Where Are the Sunflowers?
A Media Celebrity's Depiction of Her Tragic Encounters with Anti-Korean and Anti-Buraku Prejudice in Japan
Translated with an Introduction by Alastair Andrew McLauchlan
2012, 252 pages
ISBN 978-0-9832991-6-5 Paper $35.00
ISBN 978-0-9832991-7-2 Cloth $65.00
In this semi-autobigraphical work, Kurihara Miwako, a celebrated Japanese writer/television show host/journalist, depicts events based on her own life of two over-forty adults trying to find lasting happiness. By introducing social prejudice and discrimination as the catalysts for their misery. Protagonist Kyōko Igarashi's fear of her parents' prejudice toward buraku ancestry eventually destroys her short marriage to Tarō Kaiji, a wonderfully warm and sympathetic man of buraku origin. The other man she wanted to marry, much earlier, was a third-generation Korean. That relationship was doomed because the man's father continued to despise the Japanese for their historic mistreatment of his people and thus insisted that he marry a Korean woman. Thus are two of Japan's most destructive social taboos, buraku heritage and Korean ancestry, introduced in a manner which is within easy reach of any reader.
Another fascinating cultural aspect of the story is that Tarō Kaiji is a monkey trainer. Performing monkeys have long been one of the cultural icons of Japan's buraku people, and their performances still entertain huge crowds. Kurihara appropriately deals with this phenomenon. As in real life, the monkeys in Where Are the Sunflowers? make people happy, in stark contrast to the story's protagonist and her husband.
Alastair Andrew McLauchlan is a leading expert on Japanese minority issues and is one of very few Westerners to have lived in a buraku community. Among his published books are Prejudice and Discrimination in Japan: The Buraku Issue (2003) and The Buraku Issue, an English translation of Suehiro Kitaguchi's Buraku Mondai Ichimon-Ittō (1998).