Academic journal article Chasqui

Between the Seduction and Aversion of Japanese Heritage

Academic journal article Chasqui

Between the Seduction and Aversion of Japanese Heritage

Article excerpt

In his talk "La complicidad del ojo en la literatura peruana" given on April 21, 2012 at the Instituto Cervantes-Tokyo, Fernando Iwasaki, while promoting three Peruvian writers of Japanese ancestry--Jose Watanabe, Augusto Higa Oshiro, and Carlos Yushimito--announced that he would like to write a novel about his grandfather, who emigrated from Japan to Peru at the beginning of the twentieth century, by reconstructing the fragmentary stories he heard and the historical documents that he has been gathering. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when Iwasaki's desire for writing about his grandfather was born, but it does not seem that his decision to create a story based on his grandfather emerged suddenly before his talk in Tokyo. Indeed in 1986, twenty-six years ago before his trip to Japan in 2012, Iwasaki, in Lima, wrote a short story, "La sombra del guerrero," which depicts an encounter between a Peruvian poet whose grandfather is an immigrant from Japan and a friend of this grandfather, who is also an immigrant from Japan. It is curious to note that he wrote this story one year after he spent some time in Spain for his historical archive research in 1985 ("Iwasaki"). In an interview conducted by Luis Arriola Ayala, Iwasaki states: "Cuando sali de Peru me di cuenta de lo japones que era. En Espana, en 1985, descubri que mi apellido llamaba la atencion. Era una gran curiosidad tener un apellido japones y ser peruano" (Iwasaki 2012). Leaving Peru, the country where he was born and grew up, and living in Spain made him conscious of his Japanese ethnic background derived from his last name. The creation of "La sombra del guerrero" can be attributed to Iwasaki's sensibility to his own latent Japanese identity awakened by his contact with a foreign land and culture.

In "La sombra del guerrero," Iwasaki presents a drastic transformation of the protagonist Kawashita, from a person who at the beginning pays no attention to his Japanese heritage, into someone who comes to acknowledge it and unites himself with his Japanese grandfather at the end, without any cultural shock or conflictive psychological reactions. This study attempts to explore this seamless transformation, by reading "La sombra del guerrero" as a parodie creation of a cultural encounter between a Peruvian person who perceives Japanese culture as something mysterious and exotic and a Japanese visitor who is perceived by the Peruvian as such. Approaching the story as a parodie creation of a cultural encounter between Peruvian and Japanese, through Linda Hutcheon's discussion on parody as "a form of repetition with [a] critical distance" ("A New" xii), exposes an ironic distance between Iwasaki's critical attitude toward the concept of one exclusive national identity and his projection of the protagonist's exoticization and fascination with his Japanese heritage.

Iwasaki often asserts that one's birthplace should not determine his or her identity or nation. He asks a rhetorical question: "?Por que hay que ser de un solo pais cuando se puede ser de todos y de ninguno?" ("La visa multiple" 45). In an interview conducted by Miguel Angel Munoz, he answers his own question: "Es verdad que tengo dos paises (Peru y Espana), pero tambien me conciernen Japon e Italia por mis abuelos. Incluso Ecuador por mi abuela materna. Asi, a diferencia de algunos que solo quieren tener una identidad y una sola nacion, a mi me encanta ser de todas partes y al mismo tiempo de ninguna" (Iwasaki 2007). In another interview conducted by Araceli Otamendi, Iwasaki gives a similar statement:

?Por que tengo que ser solamente peruano? 'Patria' es la tierra de los padres, pero la tierra donde han nacido los hijos carece todavia de sustantivo y a mi me parece tan esencial o mas que la 'patria'. Teniendo un apellido japones y otro italiano, habiendo nacido en el Peru y viajando con un pasaporte espanol, me siento de todas partes y de ninguna. ?Por que a los escritores no nos tratan como a los futbolistas? …

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