Narratives of rape and trauma

 in contemporary Japanese literature by female writers

Introduction to Topic

Talking about the experience of rape is a taboo in patriarchally organized societies such as Japan. While rape is found to be an experience as traumatizing as that of combat during times of war, Japanese society fails to acknowledge the profound psychological strains experienced by rape survivors. This means survivors are forced to endure their rape trauma in silence, resulting in suicide in the worst case. 

Pressured to remain silent on the experience of rape and its traumatic after-effects, female Japanese authors make use of literature to shed light on what it means to survive rape and how this traumatizing experience affects their lives. As representations of rape and rape trauma in literature present a relatively new field of research in literary studies both in and outside of Japan, my thesis aims to fill this gap by analyzing how female Japanese authors describe the effects of rape and rape trauma while living in an environment that neither provides appropriate legal protection for rape survivors nor expresses much empathy towards them.

Theoretical Concepts

  • Feminist theory
  • Gender Studies
  • Trauma studies


  • Close reading of literary texts
  • Contextual analysis


  • Uchida Shungiku 内田春菊
    1993    Fazā fakkā ファザーファッカー ([Father fucker])
    1996    Atashi ga umi ni kaeru made あたしが海に還るまで ([Until I return to the sea])
  • Yoshimoto Banana 吉本バナナ
    1997    “Marika no sofā” マリカのソファー ([Marika’s sofa])
  • Sakurai Ami 桜井亜美
    2004    Sora no kaori o ai suru yō ni 空の香りを愛するように ([To love the scent of the sky])
  • Hoshino Natsu 星野夏
    2006    Aozora あおぞら ([Blue Sky])


  • How are rape and its aftermaths discussed in contemporary Japanese literature by female writers?
  • How is rape trauma woven into literary texts on a stylistic level?
  • How does rape trauma affect the relationships between the surviving protagonists and their social environment?
  • How does the social environment respond to the protagonist’s revelation of having experienced rape?


  • On the whole, Japanese female writers depict Japanese society as a place where women may easily fall victim to rape since men who rape don’t have to fear any consequences, be they legal or societal. 
  • Contrary to the prevailing belief in Japan that the rapist is typically a stranger, all the characters committing rape in the texts are not strangers but either closely or professionally related to the violated protagonists.
  • All protagonists are left alone with their emotional process following the rapes.
  • Having experienced rape, the protagonists feel they have lost their proper place in society, thus finding themselves on the fringes of society.
  • Rape trauma depictions vary by genre. While the rape trauma in (semi-)biographical texts is depicted through ellipses, fictional texts tend to use mental disorders like dissociative identity disorder to express the rape trauma.
  • Rape trauma shatters the protagonists’ trust in other characters, leading to disrupted relationships and the urge for isolation from the outside world.
  • All narratives point to the necessity of other characters to overcome the rape trauma.
  • The texts describe three different types of reactions to the protagonists’ revelation of having been raped:
    • Ignorance as expressed in characters staunchly refusing to respond to the crisis of the protagonists.
    • Helplessness as expressed in characters who would like to help, but don’t know how.
    • Complicity as expressed in characters who justify the rape.

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