Matayoshi Eiki was born on September 15, 1947 in Urasoe City, Okinawa. He was a history major at the University of the Ryukyus. After graduating, he worked at Urasoe City Hall and wrote novels on the side. In 1980, Matayoshi received the fourth Subaru Literature Prize for Ginnemu yashiki [Ginnemu Mansion]. In 1996, Matayoshi received the 114th Akutagawa Prize for his novel, Buta no mukui [The Pig’s Retribution]. After that, he concentrated on writing and thinking about how to protect Okinawa’s customs in the modern era. Some of his books include Kaho wa umi kara, Nami no ue no Maria, Umi no madoromi, Junsa no kubi, Natsuyasumi no kari, and Yobiyoseru shima.
—The 8th Kyushu Festival of Arts Literature Prize in 1978 for “Jōji ga koroshita inoshishi”
—The 4th Subaru Literature Prize in 1989 for “Ginnemu yashiki.”
—The 114th Akutagawa Prize in 1996 for Buta no mukui.
US Military Bases in Okinawa
Matayoshi often refers to the difference between Japanese and American people, and some of his characters are Americans working on the US bases. Generally speaking, these characters are depicted as being big, strong, and violent. Of course, he is focused not on ordinary American people but on those in the military. As most people are aware, Okinawa has a lot of military bases, and Matayoshi makes clear that these military bases are dangerous. Through his works, Matayoshi suggests that this problem needs to be addressed in order to improve Okinawa.
One of Matayoshi’s most famous and powerful stories is “Jōji ga koroshita inoshishi,” a story about the murder of an Okinawan from an American soldier’s point of view. Needless to say, his depiction of the American soldiers in this story is quite negative, but the protagonist of the story is initially rather kind. However, through the violence of his environment, he gradually becomes violent, too. According to Okamoto Keitoku, Matayoshi describes the Okinawan people and society from the American soldier’s point of view so that Okinawan people can better understand the soldiers who often seem incomprehensible to them.
According to Nakamura Mariko, Matayoshi’s work merges fiction with scenes from his boyhood. Matayoshi has said that his experiences are the materials of his novels. These materials, born in Okinawa, give a mysterious a view of the world. Matayoshi tries to describe both natural beauty and about human spirituality.
Nakamura, Mariko. “Yobiyoseru shima: Matayoshi Eiki-san.” Asahi.com. 23 Mar. 2008. Asanichi shinbunsha. 21 Oct. 2011.
According to Kato Hiroshi, Matayoshi often describes assaults and Okinawa’s fears of others, and how these impact negatively on Okinawan daily life. In other words, Matayoshi’s novels do not depict an idyllic Okinawa; rather, he shows the effect of Koreans, American soldiers, and other outsiders living in Okinawa. On the positive side, Matayoshi also shows that the “power of Okinawa” comes from blending old things with new, and from blending traditional Okinawan culture with foreign cultures.
Matayoshi, Eiki. Buta no mukui [The Pig’s Retribution]. Tokyo: Bungei shunju, 1996.
This book is about Shokichi and three women’s utakimairi [visiting various utaki or sacred sites]. One day, a pig breaks into the snack bar, and one of the women working there is so shocked that she loses her mabui or soul. They go on a trip with Shokichi to help her recover. The book won the coveted Akutagawa Prize and was later made into a movie.
---. Ginnemu yashiki [Ginmemu mansion]. Tokyo: Shueisha, 1981.
Highly recommended collection of three short stories. The title story (“Ginnemu yashiki”) depicts discrimination towards Korean residents in Japan. One day, a Korean resident allegedly rapes an Okinawan woman, and three Okinawan men coerce him into giving them money. Later, after the Korean man kills himself, it becomes clear that he didn’t actually rape the girl. What makes the story interesting is that readers are at first drawn into the racist point of view of the author but gradually come to realize that that point of view was grossly mistaken. The collection also includes the above-mentioned “Jōji ga koroshita inoshishi” [The Wild Boar that George Gunned Down] and “Mado ni kuroi mushi ga” [Black Bug on the Window], a story about an Okinawan hostess dating a black American. The story also depicts some of the racist attitudes that were prevalent in Okinawa during the Vietnam War era.
---. Ryōshi to utahime [A fisherman and a songstress]. Tokyo: Ushio Shuppansha, 2009.
This book about a fisherman and a songstress’s love seems to be an allegorical story about ritual in Okinawa. The young fisherman is in love with a songstress. He is handsome, but his mind is immature. Influenced by Okinawan scenery and the new rituals created by the songstress, he gradually changes his mind.
See the following review for more details: Egami, Go. “Ryōshi to utahime Matayoshi Eiki shohyo.” Asahi.com. 10 May 2009. Asanichi shinbunsha. 2011.
Asahi.com Book Review of Ryoshi to utahime (in Japanese)
---. Yobiyoseru shima [The Beckoning Island]. Tokyo: Kobunsha, 2008.
This book’s story is set on an island. The island looks like Okinawa and has beautiful nature. The story focuses on a young man, who returns to his island and starts a home that provides meals and lodging. See the following review for more details: Nakamura, Mariko. “Yobiyoseru shima: Matayoshi Eiki-san.” Asahi.com. 23 Mar. 2008. Asanichi shinbunsha. 21 Oct. 2011. Asahi.com Book Review of Yobiyoseru shima (in Japanese)
This report was done by Tahara Takumi, Shimabukuro Yuki, Toma Kazuna, and Takahara Riko.
Edited by Sminkey Takuma.