Haruki Murakami, one of the world’s foremost novelists, waded into the territorial row between China and Japan yesterday, warning of the peril of politicians offering the “cheap liquor” of nationalism.
His intervention came as Beijing launched a blistering attack on Tokyo at the UN accusing Tokyo of theft, as the dispute over the ownership of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan, intensified.
The Japanese author of Norwegian Wood said cool heads should prevail.
Writing in the Asahi Shimbun, Murakami, who has been tipped as a future Nobel laureate, said disputes over land existed because of the unfortunate system of dividing humanity into countries.
“When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of ‘national emotions,’ it creates a dangerous situation with no exit. It is like cheap liquor. Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely ... But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning,” he wrote.
“We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage,” he added.
Ownership of the strategically-coveted islands, also claimed by Taiwan, has been a sore in Sino-Japanese relations for decades.
Tensions between two of the world’s largest economies spiked when Japan swooped to nationalize them, a move Tokyo says was purely administrative, but which Beijing saw as a provocation.
Murakami said he was shocked by reports that books by Japanese writers had been removed from Chinese stores because of the dispute.
“One of the main purposes of cultural exchange is to bring about an understanding that we are all human beings who share emotions and inspirations, even if we speak different languages,” he wrote.
Murakami said he hoped there would be no retaliation by Japanese bookshops.
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of cheap liquor passes,” he said. “But the path for souls to come and go must not be blocked.”