A Walking Maiden and A Shapeshifting Tanuki
by mintoo on June 20, 2017 - 2:54am
There are many cool people in Japan. Most of them may be said to be from the entertainment industry. For example, I am sure that people who are familiar with Japan, would definitely have heard of Takuya Kimura, otherwise known as KimuTaku, or the girl idol group called AKB48. Truthfully, I am not much of a fan of such famous celebrities. However, I am a fan of a Japanese writer called Tomihiko Morimi, I definitely think that he is worth mentioning and sharing about. For one, his novels are extremely entertaining, with plenty of adventures to go around for all readers. His usage of the Japanese language is not something one would come across in the present times. Moreover, his style of writing is so unique, that would definitely keep the readers on their toes. Have I got your attention yet? In the following paragraphs, I will furthermore introduce his early years, especially how he came in contact with the Creative Writing Industry, his unique and distinctive style of writing, a brief description of two of his famed works, and how the public is receiving his works.
Tomihiko Morimi is a male Japanese writer born in Nara, on 6th January 1979. His family name “Morimi” is unchanged, and he is thought to have chosen his pen name “Tomihiko” from a Japanese mythology. In the mythology, there is a character called Tominonagasunehiko, or otherwise known as Tomibiko. This character is very famous in his hometown, which probably explains why he chose to be named after Tomibiko, but configuring it a little for his pen name. He had his early education in Nara, but graduated from Kyoto University. It is said that he has always been interested in picture books since he was a very young child, and had created his own even before he turned ten. He used to doodle in notebooks or manuscript paper, and created stories based on the doodles. He started reading and writing fiction more often after starting his university life, and even continued through graduate school. His first debut was in 2003, when he won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award. It seems he has dedicated most of his life to books, and his passion is never dying. It is no wonder that someone like me, who fancies astonishing things, has become attracted to him. Also, his tales are mostly based in Kyoto, and that additional detail intrigues me even more.
However, no matter how great a creator is, there will definitely be haters and naysayers who are not supportive of him. In a recent movie with its storyline based from Morimi’s novel, Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome (“Night Is Short, Walk On Girl” in English), it tells the story of a senpai (a senior in a school) who is interested in a girl with black hair. While he tries to confess his feelings to the girl, the two of them, especially the girl, come across many adventures. In fact, there were so many adventures that it seemed impossible for them all to happen in one short night. Thus, it was criticized that the film is too long at 93 minutes. Also, it was remarked that the movie was very far from reality, and many found it disturbing. Nevertheless, the fact that the movie was nothing like reality supported the style of Morimi’s work.
Of course, there are plenty of fans who find his stories very fascinating. His humorous dialogues and the urge for his readers to imagine the characters while reading his books are simply overwhelming. His first award was the Japan Fantasy Novel Award in 2003, with his debut work Taiyou no Tou (Tower Of The Sun). He then continued to win the Yamamoto Shugoro Prize, and was the runner-up for the Booksellers Award for Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome in 2007. His other novel Pengin Haiwei (Penguin Highway) received the Japan SF Grand Prize in 2010. Other than the awards, he also has had his works turned into manga, anime, and movies. Of course, goods, as well, which I have a love and hate relationship with. I am currently addicted to the second season of the anime Uchoten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family), which is, undeniably, based on his novel. Actually, watching the anime has made me want to visit all the related spots in Kyoto.
So how, exactly, is Morimi different from the other writers? How has he attracted even me, a foreigner, to be hooked to his works? Hopefully, his influence can be explained by referring to two of his works. His book Uchoten Kazoku was first published in 2007, and the sequel published in 2015. It is said that he got the inspiration for the novel from the episode when he chanced upon a tanuki (raccoon) when he was staying in Kyoto as a university student. He also had the inspiration when he felt that he was “made a fool of” by a zookeeper, whom he figured, might have been a tanuki in disguise to trick him. As for why the sequel took 8 years to write, he mentioned that he had difficulty getting the plot going, and stated that he perhaps, had been thinking too much. Uchoten Kazoku is so popular among the Japanese that there currently are manga, and 2 anime television series, spreading the popularity overseas. Another famous book is Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome, which was released in 2006. Similar to Uchoten Kazoku, this novel has its own manga and anime movie. While each book has its own storyline and pace, Morimi’s style can be seen in how the character in the story progresses. Moreover, the Japanese language he uses is not that of the present period, but in fact, he based his works very closely to the tradition of Japan, and used many old methods to phrase his lines. For example, the slogan of Uchoten Kazoku is “Omoshirokikoto wa Yokikoto nari” (Interesting/funny is a good thing) which is closer to how the Japanese speak in the past, and hardly used in the present times.
As stated above, Morimi may have started his life in Nara, but he lived in Kyoto while studying, and one simple encounter led him to writing novels with his imaginations. The fact that he reads a lot of books and writes plenty of them at the same time, shows how devoted and passionate he is to literature. There are definitely readers and fans who are waiting for more fascinating stories from him. I would recommend his books not only to the Japanese, but also to foreigners, despite the difficulty in understand his style of writing and the uncommon Japanese language. I mean, his unique aspects are the reasons for his success, are they not? And after reading his books, I am sure that there will be an increase of visitors to Kyoto, hoping to find some tanukis or tengus (long-nosed goblins) flying in the sky.
Books from Japan: http://www.booksfromjapan.jp/authors/item/622-tomihiko-morimi