I’ve been neglecting this update for too long – I’m not sure where the time went over the holidays. I was in the Japan Times twice recently, spanning the decades. First with a look at some random bits and pieces I had lying around: “Cleaning house (and head) at the end of the year.” And then with my 60th Bilingual page article and a look at the number 60: “Life begins at 60 (or at least it starts anew).”

It’s funny how you gain an intuition in a non-native language. There are times when I know something is incorrect, or not quite polite enough, and I’ll go Googling and find out that, of course, I was right.

This is a page I used to track down the right usage. 来られますか (koraremasuka, Are you able to come?) isn’t quite impolite, but it’s possible to be more polite.

This Mayonez piece has an interest look at keigo in general and a nice concise look at ら抜き (ranuki, potential verbs with the ら dropped from them – e.g. 食べれる, 来れる) verbs and how they are perceived.

My intuition was once again confirmed when I went looking to see whether or not women also celebrate 還暦 (kanreki, 60th birthday), and this Chiebukuro person was asking the same question that I was – do women also celebrate 還暦?

I think that’s because I’d only ever been exposed to men wearing the red getup. I’d only ever seen it on social media until September 2018 when, at a work conference, my Japanese colleagues surprised one of their group with a cake, candles, and the red clothing. Bizarrely enough, another member of the group had the same birthday and was also turning 60. It was fun to see in person.

It’s nice to know that this intuition is still around, despite having moved home from Japan 10 years ago this year. It helps that I’m in a position of being able to visit regularly. I’m booked for a work trip in May and may have a chance to go again. Unfortunately the May trip is just about fully accounted for, so I won’t have much time to myself, but it will be super busy. By the end of the weak I’ll be ready to pass out in my aisle seat and wake up at O’Hare.

On my list of things to bring home? Higashimura Akiko manga (this is a clue for my next Bilingual article) and some Evan Williams Red Label bourbon. Anyone have whiskey recommendations? Glad to hear them.


Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWastelandHard-onsSeventeenEmbrace
Year Eight: PigeonEditsMagazinesAwkwardnessBack Issues
Year Nine: WaterSnæfellsnesCannonballDistant Drumming
Year Ten: VermontersWandering and BelongingPeter Cat, Sushi Counter, Murakami Fucks First
Year Eleven: Embers, Escape, Window Seats, The End of the World
Year Twelve: Distant Drums, Exhaustion, Kiss, Lack of Pretense

100 pages into the memoir, Murakami has settled into life on the island and takes a chapter to capture his daily routines titled “A Day in the Life of a Novelist on Spetses” (スペッツェス島における小説家の一日).

Here’s a section from the beginning:

Once I finish breakfast, I run. At least 40 minutes, and at most about 100 minutes. When I get back I take a shower and get to work. While I’m on this trip, I’m planning to work on two translations, a set of travel sketches (like what I’m writing here), and a new novel. So I don’t have much free time at all. I work on my manuscript for a bit, and when I get bored I move to the translation. When I get bored of the translation, I work on the manuscript again. It’s like going to a rotemburo on a rainy day. When I start to feel light headed, I get out of the water, and when I get cold I get back in. This goes on and on. (110-111)

朝食が済むと走る。短くて四十分、長くて百分ぐらい。帰ってきてシャワーを浴び、仕事にかかる。今回の旅行中に仕上げる予定でいるのは翻訳二冊ぶんと、旅行のスケッチ(今書いているような文章)と、それから新しい長編小説。だから決して暇ではない。自前の原稿をしばらく書いてそれに飽きると翻訳に移る。翻訳作業に飽きると今度はまた自前の原稿を書く。雨の日の露天風呂と同じである。のぼせると湯から出て、冷えると湯に入る。延々とつづけられる。 (110-111)

It’s interesting to read about his daily routines. I feel like I read a different account that was like this but separated fiction and translation more cleanly into morning and afternoon activities – translation was something he said he could do once he’d already been somewhat exhausted by the work of writing fiction. I can’t seem to track down that passage.

After running and writing, Murakami and his wife walk into town. He gives a narrative account of the walk, describing the buildings, shops, and sights. They stop at a cafe and read the paper. Murakami makes friends at the restaurants and small stores, including one well-captured profile of a shop owner who helps him with his Greek and gets very curious about the camera he has with him.

