Are we going to somehow ignore all the great Western writers and thinkers from the past and current like Italo Calvino, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, Marcel Proust, Dorothy Allison, Jean-Luc Fabre, Victor Hugo, Gustav Flaubert, Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Bester, Douglas Adams, Graham Greene, Lewis Carroll, Herman Melville, Roland Barthes, Roald Dahl, EB White, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, David Hume, Ted Chiang, Voltaire, Soren Kirkeegard, William Shakespeare, Kurt Vonnegut, Edith Wharton, Andy Weir, St. Augustine of Hippo, Patricia Highsmith, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Frank Herbert, Joseph Heller, Fyodor Doestovsky, Nikolai Gogol, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Maurice Sendak, T.H. White, E.M. Forster, Albert Camus, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Stuart Dybek, Shirley Jackson, David Foster Wallace, Paul Torday, John Fowles, David Mitchell, Umberto Eco, Robert A. Heinlein, Henrik Ibsen, Ron Hansen, Ken Kesey, George Orwell, Jonathan Swift, Edward Said, Elie Wiesel, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, H.P. Lovecraft, Christina Rossetti, John Steinbeck, Joseph Conrad, Washington Irving, Brian Doyle, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Stephen Pinker, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein, CS Lewis, HG Wells, Thomas Hardy, Alice Walker, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Burgess, JD Salinger, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Connie Willis, Bruce Sterling, John Irving, Arthur Miller, Eowyn Ivey, Max Weber, Dennis Lehane, Larry McMurtry, Sara Gruen, Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, Levi-Strauss, and many, many more for a group of modern writers who write for a specific medium?
There is no reason to even ask this question. Many of these “modern Japanese writers” you admire take inspiration from some of these mentioned writers. I remember reading Hikaru Sakurai loving Ted Chiang’s Story of My Life and Others and Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book, all great works of science fiction books.
It is ignorant to suggest that the world is divided into East and West when it comes to art too. Art is in a universal conversation with each other, let it be you living in Chicago, Ouagadougou, Shenzhen, or Leeds. Everyone needs each other. We can’t trade artistic cultures the same way we trade stocks. It doesn’t work that way! We should love how, even in different cultures and countries, we can read or watch the same thing without feeling left out. Hollywood understands that and that’s why films outside the West are being released at the same date and time as the Western countries. If Michael Bay’s Transformers 3 can spark a universal condemnation of Bay’s directing, why can’t we do the same with writing, especially in books and visual novels? We are in a world when we can’t call Transformers 3 a “film for Americans”; it’s for everyone around the world.
Why can’t we say, “Nobody writes in their country anymore; everyone writes in this planet called Earth”?
And yet, and yet, we are stuck calling books by American writers “American literature” and everywhere else “world literature”. I agree that there are certain traits that make up American writing, British writing, Japanese writing, South African writing, and so on — I can’t deny that there are certain genres and storytelling that are contained in a specific writing culture — but why can’t we all accept that we are now writing for the world and not some localized section anymore? Fucking WordPress tells me that people from Sri Lanka read my blog. But we can’t accept that. We think we write for Americans. We delude ourselves into thinking that Japanese writers are talking to themselves when there are writers like Murakami who take inspiration from Western writers.
That’s why you get people who firmly believe that Japanese literature is some ephemeral godly being that transcends all flaws that dignify Western literature. That’s not true. What makes SCA-JI and Romeo unique is not because they are Japanese — it’s because they are SCA-JI and Romeo. You don’t slap them as “Japanese writers”, equating them as good because they are “Japanese writers”. Sure, they may use specific storytelling techniques from Japanese oral and literary culture — but that doesn’t mean shit. These writers are unique because of how they write, not how a certain culture make them write.
Maybe I read too deeply into the question. Maybe the asker is just saying, “Man, I wish there are writers like SCA-JI in the West. That’d be cool.” Of course we long for another writer who writes like our favorite writer. I wish more people write like Douglas Adams for example. But that longing sounds dumb if you say, “Man, I wish there are writers like Douglas Adams in Japan. That’d be cool.” Douglas Adams may be a British writer and he loves using the dry humor that is quintessentially british, but he is Douglas Adams. No amount of wishing and longing will bring him back from the dead. And I doubt there will be anyone who writes his style of humor in Japanese.
Douglas Adams is the writer of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Romeo Tanaka is the writer of CROSS+CHANNEL. SCA-JI is the writer of Subarashiki Hibi. They are unique identities. It is foolish to wish for writers like them to appear like magic because they are great writers and nothing we will ever do can replace them.