Constructing difference in Japan: Literary counter-images of the Okinawa-boom

Hein, Ina GND

This article’s approach is indebted to the method of discourse analysis from a cultural studies’ perspective. It attempts to position and analyze literary texts by four authors from Okinawa – Medoruma Shun (*1960), Matayoshi Eiki (*1949), Akahoshi Toshizō (*1974) and Tefu Tefu P. (*1976) – in the context of the Okinawa boom which has flooded Japanese popular culture and mass media since the 1990s. It will be shown that these writers clearly position themselves against the Okinawa boom. On the one hand, the texts selected for analysis in this paper construct Okinawa as a ‘different Japan’ – just like the images created by Japanese mass media and popular literature on the main islands. On the other hand, though, the authors subvert the mainstream discourse on ‘Okinawan difference’: Medoruma addresses inconvenient topics which otherwise remain excluded from popular images of Okinawa and, at the same time, highlights Okinawa’s inner diversity, thus destabilizing the idea of ‘one Okinawan identity’. Matayoshi stays ambivalent in creating Okinawa as a space which is culturally different from Japan: His text abounds with markers for Okinawanness, but at the same time his main character keeps an ironic distance to ‘Okinawan traditions’. Akahoshi and Tefu Tefu eventually pick up prevalent topoi from mainstream discourse and turn them into their opposites.