“What am I?”
Waseda was one of the top private universities in Japan, rivaled by Keio University. I had known my uncle wanted to study literature at Waseda but was not accepted. I could understand how much my uncle, who once aspired to become a novelist, wanted to go to Waseda because the list of novelists among Waseda graduates was pretty impressive. Haruki Murakami, Yoko Ogawa, Yoko Tawada, Kan Kikuchi, Ranpo Edogawa, Taichi Yamada, Sanjugo Naoki, and many more.
My mother was not as well-read as my uncle, but she recommended me to read “Bokutte Nani? (What am I?),” an autobiographical novel by Masahiro Mita, that depicted the campus activism in the 60s, and it won the Akutagawa Prize in 1977. In the novel, the protagonist got involved in activism with little control on his side. The person whose ideology influenced him the most was an older female student with a very self-assertive personality. It was a coming of age novel in which he found himself always engulfed by the outer influence. Through the noise of his surroundings, he tried to find his identity.
I was intrigued by the idea of “finding identity.” It looked like something that had to be done while in school, and I thought at Waseda, there’d be many other searchers. They wouldn’t be coming to Waseda to become a civil servant/teacher/energy company executive. They would be in pursuit of philosophical revelation. They, I thought, were my tribe.