China, Japan: Japanese Writers Urge End to Nationalistic Hysteria

A number of famous Japanese novelists and intellectuals have called for an end to the vicious cycle of nationalistic hysteria in Japan and China regarding the disputed Diaoyu Islands (also known as the Senkaku Islands). On September 28, 2012, around 1270 intellectuals, including Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe, jointly signed a civic statement: “Put an end to the vicious cycle of territorial dispute!”.

Another prominent Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami described nationalism as “cheap liquor” which may destroy the East Asia cultural exchange. Yet in China, not only Japanese books were taken down from bookshelves in major bookstores, online video platforms also stopped showing Japanese soap TV shows and cartoons.

Nationalism is like cheap liquor, said Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami's comment on the Japan-China territorial dispute was put on the headline of Asahi Shimbun on September 28 2012.

Haruki Murakami commented on Asahi Shimbun on September 28 about the withdrawal of Japanese books in mainland Chinese bookstores. He pointed out that the East Asia cultural exchange among Japan, Korea and China has been a great achievement in the past decade as it brings about “an understanding that we are all human beings who share emotions and inspirations, even if we speak different languages”.

On the other hand, the territorial disputes that ignite nationalism,

… is like cheap liquor: Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely. . . But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning. We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage. (Translated by Japan Times)

National interest comes first, said the Chinese counterpart

Despite Murakami's sincere gesture, the mainland Chinese side seems to be suffering from the hang-over of “cheap liquor”. Murakami's novel translator in China Lin Shaohua believed national interest and pride was most important.

He wrote [zh] on October 1, the Chinese national day, in his micro-blog:


Some netizens asked my attitude on Diaoyu Island. The withdrawal of Japanese books fro bookstores would affect my personal interest. But national interest and respect is more important. Anyone with national identity should put their national interest as top priority. The same principle is applied to most rational and friendly Japanese. National attachment comes first, everything else is secondary.

He elaborated [zh] on his position on October 2:


Literature may be without borders, but writers do have their homeland. Murakami also said that he is a Japanese and he should thus be responsible to Japan. This is the reason why he is respected. Global citizen does not exist. Curse will not be respected. Yesterday Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda insisted that there is no dispute regarding the islands. What else can I say. Yesterday I arrived at Qingzhou, Li Qingzhao [a Song Dynasty poet] once said: I still missed Han Yu and refused to cross over to the eastside of the river!

Where are the Chinese intellectuals?

Many literature lovers are disappointed about Lin's comment. Microblogger, Pretend in New York said [zh]:


Murakami's novel translator Lin Shaohua advocated for the ban of Japanese books and [echoed with Global Times’ commentary] that Japan is an “Asian mob”. I feel so disappointed as if I ran into my first love but saw her turning into a hooker. The image of my old idols are collapsing.

Asia creative exhibition asked [zh] where is the Chinese Murakami?


Eventually people will wake up from the hangover of poor liquor. The exchange of souls cannot be stopped. Where is the Chinese Haruki Murakami? Why are we blocking cultural exchange? How come our knowledge of the Japanese is so lagging behind when compared with the Japanese sinologists? Don't blame each other emotionally, we need rational judgement to protect the east Asia cultural circle.

Japanese books, TV shows and cartoons disappeared

Yet, the cultural blockage has been extended from Japanese books to Japanese TV soaps and cartoon programs. Many netizens are complaining about the sudden disappearance of Japanese videos in major online video platforms since September 28. For example, Shi Ta complained [zh]:

到处都木有日剧看了,PPS木有,PPTV木有,优酷木有。。。甭说日剧,动画全成喜羊羊同乡了,新闻也都是CCTV的同伙,这是要搞哪样??文 化 大 革 命 吗?这样怎么深入敌人内部啊死蠢!

You can't find any Japanese soap programs, not in PPS, not in PPTV, not in Youku… all cartoons are replaced by relatives of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, news are echoing CCTV. What happened? Are we living in the Cultural Revolution? How are we going to penetrate into our enemy's inner side with such stupid policy?

The news about the 1270 Japanese intellectuals’ joint civic statement has also reached China. There are some echoes in the social media platform, but have yet to see organized efforts among Chinese intellectuals. Below are some comments from ordinary netizens [zh]:

偏要叫serena:村上春树之后 又有大江健三郎… 中国的所谓著名文人领袖公知 是不敢发言呢 还是无言?

serena: After Haruki Murakami, Kenzaburo Oe also spoke out… the so-called intellectuals in China and opinion leaders, they are too scared to talk or they have nothing to say?


Plain tiger: Apart from Nazis who else would say “anyone with national identity should consider national interest as their top priority?” If such expression stands, Haruki Murakami and Kenzaburo Oe could not have spoken out. The other two Japanese professors who support the Chinese territorial claim over Diaoyu Islands would be considered as Japanese traitors. There would not be any anti-Nazi organizations in the Third Reich. Thomas Mann would not have been exiled to the U.S. The old Japan would not have tens of thousands of anti-war fighters, with some even joining the Chinese communist red army.


Shanghai auntie: If someone in China talks like this, what kind of verbal attack they will be receiving? When can China accept dissents, criticisms or the so-called “traitor talk”? Such tolerance is the real progress of a country.

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