Search Google Appliance

Japanese Literature

The Spirit of 1968 and 1969 in the Basetown Literature of Ikezawa Natsuki and Murakami Ryuu

Dr. Davinder Bhowmik (University of Washington)

January 26 (Thurs)

Smith Memorial Student Union 236   

Free and open to the public       


Murakami Ryū’s 1987 comic novella 69 and Ikezawa Natsuki’s 2009 historical novel Kadena are surprisingly lighthearted given that the backdrop of these works is Japan’s turbulent and politically charged late 1960s when many questioned the renewal of the United States-Japan Security Treaty and the deployment of American military forces stationed in bases in Okinawa and Sasebo to wartorn Vietnam.  In 69, Ryū’s protagonist pays mere lip service to the pressing issues of 1969 all the while reveling in the glory of his sex-crazed youth. 
In Kadena, Ikezawa’s multiple protagonists find themselves amateur spies in a game whose mission it is to alert Vietnamese to aerial bombings by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

The nostalgic mode of these fictional works, which treat the summers of 1968 and 1969 as the pinnacle of their protagonists’ existence, undercuts the weightier subject matter of radical student activism and the escalating Vietnam War. Dr. Bhowmik's talk will not attempt to reconcile the lightness of the fictional works’ style with the somberness of content but rather will focus on how the base towns that lie at the heart of both stories—Sasebo and Kadena—generate high drama making visible the irrepressible violence contained in military structures
so often described by critics as naturalized or invisible. She also addresses that only through their decidedly retrospective narratives is it possible for Ryū to satirize the student movement and for Ikezawa to make war entertainment.  The belatedness of the stories told is the condition of their telling.   


Center for Japanese Studies
311 East Hall  P.O. BOX 751 Portland, OR 97207Phone: 503-725-8577  E-mail: