Co-sleeping: engaging with the commodified dozing body in Kawabata, Yoshimoto, and Yamazaki

Innami, Fusako

This paper examines the shifting concept of the body in contemporary Japan through the phenomenon of “co-sleeping” (soine) services. It takes as examples Kawabata Yasunari’s 1961 novel House of the Sleeping Beauties (HSB), Yoshimoto Banana’s 1989 novel Asleep, and Yamazaki Sayaka’s 2008-2010 manga Shimashima. In HSB, the male protagonist sleeps together with girls who are unconscious, knocked out by sleeping pills, and touches them. He can only realize contact with sleeping girls without face-to-face encounters, posing the reader questions such as to what extent one can share one’s corporeality with another in sleeping, what kind of intimacy, desire, and love is involved in payable co-sleeping services, and what it means to engage with the sleeping otherness. Simon Williams and Eyal Ben-Ari have examined co-sleeping as a form of intimate communication. Yet, co-sleeping is a commercial service in HSB, Asleep, and in Shimashima, where the customer pays for sharing bodily warmth and touching another’s (almost unreachable) existence. Having witnessed the recent emergence of actual co-sleeping services in Tokyo and New York, this paper aims to advance literary research on the topic of co-sleeping services and explore the emerging concept of the commercialized sleeping body in contemporary Japanese society.

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