1Q84 Liveblog


During my third year of college, my Japanese literature professor invited me to cheer on Haruki Murakami at the Boston Marathon with his departmental literature class, a class I’d taken the year before. The small group of us went in a few cars over to Heartbreak Hill, the brutal rising slope towards the end of the marathon course. We got there and watched the runners pass by, numbers and names written on their arms and shirts, as they trudged, walked and ran through the last few miles of the race. Murakami eventually approached, we cheered, and he ran off with a confused look on his face – it was a great day.

In the car on our way to the race, the professor said something that I’ve kept somewhere in my head for a long time now – six years to be exact. He said, “What we’re doing doesn’t make sense, but we’re not doing it because it makes sense.” This seems like an appropriate time for them to come floating back to me – what I’m about to do doesn’t make sense, but I’m not doing it because it makes sense.

I will be doing it well, though. I’m equipped with a nice Islay single-malt, a choice selection of beer, and a rainy weekend giving me the perfect excuse to sit inside and read. For food, I have some snacks to tide me over, but I’ll go knock off the local McDonald’s for some bread later tonight. Yes we パン!

So sit back, relax, give your whisky a swirl, and check after the break for 1Q84 liveblog madness all weekend (or until my eyeballs fall out).

Continue reading

号外 – Q-Teen Eighty Four Early Release

What’s that book he’s got there…






Yes, the street date has been broken for 1Q84. (Do we call it “one kew eight four” or “q-teen eighty four” in English?) I saw a tweet about a possible early release and decided to drop by the closest bookstore after work. Sure enough, there were copies of Book 1 sitting next to the other new hardbacks. They didn’t have Book 2, which is probably fine since I won’t be needing it for another month or so.

Immediate first impressions:

– It was expensive. 1800 yen, or just about $18. Do hardcovers in the US cost $36?

– It’s massive. 554 pages to be exact. I believe Book 2 puts the combined length at over 1000 pages.

– It probably features chapters with alternating stories. I’ve really only read through the index, but this is made clear by some kanji after the chapter numbers. Can’t confirm this because I haven’t read anything yet. Also haven’t looked up the kanji.

– The chapter titles are Pynchon/Fariña-esque. Also similar to Wind-up Bird. They’re more phrase-like than noun-like. At one point they also refer to “readers” (読者), although this could very well be readers within the book and not me and you.

– It takes place between April and June. The months (4月ー6月) are on the cover. I believe Book 2 has a different set of months.

– It looks more dense than his past books. Big blocky paragraphs. Not so much dialogue and short phrasing as in old works.

– It smells like a book.

I read the first sentence already. It’s going to be hard for me to stop myself from reading the rest until Friday, but that’s what I’ll do. After I wake up and have breakfast, I’ll dive right in. See you Friday morning.


I got the day off on Friday, so barring extreme personal injury, the 1Q84 liveblog will start at approximately 7 AM JST.

Murakami had a couple interesting things to say in an interview in the Spring volume of the Japanese magazine monkey business (translations are my own):

When I write a new novel, I say to myself, “This time, I’ll try doing this or this differently,” and establish several specific assignments for myself in terms of techniques, and for Norwegian Wood that [having scenes with three people talking] was one of the assignments. (33)

Afterdark clearly had some new techniques. It will be fun to see what he does this time. He drops a few hints about the “comprehensive novel” (borrowing Rubin’s translation of 総合小説), which he seems to imply is forthcoming and not the soon-to-be released (*fanboy squeal*) 1Q84:

So I’ve given that kind of novel the designation “comprehensive novel” as a kind of temporary name. People have all sorts of concepts for the designation comprehensive novel, so it’s easy to be mistaken, but what I think of as a “comprehensive novel” is basically one that’s long…and heavy. (laughs) And it’s a novel where all sorts of people, from remarkable people to normal people, appear one after the other, and many different perspectives are overlapped organically. Something like that. If you do that, then naturally, you won’t be able to write it in the first person. So when I mentioned earlier that if you look in at the big picture, my fiction has shifted from first-person to third-person, that’s what I was talking about. And in the end, that’s [towards a comprehensive novel] where I want to be heading.

