ad info


Asiaweek TIMEASIA.com CNN.com
 > magazine
 home
 intelligence
 web features
 magazine archive
 technology
 newsmap
 customer service
 subscribe
 TIMEASIA.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL

Other News
TIME.com
TIME Europe
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


OCTOBER 20, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 41 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Internal Exodus
Novelist Murakami Ryu sees a dim future
By JONATHAN SPRAGUE and MURAKAMI MUTSUKO Tokyo

ALSO:

Transformations: Japan changed before. It can happen again


The year is 2001. A CNN news crew in northern Pakistan finds a Japanese teenager in the midst of a band of Muslim guerrillas. In a TV interview, he declares: "There is nothing in Japan. It is a dead country." His words strike a chord with Japanese children his age. Across the country, middle-schoolers stop attending classes. They organize across the Internet, form a video image distribution agency named Asunaro that beams their message across the world, and start a variety of new businesses. Summoned to Parliament, the youngsters' leader tells stunned adults that Japan has everything but hope. Meanwhile, the yen collapses and the nation slips to the brink of bankruptcy. Asunaro moves to the northern island of Hokkaido where the kids establish an independent state.

That quickly summarizes Exodus in the Hopeful Country, the new novel by Murakami Ryu. The story caused a storm when it was serialized in 1998-99 in the Bungei Shunju monthly, partly because of its message, and partly because Murakami, who in novels from Coin Locker Babies to the recent Symbiosis Worm, has so often focused on issues before anyone else. Among the subjects he has recently tackled: teen violence and the dark side of the Internet.

 THE NEW GENERATION  
Movers and shakers in the New Economy
 • Net-Worker
 • More Than Money
 • Taking a Stand  
 • Bridge-Builder
With Exodus, Murakami takes on Japan's post-Bubble Economy malaise. Not that he thinks middle schoolers are to become Japan's new leaders. "Elementary kids are too young and high schoolers are too close to adulthood," he explains. Other aspects of the book are more real. Says Murakami: "Adults have lost their confidence and kids have had to grow up for 10 years in a world with defeated adults, where no one talks about how society should be or even says, 'I want to do something with my life.'"

Murakami fears that Japanese youth are now under too much pressure, particularly from bullying in school. And life isn't much easier for them at home. But, he adds, it is often the weak who trigger major changes. "The first creatures who left the sea were actually weak, in danger of being eaten by bigger fish, so they came up on shore and eventually became the ancestors of land animals," he says. "The people who have the most power now can't do anything. The ones who are being hurt most will act to survive."

What about current efforts to revive Japan? They are too simplistic, Murakami reckons. Take information technology (IT). While a devotee of the Internet with numerous websites of his own, he doubts the government can put the entire country online the way it once engineered the switch from coal to oil. "Middle managers losing their jobs or killing themselves aren't going to be saved if they learn how to use a computer," he says. "Their problem is that they can't communicate outside of their old offices." But, he acknowledges, individuals who understand technology and can take in and communicate new ideas are increasing.

As Japan slowly changes, the country may lose the sense of "one-ness" it values so much. But Murakami does not want a new ideology of individuality. "The idea is to have a society of individuals who will uphold common rules." So can Japan change? "When I see young people with a lot of energy starting up their own ventures, I have hope," Murakami says. "But when I look at all the vested interests entrenched in power, I become hopeless." He is not alone.

Back to the top
Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek.com Home

AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search
  ASIAWEEK'S LATEST
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

  THIS EDITION
COVER: Japan: A new generation is coming up with individualistic solutions that will ultimately change the nation
Looking Glass: Novelist Murakami Ryu sees a dim future
Transformations: Japan changed before. It can happen again

NATIONS
PHILIPPINES: Is the end coming for President Estrada?
• Juentang money: Estrada defends himself against the claims
Record: The litany of unending controversies
Interview: Accuser Singson tells his side of the story

MYANMAR: Universities are open again, and one academic — former dictator Ne Win's wife — is happy

INDONESIA: The attorney general is not done with Suharto
Population: Family planning is threatened

INSIDE STORY
TIBET: As Tibetan exiles battle for power, Beijing seeks greater control over their homeland
Interview: What the Dalai Lama sees in Tibet's future
Reincarnation: The politics of Buddhism's central mystery
Interview: Tibetan "traitor" Ngabo Ngawang Jigme

ARTS & SCIENCE
People: The naked truth about Taiwan pop star Coco Lee

Art: Thai artist Vasan Sitthiket is rude, crude and proud of it

Health: Rating the top websites on diabetes

Books: Introducing sex by the numbers

BUSINESS
Gloom: Consumers are worried despite Korea's good numbers

Banks: Are Taiwan's financial institutions under threat?

Telecom: Troubles for Malaysia's largest cellphone operator

Investing: The next course for Bangkok's bourse

TECHNOLOGY
Shakeout: Chinese portals merge as dead dotcoms pile up

GigaMedia: A talk with the man who said no to PCCW

Cutting Edge: PC Witch -Head for the Woods, Gamer

EDITORIALS

Taiwan: President Chen needs to build a real coalition

God: Christianity's struggle for China and India

Letters & Comment: Can Asian biotech catch up?

STATISTICS
The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.