Japanese Literature

Yoshimoto writes a strange, somewhat surreal story called "Newlywed." Ryu Murakami writes a gritty, but somewhat lyrical story called "Almost Transparent Blue." Yoshimoto's story takes place in a very short span of time. A man married to a woman named Atsuko, gets drunk in a bar and takes the metro/subway home. One the train he encounters what he thinks is a smelly, older homeless man. When the train empties, the homeless man silently and suddenly transforms into an attractive adult woman. They have a pleasant, albeit strange conversation about life and love. Murakami's story begins in a dirty apartment of a young woman, a recreational drug user, or possibly a junkie. It is an odd story with an odd perspective in that the author is one of the characters in the story. The characters, primarily the young woman, speak to Murakami because he is there. He is both in the story and the writer of the story. This is an interesting, albeit strange stylistic choice, for the author of the story to be a main character in the story that he is writing and that the reader is reading. These stories retain some similarities, yet are very clearly distinctive. The paper will perform a comparison and analysis of the stories, including character, story, and text.

"Newlywed" at first, is written in short sentences. The story begins in media res, in the middle of things. The protagonist, the unnamed male, has already gotten drunk on whisky with friends. The protagonist is freshly married to a superficially lovely wife, Atsuko. Despite his new marital bliss, he actively avoids going home. He does not want to be in his home with his wife, which is why is he is on the train in the first place, when the homeless man/beautiful woman enters the train car.

The presence of the homeless struck me instantly. I have had the opportunity to travel to Japan in the past, and though it is unnamed, I presume that this takes place in some major city, such as Tokyo, which upon completing the story, I realized my instinct was correct. Even in the major cities, there is not much homelessness. Furthermore, relative to the homelessness in a country, such as the United States, the homeless in Japan are cleaner and "better off." In fact, in Japan, the homeless are relatively unseen, especially in public places like the subway. The presence of a homeless man on a subway in Japan is fairly strange and rare. The presence of the homeless in this place immediately alerted me that this would be a strange story. Once the other passengers left the train, and the homeless man transformed, my hunch that this story was abnormal solidified.

As "Newlywed," progresses, the sentences get longer. The thoughts become more complex and more poetic. The story seems like maybe a drunken hallucination, but it turns out to be more about the man's emotional state and his desires. The conversation with the woman makes him a different kind of intoxicated, as he says after an exchange with her, "My head was swimming." The dreamy conversation and odd train ride stir the man's heart and passions, and somehow motivate him to return to his wife. The boredom and fear of his marriage and wife is more about him losing a sense of magic in the world. The magic of the homeless man/beautiful woman transfers to him and awakens parts of him, within, that may have been dormant or decaying. This point is underscored as Yoshimoto writes,

"For me, the beautiful, all-encompassing web spun by this creature is at once so polluted, yet so pure that I feel compelled to grab on to it. I am terrified by it but find myself unable to hide from it. At some point I have been caught up in the magical power she has." (16)

While "Newlywed" has other themes and points, the story is fundamentally about the magical power of women over men, and theā€¦