Lots of different stories appear and intertwine into one, and there’s a certain type of sordidness, strangeness, seriousness, a chaos-like condition that can’t be compressed into one, all of that with a world view as a backdrop. When all those conflicting factors pile up into something like a melting pot, that’s the comprehensive novel I think of. And pretty soon I’ll be over 60, so I might not be able to get there as quickly as Dostoyevsky [who wrote The Brothers Karamazov at 59], but I think I’d like to gradually produce my own kind of comprehensive novel.

But it’s really hard work. And now, I’ve been writing a new full-length novel continuously for the last two years – I started writing it right on Christmas two years ago – so for that whole time, I was getting up every day at some time between 2 and 4 in the morning and writing for four or five hours. During that period, I did take time off for vacation, but I think it was only about 10 to 20 days. Sitting there in front of my desk everyday for four to five hours straight, that was pretty tough. (56-57)

Two more days to kill.

Game Lingo – 敵


(てき) is a relatively straightforward term – it means enemy. The one thing to keep in mind is that occasionally it can refer to another human player rather than an in-game enemy; in this case, “opponent” is a more appropriate translation than “enemy.”

An interesting compound using is 無敵 (むてき), which is the Japanese word for “invincibility” and should never be translated as “no enemies.” A frequently used, non-idiomatic four character compound is 一時無敵 (いちじむてき), which means “temporary invincibility.”

号外 – More 1Q84 Info

I just got this as a comment on the old Blogsome version of this blog. Pretty interesting stuff:

The following is a fragment that has been removed from Wikipedia’s page, but it is worth thinking about and posting somewhere.

The Internet is rife with speculation as to the possible meaning of the title, with various theories including a pun on [[George Orwell]]’s [[Nineteen Eighty-Four]], a belief supported by the Murakami scholar Shojo Fujii, who claims that it is to be understood as “I am Q”, from [[Lu Xun]]’s novella [[The True Story of Ah Q]], to a claim that it has to do with the chromosomal location of [[acetylcholinesterase]] in humans and rat’s, on chromosome 1 (which is inaccurate; chromosomal locations are not designated quite this way.). This reference would suggest that the book has some reference to the [[Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway|Aum Shinrikyo gas attack]], which used [[sarin]] gas, which targets this critical enzyme.

However, the [[Protein Data Bank]] [[X-ray crystallography|protein crystal structure]] identifier for mouse acetylcholinesterase is labeled 1Q84, suggesting that this lattermost interpretation bears some credence. This is further supported by cover images[[http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http://virtualsushi.livejournal.com/]] Retrieved on May 20, 2009 which bear the dates 1985 (the year of the founding of the [[Aum Shinrikyo]] cult), 1994 (the year of the [[Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway|Aum Shinrikyo gas attack]]), 2002 (whose meaning is unclear, perhaps the date of a survey suggesting that the public still does not trust the [[Aum Shinrikyo|Aleph]] group, and 2009 (perhaps the date of publication?).

Some nice informed speculation there, but I think the bit about the dates is digging too deep. It’s not on the cover, but on the publisher’s site – here. If you click on the date, it takes you to a page promoting the novel Murakami published in that year. Shinchōsha is basically using the new novel to promote their old ones. Here is the page of my predictions for the novel.

One Week Until 1Q84 Liveblog!

1Q84 comes out next Friday! This will be the first major Murakami release when I’ve been in Japan. I was here when 『東京奇譚集』came out, but most of those stories had been published in magazines beforehand. Also, I had to drive 20 minutes to the closest bookstore to get my copy. This time I should be able to pick it up almost anywhere. I plan on making the rounds Thursday evening to see if anywhere accidentally puts it out early, but I don’t have much hope for that. I’m really tempted to take off from work on Friday. It will depend on what the workload looks like next week. If I take off from work, then the liveblog should begin at around 9AM JST on Friday. If not, probably 7PM. Check back next week on Wednesday or Thursday for an estimated start time.

My New Orleans

The day before I went back home, I jammed my camera and broke it. I was distressed about it for the first few days of my trip – I really wanted to capture some of New Orleans – but I decided to take it as a sign from the universe that I should enjoy Jazzfest intoxicated and totally unencumbered. Which I did. And I can now say that unencumbered is bar far the most preferable way to enjoy Jazzfest. Some folks will bring loads of equipment and camp at the Acura Stage or the Gentilly Stage, but I prefer to roam here and there, catch little bits of different acts, do lots of people watching. Let me repeat myself: skip Mardi Gras, go to Jazzfest.

