Fantastical spaces, they are ubiquitous in contemporary Japanese literature, hidden, secluded, guarded, and with secretive and limited access, altogether reinforcing then ethereal and labyrinthe quality. A fantastical space resembles and yet varies from the everyday world we experience. This setting resonates with fantasy being the unseen culture, but also emphasizes on the boundaries and hence a contrast of two opposing dimensions. Once accessed, the fantastical space both resembles and deviates from the experience of the everyday world. They can be a den in Kanai Mieko’s “Usagi” (1972; “Rabbits”), a cave in Murakami Haruki’s Kishi danchō goroshi (2017; Killing Commendatore), an island in Ogawa in Yōko’s Hoteru airisu (1996; Hotel Iris), or a made-up town never exists in any map in Murakami Ryū’s Koin rokka beibizu (1980; Coin Locker Babies).
In each case, the place is insular and isolated. In many works, the fantastical space appears to be a distorted mirror image of the reality, because fantasy is the characters’ unfiltered perception of a reality unmediated by rationality and consciousness. Plots in the fantastic mode develop as the characters cross the boundaries over to the other world, seeking answers found in between fantasy and reality, the unconscious and the conscious, the spiritual and the physical, the dead and the living, and so on.
Fantastical spaces are landscapes of dreams and memories, manifestations of bodily sensations and mental states, and paths into the deepest layers of self. They may act as manifestations of characters’ psychological states as well as extensions of their embodied perceptions.
Mina Qiao currently teaches Japanese literature at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. She is the author of Women in the Maze: Space and Gender in Kirino Natsuo’s Writings (2019). Her research interests include space, body, contemporary women’s writings, and popular culture.
Meeting-ID: 951 4697 7115