Murakami makes lunch, his wife makes dinner. He goes fishing in between using stale bread and feta cheese as bait, as taught by the friendly store owner. Sometimes they eat out. And then there’s a lovely little ending to the chapter:

When we finish dinner, it’s already pitch dark outside. I read and listen to music in the living room, and my wife adds an entry to her journal, writes letters to friends, does our budgeting, or makes bizarre complaints like, “Gahh, I can’t stand this. I’m sick of getting older.” On cold nights we light a fire in the fireplace. Time passes quietly and comfortably as we zone out and stare at the fire. The phone doesn’t ring, and there are no deadlines. There’s no TV, either. There’s nothing. Just the crackling of the fire as it pops and hisses in front of us. The silence is blissful. We empty a bottle of wine, and after a straight whiskey, I get a little tired. I look at the clock, and it’s nearly 10:00. And then I just drift into a pleasant sleep. The day feels like I did so much and yet also like I did nothing at all. (123)

夕食が終わると外はもう真暗になっている。僕は居間で音楽を聴きながら本を読み、女房は日記をつけたり友だちに手紙を書いたり、お金の計算をしたり、「あーやだやだ、歳をとりたくない」などとわけのわからない愚痴を言ったりしている。寒い夜は暖炉に火を入れる。暖炉の火を眺めつつぼんやりとしていると、時は静かに気持ち良く過ぎ去っていく。電話もかかってこないし、締切りもない、テレビもない。何もない。目の前でパチパチと火がはぜているだけである。沈黙がひどく心地好い。ワインを一本空にし、ウィスキーをグラスに一杯ストレートで飲んだところで、いささか眠くなる。時計を見るとそろそろ十時である。そしてそのまま気持ち良く眠ってしまう。いっぱい何かをしたような一日であり、まるで何もしなかったような一日である。 (123)

The mention of the phone and deadlines ties in nicely with the earlier sections of the memoir. The tone here reflects how much has changed. Short, clear sentences, as compared with the longer, breathless ones from the earlier sections that reflect the chaos of the move and of life in Tokyo.

That’s it for Murakami Fest 2019! Already looking forward to next year and taking another close look at Murakami’s travels.


Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWastelandHard-onsSeventeenEmbrace
Year Eight: PigeonEditsMagazinesAwkwardnessBack Issues
Year Nine: WaterSnæfellsnesCannonballDistant Drumming
Year Ten: VermontersWandering and BelongingPeter Cat, Sushi Counter, Murakami Fucks First
Year Eleven: Embers, Escape, Window Seats, The End of the World
Year Twelve: Distant Drums, Exhaustion

Nonfiction gives Murakami the opportunity to flex his writing muscles in really interesting ways, one of which is character work. He’s experiencing life in Europe with his wife, and he spends a lot of time with his thoughts (as I think you’ve seen with the first two posts), but once he gets on the road, he actively includes the people he encounters, the first of which is a woman named Valentina who is the realtor or property manager who introduces them to the house where they stay on the island of Spetses. This is their first destination immediately after Spetses.

Murakami does a great job of capturing Valentina and her tendency to draw out the vooooowels of words. She says she’s a writer, too, who writes poems but needs another job to live, and she seems disappointed with Murakami. She expected more, which doesn’t seem to surprise Murakami:

Sometimes I get to thinking that I lack what might best be termed an “aura” as a writer (or an artist). Even in Japan, I often get mistaken for a bakery deliveryman or a supermarket worker. I’ll be shopping and a stranger will ask, “Hey, where’s the red pepper?” (And of course I go ahead and tell them where it is.) But this isn’t entirely because of what I wear. Occasionally I’ll be dressed up nice in a dark suit with a tie on, standing in a hotel lobby, and some old man will say, “Hey you, where’s the Tsuru-no-ma room?” So I couldn’t really fault Valentina. Auras—not that I know what purpose they serve, realistically—are something that’s clearly defined when you have them and totally absent when you don’t. Just like onsen and oil fields.


