HYI Working Paper Series: Hiroko Matsuzaki
Dis/Re-Connecting Japan to Taiwan: The Complex Feelings of Different Japanese Generations toward Taiwan in Yoshida Shūichi’s Road (Hiroko Matsuzaki, Postdoctoral Researcher, UC Santa Barbara)
Abstract: This paper considers the Japanese people’s complex feelings toward Taiwan after Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War and its withdrawal from colonial Taiwan by examining a popular novel by a Japanese writer: Yoshida Shūichi’s Road. Staged both in contemporary Taiwan, which experienced the 921 earthquake, and in Japan where the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred, this full-length novel can be considered a narratological attempt at re-connecting Japan to Taiwan and reconstructing the “friendship” between Japan and Taiwan, on the premise that Japan disconnected from Taiwan in the aftermath of traumatic war. While Taiwan attracts the young Japanese female protagonist through its popular music and delicious food, feelings of guilt toward Taiwan torment the old Japanese male protagonist who was born and raised in a Taiwan that was part of a greater Japanese empire. Meanwhile, the middle-aged Japanese male protagonist suffers a nervous breakdown because of stress from work and seeks comfort from his Taiwanese girlfriend. Their travel to Taiwan, where the Taiwan High Speed Rail is constructed based primarily on Japan’s “Shinkansen (bullet train)” technology, can be read as an allegory of the shifting trajectories of different Japanese generations’ memories of Taiwan as a former colony. Reading the text against the backdrop of the political, social, and gender contexts in the relationship between post-war Japan and Taiwan, this paper discusses the complexity of the sentiments of Japanese people toward Taiwan and how they grapple with the forgotten colonial memories there.