I guess this begins with Murakami; it's his Japan I initially fell in love with. In After Dark, I found myself bewitched by the hypnotic energy of Tokyo at night ("Midnight is approaching, and while the peak activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city's moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.") Whilst Norwegian Wood and Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage introduced me to a different side of Japan; a Japan of many shades, full of so many feelings, thoughts and interests. And then 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore intrigued me to no end; they brought about this alluring idea of two separate versions of Japan – the everyday, albeit beautified, Japan and a surrealist, somewhat different Japan – that coexist alongside one another.
Perhaps Murakami has given me an idealistic vision of Japan; though I can't deny his words have also shown me the darker side of Japan: a confused Japan, a realistic Japan, a Japan that evokes such curiosity within me.
Needless to say, it wasn't long before I found myself wanting to read more about the country; I reached for A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (highly, highly recommended) and Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (currently reading). Kawakami depicts Japan tenderly, and, with every turn of the page, I can't help but feel a strange sense of nostalgia for her Japan – despite the fact I've never been to the country.
Last week I picked up Granta 127: Japan, which consists of writers, artists, residents and visitors offering readers their Japans. Their short stories, articles and artwork have shown this country in so many different lights that my curiosity has only heightened; I can't help but wonder what, if I visit, the Japan I see will be like.
On the back of the Granta issue it says: "Everyone knows this country and no one knows it." Despite my recent obsession with reading about Japan, I'm aware that I know very little about the country. Though I've fallen in love with the inked Japan – author by author, book by book, page by page – I've yet to experience Japan for myself. So, for a now, I can only hope that one day I'll be able to fall in love with the country through my own thoughts and feelings.