Murakami does go on to ridicule Valentina a little. She draws a very simple map of the island and marks the port and house. Murakami later learns that she’s drawn it upside down (basically) rather than aligned with the cardinal directions. And in a troublesome paragraph, he suggests that Valentina and all women in general value what they can see and experience over the overall impression of a map.

So not a great outing, but he does capture much of the impression that Valentina leaves, sometimes very literally:

When she finished drawing the map and marked the location of the house with a final flourish, she nodded with a very satisfied look on her face. She yelled, “I looooooooove this island!” and pressed her lips firmly against the map. Then she handed me the piece of paper. She had left the distinct mark of her thick lipstick on the map.

Like this:

The island, thus transformed by her distorted view and lack of understanding, was beautifully sealed by her lipstick.

At the time I didn’t know what kind of reaction she expected from such a passionate kiss (and I still don’t), so I just said, “Thank you” as I took the note, glanced at it, folded it in half, and put it in my pocket. Then I tried not to think about the map again.




その熱情的なくちづけに対してどのような反応を期待されているのか、僕にはその時まったくわからなかったので(今だってわからないけれど)、まあとにかく「どうも、ありがとう」と言って地図を受け取り、ちらっと見てから二つに折ってポケットにしまった。そしてそれ以上地図については考えいないようにした。 (51-52)

This feels like Murakami just getting started before he really gets into gear in some of the more rural places he visits. A lot to look forward to.


Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWastelandHard-onsSeventeenEmbrace
Year Eight: PigeonEditsMagazinesAwkwardnessBack Issues
Year Nine: WaterSnæfellsnesCannonballDistant Drumming
Year Ten: VermontersWandering and BelongingPeter Cat, Sushi Counter, Murakami Fucks First
Year Eleven: Embers, Escape, Window Seats, The End of the World
Year Twelve: Distant Drums

Murakami begins the memoir in Rome, and it quickly becomes apparent that his excuse from the prologue was cover for one of the very real reasons he decided to travel—the trip was an escape from some of the responsibilities of a young, popular writer in the Japanese literary establishment. After five years of writing and three of being a full time writer, Murakami is exhausted and wants an escape of sorts.

He personifies this exhaustion in the form of two bees buzzing in his head, going as far as naming them Giorgio and Carlo.

So he and his wife pack up, ask friends to take care of their cats, rent out their place, and take off for Rome.

He makes it clear that the memoir is made up of nonfiction he wrote for magazines while he was traveling, that the collection was basically serialized to a certain extent, and this introduction feels like he is pumping himself up to get ready to write. To write not only the rest of this memoir but the other fiction he would put together over the subsequent years.

There are some interesting Easter eggs in this part. Take a look:

The biggest problem was that I was tired. How the hell had I even gotten so tired? But no matter how it’d happened, I was tired. At least too tired to write fiction. That was the biggest problem I was facing.

I wanted to write two novels before turning 40. No, “wanted” wasn’t quite the word; I had to write them. That was very clear. But I was unable to get started on them. I knew basically what to write and how to write it. But I couldn’t get it out of me, unfortunately. It even felt like I might never write again. And the bees were buzzing around in my head. They were so loud I couldn’t even think straight.

The phone was still ringing in my head. That was also part of the sound the bees made. The phone. The phone was ringing. Ring ring ring ring ring ring. They were demanding things of me. Do an ad for a word processor or something, they said. Give a lecture at some women’s college, they said. Make some food you like for a feature photo shoot, they said. Do a magazine talk with some writer you’ve never heard of, they said. Give us your comments on sexism or overtourism or some musician who died or the revival of the miniskirt or how to quit smoking, they said. Judge some competition, they said. Write a 30-page “city fiction” story by the 20th of next month, they said. (And what the hell is “city fiction”?)

It’s not like I was particularly angry about any of it. Of course I wasn’t angry. Because these were all matters that had already been determined. Because I was simply being included. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and no one had messed up. I knew that. In a certain sense, I was even an accomplice in the circumstances. It’s a winding bottleneck you have to go through to get to what I mean, but I still had a hand in it. So I had no right to get angry at anything. At least I don’t think I did. I was the one calling myself. In a certain sense.

