Land is my muse

By Tanizaki Yui (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-06-17

This is my second time in China. The first trip was in 1999, when I was a college student.

Back then, I didn't speak a single word of Chinese and spent one-and-a-half months backpacking through the country, communicating with people through gestures.

It was an aimless journey. I traveled to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou; took a three-day train to Chengdu; went to Yunnan province, and then the Tibet autonomous region.

But I didn't want the trip to end and just stayed in Lhasa until my family in Japan urged me to return home.

Five years later, I started to write a novel, which won me the 2007 Bungagukai Prize for New Writers and led me onto the road to become a novelist.

The novel, Maiochiru Mura, tells the story of a fictional village in a matrilineal society, where time lapses differently and people have a unique way to calculate their age.

I wrote the novel from the images in my dreams - it was a mosaic of my childhood memories of growing up in Japan's Fukui prefecture and some scenes were very similar to the villages I had visited in Yunnan - the local market in Xishuangbanna, where women sold batik textiles and handicrafts. Those memories slipped into my novel.

At this year's China-South Korea-Japan Forum of East Asian Literature, I submitted a short story, the idea of which originated from Jiufen, a small town near Taipei. It was the first in a series inspired by my travels to different parts of Asia.

They are mirror images of places in my mind, where reality meets fantasy.

I have finished the stories of Jiufen, Tibet and Kyoto. The one I am working on now is on the Indian port city of Cochin, and my next will be fashioned on Malaysia.

Where will the series lead to? I don't know yet. But land, on which unique local cultures grow and different languages are spoken, pushes me to write one story after another.

During my travels to different places, I always try to use the local languages. Of course, I am far from fluent in many.

I feel like a toddler who is just learning to speak, just like my travel to China 16 years ago, when I was treated kindly by Chinese people as if I were a child. That time brought back my memories of childhood, when I drew colorful pictures with crayons.

When I travel around Asia and write about the continent, such memories come back. For me, the muse of creativity is land.

Xing Yi translated the piece.

Land is my muse

(China Daily 06/17/2015 page20)

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