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Posts tagged haruki murakami

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe near Incline Village on the Nevada side

“That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.” — Haruki Murakami in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki on page 341

Thirsty Dragon

thirsty dragon buddhist temple water purification koenji tokyo suginami ku

I have been reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 for the past week. The setting for some of the book is Koenji, just west of central Tokyo in Suginami-Ku. I lived in Suginami-Ku in 1989, almost the same time period as Murakami’s book. Today’s photo is from 2010 though (when 1Q84 was first published in Japanese). I took this pic at Myohoji (妙法寺), which is a bit south of Koenji but still walking distance.

Japanese cat

cat japan

If one had to sum up Japan in three words, all three could come from this photo: beauty (the roof tiles), cement, and pets.

By request, this could be a scene out of Kafka on the Shore as well.

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

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