Asian studies in Lithuania
Original language: Japanese
Translated from: Japanese
Authors: Murata, Sayaka
Translated by: Čepulionytė-Žukauskienė, Gabija
ISBN: 987-609-480-124-2
Published in: Vilnius
Published on: 2019
Publisher: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla

“Convenience Store Woman” is a book about 36-year-old Japanese Keiko Furukura, who for 18 years has been a loyal employee of a food and essentials store called “Kombini”. However, she and the “kombini “ share a much deeper connection, Keiko feels like she is a part of the store or even its lover. In this place she feels a sense of fulfillment and meaningfulness that she has never experienced before. This unusual relationship and dedication to the store is incomprehensible to her family and friends, as it is not a “normal” way of life. Even though Keiko feels the pressure from her relatives to start a “normal life”, which is to find a full-time job, marry and have children and so become a proper member of the society, she feels that her sole purpose is to be a perfect convenience store employee. While working, Furukura also meets Shiraha, who is employed in the same store. Shiraha has a similar fate as the heroine of the book – he is a social outcast and does not live his life properly, according to the rules set by society.

The author of this book presents a different type of love story than we are used to seeing – it is love not between two people, but between a person and a lifeless object, a place that simply cannot “feel” anything back. However, the connection the heroine of the book feels with her workplace seems no less close and strong than the one between people.

In this book the author also raises a question about the outcasts of the world, people whose lives do not conform to the norms and rules of modern materialistic society. Although they do things that can bring them personal happiness, they are not considered “normal” in society’s eyes, so they remain misunderstood and rejected. The author asks, if it is possible for such people to fit into the framework of the “normalness” of society, and so hide from materialism, be accepted and happy? Also, are you considered a valuable member of society, only after losing your, perhaps strange qualities, that are part of your personality, and adapting to the norms of society?

The book “Convenience Store Woman” is an international bestseller, voted to be the best book of the year by many. The author of this book, Sayaka Murata was born in Chiba Prefecture in 1979 and is one of Japan’s most famous writers. She has won many literary prizes – the Gunzo Prize for New Writers, the Yukio Mishima Prize, the Noma Literary New Face Prize and the prestigious Akutagawa Prize. Although Murata is a graduate of literary at Saitama Prefectural University, she also works as a part-time worker in a “kombini” store just like the character Keiko. For this reason, the author can be considered a prototype of the main character and an inspiration for the plot of the book.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU