Ecocriticism in Japan
Ishigami Genʼichirō was at his apartment in the Kobe foothills when the Great Hanshin Awaji earthquake struck on January 17, 1995. Like most people, he was awakened by the early-morning shaking and rushed outside. From the appearance of his neighborhood, at first he judged that it was not a major disaster. But that initial assessment changed as he ventured downtown. Passing the Japan Railways line that runs through the city, he began to see more damage: telephone poles broken in half, buildings collapsed, and an apartment building whose first floor had been crushed. Ishigami, a postwar author of Dazai Osamu's generation, recounted this experience in the April 1995 issue of the magazine Shinchō, mere months after the disaster. The first part of the essay is replete with detailed descriptions of the crescendo of destruction as he moved through the city. Halfway through, however, Ishigami shifts from a description of the damage to a condemnation of the human treatment of the earth and suggests that the earthquake may have come from "The Earth's Wrath" or "Daichi no ikari," the title of the essay. In this section of the essay, Ishigami cites James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis. Lovelock hypothesized that the earth is one giant organism with interrelated systems keeping it in balance. As Lovelock has done across several books, Ishigami also proposes that humans are interfering with Gaia's equilibrium and compares humans to bacteria infecting our host with a long list of environmental woes from the destruction of tropical rain forests, damage to the ozone layer, and acid rain to nuclear testing and overpopulaton. For Ishigami, the earth's major cities become "malignant tumors," destruction of the tropical rain forests is a skin disease, and global warming a "fever." Earthquakes are included here as well. As Ishigami writes, "Earthqaukes are the seizures of mother earth," suggesting that the Kobe earthquake might be linked to our destruction of the environment.
Bates, Alex. "Nature and Disaster in Murakami Haruki's after the quake." In Ecocriticism in Japan, edited by Hisaaki Wake, Keijiro Suga, and Yuki Masami, 139-155. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017.