Artists in the limelight, up-and-coming young people – these and others who are capturing attention on the world stage report on the latest in their activity in this essay.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is a famous cultural institution best known for hosting the Taipei Biennial, but to me, for many years, it was just a white wall that I saw at night from the windows of my uncle's car as he drove my family around. I always felt fascinated by the view of the brightly lit-up white wall.
When in Taiwan, I always stay at my father's "home" overlooking the Tamsui River. It is a three-bedroom apartment that my father purchased to accommodate his needs as he spends more time in Taiwan than in Japan. There is my parents' bedroom and my father's study. In the spare bedroom, there are two single beds and two desks. My father says that these are for me and my younger sister. So for us, my father's "home" in Taiwan is another family home in addition to our house in Tokyo, where my mother lives.
On June 25, I boarded a plane. It was a domestic flight, so I did not need my passport. Still, I had a feeling of exhilaration at the moment of departure and just before landing. From Fukuoka Airport, I boarded the subway, and as the train car rocked me, I heard the gentle voices of an elderly couple sitting next to me. Fascinated by the intonation slightly different from what I hear in Tokyo, I felt like I could listen to their conversation forever.
The Japanese edition of The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka hit the bookstores in late March this year, and became a critically acclaimed hit immediately after its publication. In mid-April, carefree and clueless, I entered a bookstore and impulsively picked up the book, lured by the pretty flowers on its cover. But the moment I turned the first page, I was captivated.
To be honest, I have never been very enthusiastic about reading Taiwanese novels, because, despite being Taiwanese, I have to rely on the Japanese translations and this makes every attempt to read Taiwanese literature a frustrating and slightly mortifying experience. A couple of years ago, however, I read a work translated into Japanese, which made me painfully aware of the fact that I had no time to feel mortified. The work in question, which gave me a powerful sense that there were many works of Taiwanese literature that I had to read, even if relying on the Japanese translations, was the short story Zhànshì Gānbēi! [To the Soldiers!] by Huang Chunming.
As a self-proclaimed Japanophone Taiwanese, I am proficient in Japanese. For me, Japanese is the easiest language for the purposes of talking, listening, reading, and writing. People sometimes ask me "You are Taiwanese, so you speak Chinese, right?" My answer to this question is "Well, not exactly." This, of course, does not mean that I do not speak Chinese at all. But I do not speak it very well, either. In other words, my Chinese is better than incomprehensible but less than fluent. I used to feel dejected every time someone asked me "You are Taiwanese, so how come your Chinese is so bad?" but now that is a thing of the past. I have the Japanese language. My Chinese (and Taiwanese) language is alive and thriving in my Japanese. There are Taiwanese people like me. There is Japanese language like mine.
When my book Raifuku no Ie was translated and published in Taiwan, I was asked the following question in Chinese. "As a person who grew up between Japan and Taiwan, of which do you think as your home?" My immediate and spontaneous response was "Wǒzhùzàirìyǔ,"which means "I live in Japanese."
This happened during spring break in my second year of high school. We traveled by plane from Tokyo to Taipei, and after disembarking from the plane, while my family waited at the baggage claim, I went to the bathroom on my own. Then, as I tried to return to them, I got a bit lost due to my lack of a sense of direction. As I was wandering around, I heard someone asking me a question: "Are you Japanese?"
A new series of essays by author Wen Yuju will be published as a regular feature in Wochi Kochi Magazine. In 2009, she won the Subaru Prize for Literature with Kokyokoraika. Since then, she has been working on novels and essays from the position of a Taiwanese person writing in Japanese. In this edition, she talks about growing up between Japan and Taiwan.
A new series of essays by author Wen Yuju will be published as a regular feature in Wochi Kochi Magazine. In 2009, she won the Subaru Prize for Literature with Kokyokoraika. Since then, she has been working on novels and essays from the position of a Taiwanese person writing in Japanese. As a Tokyo-based Taiwanese, how does she use three different languages: Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese? How do works of Japanese and Taiwanese literature appeal to her? In her essays, Wen Yuju will reflect, with fresh and vibrant sensitivity, on a variety of topics, including Japanese and Taiwanese languages, literatures, and cultures.