That duplicity frustrated me. And left me feeling powerless. (35-36)




僕は別に腹を立てているわけではない。もちろん腹なんか立てていない。何故ならこれらは既に決定された事項であるからだ。僕はただ単にそこに含まれているだけなのだから。誰が悪いわけでもなく、誰が間違っているわけでもない。それはわかっている。僕だってある意味では、そういう状況に加担している人間のひとりなのだ。かなりまわりくどい意味の隘路を辿って行くことになるけれど、それでもやはり僕だってちゃんとそれに加担しているのだ。だから僕にはそういう物事に対して腹を立てる権利なんてないのだ。たぶん、ないと思う。僕に電話をかけているのは、僕自身でもあるのだ。ITALICSある意味では。 ITALICS


I love this section. You have a different perspective on the telephone. It comes up so frequently in Murakami’s fiction, which I wrote about it in my review of The Colorless Tazaki Tsukuru, but here it’s kind of a bother whereas in his fiction it generally connects, although can sometimes be ominous.

You also get some really interesting hints about the kind of projects he’s working on. He makes a clear reference to the short stories that would become 回転木馬のデッドヒート(Dead Heat on a Merry-go-round), which I wrote about (also over at Neojaponisme). The series was initially titled 街の眺め (Views of the City), and he seems to have figured them out in an effective way despite his skepticism here. He’s even said that the series was critical training for more realistic writing and that without it he wouldn’t have been able to write Norwegian Wood. The series ran from 1983-1985, so it spans the first part of his trip.

It’s also interesting that Murakami brings up 対談 (taidan) which I’ve translated as “magazine talk.” There’s nothing that really equates with the 対談 phenomenon in the U.S….except maybe podcasts? They are conversations between two people, often writers or intellectuals, and the transcript is edited and then printed in the magazine with photos of the writers looking very serious and intellectual. Murakami did one with Murakami Ryu that was republished in a hardcover format.

He also did at least 17 others between 1980 and 1984, which is about one every 2-3 months. I can’t tell whether that’s a lot or a reasonable amount, but combined with all the other asks on him and the essays and fiction he was also being asked, it was probably somewhat of a burden. I can’t imagine that these are as easy as showing up and having a chat with someone.

I wonder if he had a particular writer in mind with that line or if it was just kind of a random throwaway line.

If you’re interested in finding out, I’ve picked out all the 対談 Murakami did. This comes from Osakabe Yoshio’s now-defunct website that tracked all of his publications. It’s cached on if you want to track it down. Here are the 対談 with English dates added:

May 1980:
happy end 通信 1980年5月号 Vol.2 No.4
対談: 映画月評 「出逢いを見て考えたこと」 (対談相手: 高橋千尋) 表紙と裏表紙

December 1980:
小説現代 1980年12月
対談: [特別企画-小説・ジャズ・野球] 「一九八〇年の透明感覚-村上龍Vs.村上春樹」

November 1981:
平凡パンチ 1981年11月2日号 第18巻第42号
原作者対談:映画ってなんだ!?」 『遠雷』立松和平Vs『風の歌を聴け』村上春樹 P27-29

December 1981:
対談: Hot Dog Press 1981年12月10日 第3巻第19号 No.37 P16-18
対談: HUMAN HOT INTERVIEW SPECIAL 「風の歌を聴け」 原作者 村上春樹 VS. 監督 大森一樹

April 1982:
朝日ジャーナル 1982年4月2日号 24巻 P26-32
対談: 「大衆化した「大学」はどこへ行く–「300万人の大学」執筆者 (漂う「大学」の脱出路)」 天野郁夫; 樋口恵子; 村上春樹

April 1982:
GORO 1982年4月22日号 第9巻第9号
カルチャー・ショック対談: 村上春樹VS糸井重里 湯村輝彦・イラスト P160-163

July 1982:
ユリイカ 1982年7月号 14巻 P110-135
対談: 特集 チャンドラー 川本三郎との対談 「R.チャンドラー あるいは都市小説について」

February 1983:
小説現代 1983年2月号 P222-233
対談: (五木寛之) 「言の世界と葉の世界」

May 1983:
クロワッサン 1983年5月10日 P48-51
対談: (道下匡子) 「あるとき、いちばん嫌いな人(ヤツ)を好きになってしまった!」

May 1983:
平凡パンチ 1983年5月30日号 第20巻第20号 P32-33
WIDE SPECIALならためて YMO でございます。 「創作作法対談 村上春樹氏とー坂本龍一」