In the end my buddy Vasu let me borrow his camera for a couple days. I took some video all over my neighborhood. I’ve lived in four houses in New Orleans, and they’re all within 3-4 blocks of each other. I meant to post something like this while I was back home, so forgive the fact that it’s unrelated to Japan. (Also, camera has been fixed, so hopefully new Japan-related videos in the not too distant future.)

My New Orleans from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

号外 – Another Tsutsui Plug


The back cover of Salmonella Men from Planet Porno. If this paragraph from the story “Bravo Herr Mozart!” doesn’t interest you, then you might be a fundamentally boring person:

Mozart fell ever deeper into poverty from this time on. He studied to be a magician, and tried to make ends meet by taking side jobs, like “theatre manager”. But when his manservant Figaro upped and married in Prague without his permission, Mozart’s financial fortunes reached an even lower ebb. He became dependent on a person called Chloe, went around seducing women and acting like a right Don Juan, wrote musical jokes for the NHS, walked the streets naked shouting “Eine kleine Nachmusik!” and summoned the God of Death by playing his magic flute.

The stories in the collection are mostly dark satire (ironically categorized as “science fiction” in Japan, I believe), but “Bravo Herr Mozart!” is a nice bit of absurdism.

Underrated Phrase – 助かりました


While Japanese does have a high tolerance for repetition and redundancy, it’s important to expand your vocabulary. Throwing in a 大好物 instead of 好き (for food only!), knowing how to vary your いい, using some onomatopoeia instead of regular adjectives  – they’re all part of the don’t-sound-like-a-dope game we non-native speakers play.

Arguably the single most repeated phrase is the simple ありがとうございます (which I have a lot of trouble pronouncing – I hate that friggin り!). Sure, this is relatively easy to mix up with ありがとう, どうも, or even あざーす (for comedic effect), but these still lie within the sphere of the basic term for “Thank you.”

So how do you express your gratitude in a different way? The word you are looking for is 助かる. I’m sure you’re more familiar/comfortable with its transitive cousin 助ける, which means to help/save.

(Quick sidenote: if you’re trying to say help as in “help someone do relatively simple thing X,” then you’re probably looking for the verb 手伝う. 助ける is closer to “save someone’s life” than “help erase the chalkboard.”)

Don’t even think about what 助かる means – that’s not the goal here. The goal is to figure out the usage. I don’t remember a specific incident when I learned this, but I do remember the fact that people often said 助かった or 助かりました after I’d done something nice/helpful. I started throwing it around with decent results.

It doesn’t substitute for ありがとうございます in all cases, but if someone has done you a favor then 助かりました is a really nice way to say that you appreciated what they did for you, especially if the favor was unexpected. I should probably note that even the distal form of this pattern is a slightly casual – don’t go using it on the emperor.

And just for fun let’s look at it literally. I mentioned transitive up there somewhere, but I think 助かる is best considered a passive tense verb. When you say it with the zero pronoun, you become the subject of 助かりました. (私が)助かりました is what you should be thinking to yourself when you say it. Literally, (bear with me here) “I was helped.” And there’s more invisible people involved in this one word sentence, of course. The complete sentence with all invisible individuals accounted for looks like this: (私が君に)助かりました, or “I was helped by you.” In normal English, “What you did for me was a big help.” Maybe even more naturally, “I really appreciate what you did for me.”

But you don’t need to think about it too much. Just throw it out there when somebody does something nice for you. Get used to it, yo.

Cool Compound – 回文


The omiyage industry in Japan is ridiculous. Millions of cookies and cakes are created every year so people in Japan can feel less guilty about taking time off. Check out this list of 銘菓 (めいか) – “famous confections” – on Wikipedia. In what is basically a desperate cash grab, these companies will do almost anything to stand out. One of my personal favorite omiyage has a unique name – ごまたまご:


As the name suggests, it’s an egg with sesame-flavored filling:



It’s pretty tasty, but more notable for the name which also happens to be a palindrome, a 回文 (かいぶん) in Japanese.

Other Japanese palindromes? トマト. まさこさま. And 世の中ね、顔か、お金か、なのよ.