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In the Woods of Memory

In the Woods of Memory

Kyle Ikeda


Takuma Sminkey


A powerful and thought-provoking novel that raises important questions about World War II, war memory, and US imperialism and blowback.

In the Woods of Memory is a powerful, thought-provoking novel that focuses on two incidents during the Battle of Okinawa, 1945: the sexual assault on Sayoko, 17, by four US soldiers and her friend Seiji’s attempt at revenge. 

Narrations through nine points of view, Japanese and American, from 1945 to the present day reveal the full complexity of events and how war trauma inevitably ripples through the generations.










Literary Fiction






5 x 8












"In its unsparing squint into the darkest moments of human experience, this masterpiece of Okinawan literature continues to speak to us all."

The Japan Times

"This is a novel that reminds us what it means to survive, and the often appalling cost of that survival."

Trevor Carolan, The Pacific Rim Review of Books

"Shun Medoruma has emerged as one of Okinawa's leading literary figures and critical intellectual voices since receiving the coveted Akutagawa Prize in 1997. . . . His writing about Okinawan war memory and trauma stands out as particularly powerful and important."

Kyle Ikeda, University of Vermont, author of Okinawan War Memory: Transgenerational Trauma and the Fiction of Medoruma Shun (Routledge, 2014)

"5/5 "An alternating narrative creates a subtle yet intense and multilayered portrait of Okinawans."

Foreword Reviews

"This is a novel about war, about history, about rape, yes. But more importantly it is about the synthesis of all of these subjects, the moments of intersection: of individual and collective traumas, memory and community, language and history."

Black Warrior Review

"Medoruma's uniquely visceral and realistic writing style creates a powerful portrait of a chain of sorrow that has destroyed human beings through the generations. Readers will yet again be astonished by the talents of the author, who obviously released this complex work after thoroughly crafting it."

Sadatoshi Oshiro, author

"A study in chaos theory, an exploration of how a single act can have unforeseen and wide-ranging repercussions."


"Narrated by a cast of characters coming from all sides, weaving the unique perspectives of Okinawans, Japanese, and Americans together into a multifaceted understanding of the complex situation."

World Literature Review

"The dramatic tension in “In the Woods of Memory” is sustained throughout, offering an in-depth look at the residual of the war in Okinawa."

Nichi Bei

"This layered, textured novel throws into stark relief the interconnections between experience and memory, and the enduring nature of trauma."

— The Colorado Review

"Generally regarded as Okinawa's most adventurous and promising writer of fiction today."

Michael Molasky, University of Minnesota, author of The American Occupation of Japan and Okinawa: Literature and Memory (Routledge, 1999)

"Shun Medoruma’s 'literature of resistance' has evolved to a higher level through his inventive use of narration, which seems to reverberate through the cave in the woods described in this serialized novel. The work has also taken him one more solid step toward becoming a world-renowned literary figure."

Yoshiaki Koshikawa, Meiji University

"Based on an actual incident, this novel depicts the sexual assault of a village girl by an American soldier during the Battle of Okinawa and a village youth’s slashing counter-attack. Medoruma portrays the assault's life-long effects on the girl and her family, emotionally and socially devastated, and on the perpetrator, wounded in the counter-attack and later plagued with nightmares, from each of their viewpoints."

Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, Co-editor, Islands of Protest: Japanese Literature from Okinawa (University of Hawaii Press, 2016)


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About the Author(s)

Kyle Ikeda

Kyle Ikeda

Received his doctorate in Japanese from the University of Hawai‘i—Manoa in 2007 and is now an associate professor at the University of Vermont. He is one of the leading researchers in English on Shun Medoruma.

Shun Medoruma

Shun Medoruma

Akutagawa Prize–winner and activist Shun Medoruma was born in Okinawa.

Takuma Sminkey

Takuma Sminkey

A university English teacher and translator living in Naha, Japan. His translations include A Rabbit’s Eyes by Haitani Kenjirō (2005) and Ichigensan—The Newcomer by David Zoppetti (2011).

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