July 1983:
「話せばわかるか」 (糸井重里対談集)1983年7月30日
対談: (糸井重里) 「1982.2.22 村上春樹と六本木・瀬里奈で話した」 エッセイ集

February 1984:
イラストレーション 1984年2月号 No.26 P34-40
対談: 特集:安西水丸・透きとおる影 対談:村上春樹vs水丸

February 1984:
GORO 1984年2月23日
対談: (安西水丸) 「男にとって”早い結婚”はソンかトクか」

February 1984:
ビックリハウス 1984年2月号 第10巻第2号 (通巻109号) P98-102
対談: (安西水丸) 「千倉における朝食のあり方」 安西水丸氏に聞く?T 小竹文枝・イラスト

March 1984:
ビックリハウス 1984年3月号
連載エッセイ: 人はなぜ千葉県に住むのか??D 対談: (安西水丸) 「千倉における夕食のあり方」

May 1984:
朝日ジャーナル 1984年5月25日 26巻 P43-47
対談: (筑紫哲也) 「若者たちの神々」 P81-82

Sometime in Fall/Summer 1984 (or February 1982?):
対談: (糸井重里) 「1982.2.22 村上春樹と六本木・瀬里奈で話した」

March 1985:
国文学 1985年3月号 30巻 P6-30
対談: (中上健次) 「仕事の現場から」(都市と反都市<特集>)

October 1985:
NEXT 1985年10月
対談: (島森路子) 村上春樹の世界 話題作「世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド」を手がかりに

October 1985:
IN★POCKET 1985年10月号 第3巻第10号 P4-74
対談: (村上龍、司会: 島森路子) 「作家ほど素敵な商売はない」 宮内忠敏/野上透/塚越亘/景山正夫・写真

February 1986 (and maybe February 1994):
「風の対話」 1986年2月
文庫版「風の対話」は 1994年2月4日 河出書房新社 (河出文庫)
対談: 五木寛之対談集 「ワンダーランドに光る風」

June 1986:
「on the border」 最新エッセイ+対談 1982-1985/オン・ザ・ボーダー 中上健次・著 1986年6月
対談: (中上健次) 「仕事の現場から」 P88-136

June 1986:
波 1986年6月 P6-11
対談: (中野圭二/村上春樹) 「アーヴィングが世界を見れば」

December 1989:
シネマ・ストリート パート2 (安西水丸著) 1989年12月12日
対談: (安西水丸) 「私の嫌いなもの・恐いもの」 285-299

Murakami Breakdown

I’m in the Japan Times this week with an ode to the long, fold-out indexes of Japanese literary magazines: “There’s more than just page numbers in the index of a Japanese literary magazine.”

I did a little digging for the history of these indexes, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find much – any search you do for the word 目次 (mokuji, index) automatically retrieves, well, every work with an index. I found it nearly impossible to sort out information about indexes from works with indexes.

If you have any leads, send them my way!

I did find this tweet, which shows the index of a very old literary magazine.

I don’t think the index folds out, but there are some nice fold-out illustrations, which shows the concept in practice.

I found two interesting links while researching this article.

The first is a site I found listing the 枚数 for different lengths of Japanese fiction. I’m realizing now that this site specializes in mystery writing and even has a walkthrough on how to write your own mystery novel, complete with 起承転結 construction.

The second and lengthier link is 文芸5誌について, a post from 2012 detailing the five major literary magazines and their philosophies/differences. It’s also a super effective primer on 純文学, 私小説, and how the 文壇 works. Although it does seem to have a very strong critical take on the current state of 純文学.

I’m still reading through this post. It’s long and dense, and I don’t really have the breadth of knowledge for it to be super helpful, although I recognize some of the names so far – Wataya Risa and Kanehara Hitomi being two of them.

I mostly end up thinking in terms of Murakami (as is my tendency), so I thought I would break down where his works have been published:

1979 – Hear the Wind Sing
1980 – 1973 Pinball
1982 – Wild Sheep Chase
1996 – “Lexington Ghost”

1980 – “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall”
1983 – “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”
1985 – “The Elephant Vanishes”
1989 – “Sleep”
1991 special issue – “Iceman,” “The Green Beast,” F Scott Fitzgerald translation, “The Windup Bird and Tuesday’s Women” (EN)
1995 – “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”

1980 – “A Poor Aunt’s Story”
1981 – “Kangaroo Communique”
1983 – “Barn Burning”
1984 – “The Dancing Dwarf”
1986 – “The Windup Bird and Tuesday’s Women”
1993 – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle Part 1 (serialized)
1999 – Stories from After the Quake, from August to December
2005 – Stories from Tokyo Kitanshu, from March to June

1982 – “Her Small Dog in the Ground”

Essays and other writing but no fiction

1990 – “Tony Takitani”
1996 – “The Seventh Man”

Pretty interesting! This only includes his fiction, so it doesn’t give a full picture of his writing, but it does tell an interesting story. Murakami basically moved away from Gunzo after his first few novels and has been publishing his short story sets and longer works in Shincho more regularly.

I was keen to check out this lone story in Subaru for a second—I thought a trip to the National Diet Library might have been in order for my next trip to Japan—until I realized it’s collected in A Slow Boat to China. Alas. I’ll have to track down some obscure nonfiction instead.

Cool Phrase – 一心不乱

I have an article in a series new to the Japan Times this month, “Why Did You Leave Japan?”: “Model mixes punk with fashion on the runways of New York.”

A college friend introduced me to Tsubasa Watanabe when I visited New York in March, and we got to meet and talk at a coffee shop in the East Village. She has a vivid memory and lots of good stories to tell. Even after I got back to Chicago, she sent me several emails full of her experiences. Actually, the closing anecdote came from one of the last emails she sent me before the deadline. I thought it was a nice one.

The Japan Times asks writers to collect some basic information in addition to the types of stuff you’d normally ask in a profile interview, including a 座右の銘 (zayū no mei, lit. “a nearby motto” i.e. a favorite saying).

When I asked Tsubasa, I was surprised how quickly she responded with 一心不乱 (isshin furan). She didn’t hesitate at all. I had to have her write it out for me and confirm the meaning later, but I had a basic understanding after seeing the characters: one-heart, no-confusion. Wholeheartedly, single-mindedly, intensely focused.

This captures her spirit perfectly. She set herself on a path and has followed through with it. It will be interesting to see where her focus takes her from her. Find her in Project Runway All-Stars Season 6 and keep an ear out for her music. Check her out on Instagram at @tsubi.

Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s Kishidanchō goroshi (Killing Commendatore)

I’m a little late to this game, but I’ve put together a playlist of all the music Haruki Murakami has had his characters listen to or refer to in his recent novel Kishidanchō goroshi (騎士団長殺し, Killing Commendatore). I’ll keep adding to it as I go. I’m currently 15 chapters and 257 pages deep. Only 750 more to go. :/

Oh, and I forgot to include a link to my Japan Times tease for the book in my previous post. Check it out.

I forecasted the wrong words! I wish I had included 惹く/惹かれる because they’ve been used a million times, as in 1Q84. As has 具わっている. I mention these in my review of the book at Neojaponisme. There’s even a bit of 抽斗. Just had the first やれやれ. I’m still convinced that 胡散臭い may make an appearance. We shall see.

Distant Drumming

Year One: BoobsThe WindBaseballLederhosenEels, Monkeys, and Doves
Year Two: Hotel Lobby OystersCondomsSpinning Around and Around街・町The Town and Its Uncertain WallA Short Piece on the Elephant that Crushes Heineken Cans
Year Three: “The Town and Its Uncertain Wall” – Words and WeirsThe LibraryOld DreamsSaying GoodbyeLastly
Year Four: More DrawersPhone CallsMetaphorsEight-year-olds, dudeUshikawaLast Line
Year Five: Jurassic SapporoGerry MulliganAll Growns UpDanceMountain Climbing
Year Six: Sex With Fat WomenCoffee With the ColonelThe LibrarianOld ManWatermelons
Year Seven: WarmthRebirthWasteland, Hard-ons, Seventeen, Embrace
Year Eight: Pigeon, Edits, Magazines, Awkwardness, Back Issues
Year Nine: Water, Snæfellsnes, Cannonball


Apologies for skipping last week! I’ll make up for the delay with a massive post this week.

