Abe Kobo's 'Woman in the Dunes' as a Metaphor for Human Relations Within Japanese Companies

Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 2007

Posted: 23 May 2007

See all articles by Takuya Ito

Takuya Ito

affiliation not provided to SSRN


In this paper I discuss the internal relational dynamics of a Japanese company (kaisha) with reference to Abe Kobo's novel Suna no onna (The Woman in the Dunes) and I will suggest that the novel portrays the true nature of the kaisha. The outline of the novel is as follows. One day, while on an expedition to collect insects, the protagonist Niki Jumpei visits a village situated in the dunes. As the day draws to a close, he requests a villager to direct him to an inn. The villagers trick him and take him to a house located in a deep hole in the dunes. In this hole lives a woman who's task is to clear away sand. The villagers force Niki to cooperate with her in shovelling sand from the hole because if they do not do so, the entire village is likely to be buried. He refuses to help them and attempts to escape on several occasions. However, all his attempts meet with failure. Finally, he no longer attempts to escape because he enters a de facto marriage with the woman, who bears him a child. I have considered the characters of this novel from the following perspective. First, Niki is a company recruit and the woman and the hole both represent a kaisha. The villagers represent the senior salarymen who are closely associated with the kaisha. According to this interpretation, the novel describes the story of the marriage between a recruit and the kaisha. In the course of their relationship, the recruit is taught the importance of cooperativeness by the senior salarymen. Moreover, I have analysed the characteristics of the kaisha with the help of Jungian psychology and suggested a reform proposal to bring about improvements in the kaisha.

Keywords: Kaisha (Japanese company), Abe Kobo's novel The Woman in the Dunes, Salaryman (Japanese company employee), Jungian psychology

JEL Classification: J53, M14

Suggested Citation

Ito, Takuya, Abe Kobo's 'Woman in the Dunes' as a Metaphor for Human Relations Within Japanese Companies. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=987911

Takuya Ito (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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