth the international value of Murakami’s literature.



After the initial talk by the three panelists, the discussion shifted to  Emmerich replied that each translation is a different work, and that one source of Murakami’s power as a writer is that none of us can ever know what is in all the translations of his works. Kawakami, on the other hand, said that commitment could be important because of issues of empathy. In response to a question about the definition of world literature and whether Murakami’s works would meet that definition, Emmerich concluded no matter how one defined world literature, Murakami’s fiction would be included within it. There were many questions in the limited amount of time, which showed the high level of interest in Murakami’s works.


As described above, the “Haruki Murakami and International Literature” international symposium not only examined the writer Haruki Murakami and his works from many angles, but was also an opportunity to talk about the various issues surrounding the current international literature environment.


※translated from the Japanese


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