This week I’m looking at one last essay in Murakami’s 2015 collection of travel essays. The essay is titled 「懐かしいふたつの島で 」(On two nostalgic islands), and it was originally written in 2011. I’m about half way through the collection, and this is the best one so far.

This is partially due to the fact that reading this essay makes me nostalgic. Murakami visited the two Greek islands Spetses and Mykonos during his three-year sojourn to Europe from 1986-1989, and in this essay he goes back to see them. He wrote about his initial trip in the book 『遠い太鼓』 (A Distant Drum), which I read half of at some point years ago. There are a few scenes I can still remember from the book—the “Zorba” Greeks from the beach; Murakami and his wife walking through one of the towns, low on cash because he forgot to go to the bank before the weekend; Murakami running the original Marathon course; Murakami running in Sicily and being chased by wild dogs.

It’s a great book, one that I really need to finish, one that deserves a full translation into English. (PICK ME! PICK ME!)

So I’ve picked a few of my favorite sections, starting with the introduction:




どうしてそんあ魅力的とは言いがたい季節を選んで我々(というのは僕と奥さんのことだが)がギリシャの島に住むようになったのか?まずだいいちに生活費が安かったから。高物価・高家賃のハイシーズンの時期に、ギリシャの島で何ヶ月か暮らせるような経済的余裕は、当時の我々にはなかった。それから天候のよくないオフシーズンの島は、静かに仕事をするのに向いているということもあった。夏場のギリシャはいささか騒がしすぎる。僕は日本で仕事をすることに当時疲れていて(それにはまあ、一口で言えないいろいろな理由があったのだが)、外国に出て面倒な雑事を逃れ、ひっそり仕事に集中したかった。できれば腰を据えて、長い小説も書きたかった。だから日本を離れて、しばらくのあいだヨーロッパに住むことに決めたのだ。 (85-86)

Nearly 24 years ago now, I was living on Greek islands. Spetses and Mykonos. “Was living” was only about three months total combined, but it was my first time “living abroad” and it turned into a very memorable experience. Every day I kept records in my notebook, and afterward I put them all together into the travelogue Tōi Taiko (A Distant Drum).

I had the chance to go to Greece a number of times thereafter, but I never visited those islands again. So this was my first “return” since then. English has the expression “pilgrimage.” Using that term might be a slight exaggeration, but I followed my steps from a quarter century in the past, so it’s safe to say it was nostalgic. Mykonos especially has a kind of affection within me because it is where I started writing Norwegian Wood.

I arrived in Rome in September 1986 and spent a month in the beautiful light of early autumn before going to Athens and then crossing over to Spetses by boat from Piraeus. I wanted to spend a few months in Greece before settling down in Italy. By mid-October, the Greek tourist season was over, and the exhausted Greeks had started to close up their hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Around this time of year it’s cold despite the fact that it’s Greece, and the weather gradually gets worse. Cloudy days grew in number, cold winds blew in, and it started to rain often. Anyone who has taken a cruise ship through the islands of the sunny Aegean Sea of summer would be surprised to know how quiet (and at times even melancholy) a place it can become once autumn sets in.

Why did we (my wife and I) choose such a difficult-to-appreciate season to live on a Greek island? First, the cost of living was cheap. At the time, we didn’t have the economic leeway to live for several months on a Greek island during the high season with its expensive prices and rents. Also, the off season and its bad weather was quiet and suited for getting work done. Greece in summer can be too rowdy. I’d gotten tired of working in Japan (there were a lot of different reasons for this that I can’t explain in a single phrase), and I wanted to go to a foreign country to escape the bothersome everyday and focus quietly on work. If possible, I wanted to settle down and write a long novel. So I left Japan and decided to live in Europe for a little while.

