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Posts tagged book quotes

Tokyo tram

“Three old women were the only passengers on the Sunday morning tram [from the end of the line at Waseda]. They all looked at me and my flowers. One of them gave me a smile. I smiled back. I sat in the last seat and watched the ancient houses passing close to the window. The tram almost touched the overhanging eaves. The laundry deck of one house had ten potted tomato plants, next to which a big black cat lay stretched out in the sun. In the garden of another house, a little girl was blowing soap bubbles. I heard an Ayumi Ishida song coming from somewhere, and could even catch the smell of curry cooking. The tram snaked its way through this private back-alley world. A few more passengers got on at stops along the way, but the three old women went on talking intently about something, huddled together face-to-face.

I got off near Otsuka Station… None of the shops along the way seemed to be doing very well, housed as they were in old buildings with gloomy-looking interiors and faded writing on some of the signs. Judging from the age and style of the buildings, this area had been spared the wartime air raids, leaving whole blocks intact. A few of the places had been entirely rebuilt, but just about all had been enlarged or repaired in places, and it was these additions that tended to look shabbier than the old buildings themselves.” Norwegian Wood p. 84

Waseda University cafeteria view

“I went to the [Waseda University] cafeteria afterwards and ate a cold, tasteless lunch alone. Then I sat in the sun and observed the campus scene.” Norwegian Wood p. 103

Nihonbashi (日本橋)

“We took the subway to Nihonbashi. The place was practically empty, maybe because it had been raining all morning. The smell of rain filled the big, cavernous department store, and all the employees had that what-do-we-do-now? kind of look. Midori and I went to the basement restaurant and, after a close inspection of the plastic food in the window, both decided to have an old-fashioned cold lunch assortment with rice and pickles and grilled fish and tempura and teriyaki chicken.” Norwegian Wood p. 342

Norwegian Wood

I loved this book. I could picture each scene so clearly; it was more like a movie than a book. I frequently read Norwegian Wood while on the train in Tokyo and happened to be at the exact location Murakami was describing on more than one occasion. I read the part in which the narrator (Watanabe) visit’s Midori’s father in the hospital on my way back from Ochanomizu. I walked past the same hospital he describes from the late 1960s just 10 minutes before. On another day I read about him meeting Midori at Iidabashi at the same moment the train I was on stopped at Iidabashi.

Norwegian Wood has some similarities to Murakami’s other works, but the super strange and supernatural elements are missing. I rather like the super strange in his works, but I also like the omission of the supernatural.

The college scenes at Waseda University always brought a smile to my face as well. Things haven’t changed much, except the students don’t shut down the campus for five months like they did in 1969. Actually, much of this book is timeless. Murakami wrote it in the 1980s, although the setting is the late 1960s. He wouldn’t have to change much to make it fit in fine in 2010 though. Tokyo has changed much in the past forty years, but at the same time, on another level, it hasn’t changed at all.

Here are some quotes I copied while reading. I’ll have a few more in entries over the next month or so.

“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene I hardly paid it any attention. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that 18 years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn’t give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself… Scenery was the last thing on my mind.” pp. 2-3

“I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.” p. 4

“I can’t leave anything out. I’ve been doing the same thing every day for ten years, and once I start I do the whole routine unconsciously. If I left something out, I wouldn’t be able to do any of it.” p. 20

“‘What possible use is stuff like that for everyday life?’

‘None at all,’ I said. ‘It may not serve any concrete purpose, but it does give you some kind of training to help you grasp things in general more systematically.'” p. 232

Kafka on the Shore

kafka on the shore haruki murakami

We found a few books in our apartment when we arrived in Tokyo. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami was one of them. I really enjoyed the first half. The second half wasn’t nearly as interesting to me, but it was still good–especially in parts. If you are well read, you will notice some borrowings and inspiration from other authors. Murakami doesn’t hide that fact. Instead, he alludes to his lifted items by referencing those other authors, like Soseki Natsume, within the work itself. It all works out to a very clever book.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the things going on in the subplots, you should find this novel to be enjoyable. I’m currently reading one of Murakami’s other works now, 神の子どもたちはみな踊る (All God’s Children Can Dance), in Japanese. For some reason it is funner to read the work of a Waseda University grad right on the Waseda University campus.

Here is a quote from Kafka on the Shore:

“‘Are the Japanese God and the foreign God relatives, or maybe enemies?’

‘How Should I know?’

‘Listen — God only exists in people’s minds. Especially in Japan, God’s always been a flexible concept. Look at what happened after the war. Douglas MacArthur ordered the divine emperor to quit being God, and he did, making a speech saying that he was just an ordinary person. So after 1946 he wasn’t God anymore. That’s what Japanese gods are like—they can be tweaked and adjusted. Some American chomping on a cheap pipe gives the order and presto change-o—God’s no longer God. A very postmodern kind of thing. If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.” (p. 375)

How to get free sake


“There is an ancient dispute among the men of Tohoku as to which of the six prefectures produces the best sake. The keenest rivalry is between Akita in the west and its larger Pacific-coast neighbor, Iwate. The men of Iwate state flatly that their sake is better because their rice is better. The men of Akita counter that their sake is better because their water is better. I have studiously avoided taking sides in this dispute because I have found that, by maintaining a noncommittal silence, I have cup after cup of free sake urged upon me in an effort to elicit the judgment I shall never give. Solomon in all his glory lacked this simple wisdom, or perhaps wasn’t thirsty.”

(Alan Booth in The Roads to Sata p. 90-91)