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18 June 2011

Sad Loss of Mr. Fuminobu Murakami

It is with great sadness that our friend and colleague Fuminobu (Fumi) Murakami passed away in the early hours of 08 June 2011. Fumi had been battling cancer for nearly one year, but he maintained his soft-spoken yet intense devotion to literature to the end.

Fuminobu Murakami was born 11 June 1951, in Hokkaidō, Japan. He was educated first at Hokkaidō Kyōiku Daigaku (Hokkaidō University of Education) where he received his B.Ed. from the Department of Japanese Language and Literature in 1976. Fumi then entered the doctoral program in Japanese Language and Literature at Hokkaidō University, and received M. Litt in 1978. It was standard practice in Japanese academia at the time to depart the graduate program upon completing the doctorate course as katei hakase, as Fumi was awarded in 1981, which is seen as the Ph.D. equivalent.

Fumi joined the University of Hong Kong in September 1988 and remained a dedicated teacher and a provocative thinker for the next twenty-three years. Fumi served as the mentor to scores of students, inspiring their studies on all aspects of Japanese literature and culture. He served as Head of the Department of Japanese Studies from September 1995 to December 1996, and was in charge of curriculum, teaching, and examination of School of Modern Languages and Cultures as the Deputy Head from July 2006 to February 2011.

Modest and soft-spoken, Fumi would mention his research in self-deprecating tones. Yet his scholarship spoke with authority and conviction, and his topics ranged from literary analysis of the 8th century Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), linguistic examination of 11th century The Tale of Genji, as well as modern and contemporary Japanese literature. His expertise on modern Japanese thought allowed him to examine contemporary literature through the lens of postmodernism, feminism, and nationalism, to name a few of his intellectual interests. His publications include The Strong and the Weak in Japanese Literature: Discrimination, Egalitarianism, Nationalism (Routledge, 2010), Postmodern, Feminist, and Postcolonial Currents in Contemporary Japanese Culture: A Reading of Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, Yoshimoto Takaaki and Karatani Kōjin (Routledge, Hardcover 2005, Paperback 2009), and Ideology and Narrative in Modern Japanese Literature (Van Gorcum, 1996).

Fumi is survived by his wife, Tomoko Kiyama, the Japanese Language Advisor to the Japan Foundation, and their daughter, Nanako Murakami. Countless colleagues and students around the world will sorely miss him.

A Buddhist memorial service will be held on 18 June 2011, Saturday, at 7 pm in Hong Kong Funeral Home (香港殯儀館) in North Point.

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