One thing to note: Murakami arrived in September 1986, and Norwegian Wood was published in September 1987. That’s a pretty impressive turnaround. It’s even more impressive because we know he killed the first month in Athens! He didn’t start writing until he arrived in Spetses:





Would you mind if I looked around inside the place a little? I lived here a little while a long time back. When I asked the old woman who managed the place, she replied, “Sure, look around as much as you like.”

The unit we lived in back then looked the same from the outside. Nothing had changed. Unit 19. White stucco walls and columns painted blue. I wrote the first few chapters of Norwegian Wood here. I remember it being very cold. It was December, just before Christmas. There was only a single electric heater in the room. I wrote while shivering in a thick sweater. I wasn’t yet using a word processor at the time, so I scratched out characters with a ballpoint pen in a college notebook. Outside the window was a ragged field covered with rocks where a small herd of sheep silently munched on the grass. The grass didn’t look all that tasty to me, but it seemed to satisfy the sheep.

When I got tired of writing, I rested my hand, lifted my head and gazed at the sheep. Even now I can still remember the landscape beyond that glass window. A large oleander had been growing along the wall. There had been an olive tree as well. The field outside the window was just as ragged as it had been, but for some reason the sheep were gone.

I would write the novel from the morning through the day, and at night I went out into town for a walk and had a little wine or beer at a bar. After working intently, I needed a change of pace like that. So we went to a bunch of different bars. Mykonos Bar, Somas Bar, and several others whose names I can’t remember. Foreigners (non-Greeks) who had settled on Mykonos hung out at bars like that and had quiet conversations. We were about the only Japanese on Mykonos during that season, and they were quite curious about us. There was a woman working at Mykonos Bar who had very charming wrinkles that gathered when she smiled, and I based the character Reiko on her—or should I say her wrinkles.

This section is mostly just a little trivia, but nice for Murakami maniacs like myself. There’s one more section where his writing comes up, and it’s worth sharing as well:

昔ながらの木造漁船を造る小さな造船所から、とんとんとんという木槌の響きが聞こえてくる。どことなく懐かしい音だ。規則正しい音がふと止み、それから少ししてまた聞こえる。そういうところはちっとも変わっていない。その木槌の音に耳を澄ませていると、二十四年前に心が戻っていく。当時の僕は『世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド』という小説を書き上げ、次の作品『ノルウェイの森』の執筆に取りかかることを考えている三十代半ばの作家だった。「若手作家」という部類にいちおう属していた。実を言えば、自分では今でもまだ「若手作家」みたいな気がしているんだけど、もちろんそんなことはない。時間は経過し、当然のことながら僕はそのぶん年齢をかさねた。なんといっても避けがたい経過だ。でも灯台の草の上に座って、まわりの世界の音に耳を澄ませていると、あの当時から僕自身の気持ちはそれほど変化していないみたいにも感じられる。あるいはうまく成長できなかった、というだけのことなのかもしれないけど。 (106-107)

I could hear the clap, clap, clap of a mallet coming from a small shipyard that built old wooden fishing boats. It was a somewhat nostalgic sound. The even beats stopped and then began again after a moment. This hadn’t changed at all. When I listened carefully to the sound of the mallet, my soul was transported back 24 years in the past. I was a writer in his mid-30’s who had just finished writing Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and was thinking about starting to write Norwegian Wood. I was considered a “young writer.” To tell you the truth, I myself still kind of feel like a “young writer” even now, but of course that isn’t the case. Time passed, and naturally I aged an equivalent amount. It’s an unavoidable progression, as it were. But as I sat there in the grass under the lighthouse and listened carefully to the sounds of the world around me, it didn’t seem like my feelings from that time had changed all that much. Or it might be just that I had not been able to grow very well.

Murakami is generally at his best when writing about himself and things he’s familiar with, stuff he’s experienced. This section is good, and there’s a very nice ending with him leaving on a boat and watching Mykonos fade into the distance.

I don’t think the essay is quite as good as Tōi Taiko, and it’s no A Moveable Feast, but it’s still a nice read. I’d definitely recommend picking up that book before this essay.

And that’s it for Murakami Fest 2016! Thanks for reading. The announcements come next week, as usual. The site says October 3-10, but the Literature date has not yet been set. Keep an eye out. You can stream the announcement live on the website or on YouTube. Maybe this is the year!