Back in January, author Haruki Murakami launched his very own agony uncle website, inviting questions from readers on a range of topics from relationship advice to questions about cats to his favourite baseball team, the Yakult Swallows.
In just two weeks, the website Murakami-san no Tokoro (“Mr. Murakami’s Place”) received over 30,000 questions from readers keen to hear the celebrated author’s answers to their burning questions. And since the end of January, Murakami has been diligently answering those questions, sometimes replying to more than 30 queries a day.
As the project draws to a close, we look back on what we’ve learned from Murakami’s musings, from pragmatic advice to a would-be writer to the author’s thoughts on the afterlife, gay marriage, and anthropomorphic fantasies.
1) He’s planning to write a non-fiction book
43-year-old Mimi wrote in to ask:
“Mr. Murakami, I love your novels, but found Underground, in which you interviewed victims of the Tokyo subway sarin attack, to be extremely moving too. Do you have any plans to write another non-fiction book? I hope you do.”
“I do think about it, but haven’t started [writing] yet”, Murakami replied. “Getting ready to write a book is challenging.”
▼ When you think about it, getting ready to do anything is quite challenging, really.
2) He’s got a piece in mind for a public reading
A high school student named Mio asked:
“I heard that you gave a reading after the Great Hanshin earthquake, but that was before I was born, so I’ve never had the chance to see or hear you read your work. I did see a video on YouTube of you delivering a speech, though. Your voice is wonderful. Please think about giving a public reading sometime.”
We’re sure she’ll have been happy with Murakami’s answer, (although he neglected to answer her other question about his thoughts on the movie versions of Norwegian Wood and The Great Gatsby):
“I’ve been working on a piece for a reading actually, but I haven’t found an opportunity to perform it yet. I’ll do it soon.”
3) He thinks you should throw away your TV
“Once I start watching television, I can easily watch five or six hours, staying up all night and going to work tired…How much TV do you watch, Mr. Murakami? Do you have any kind of addiction or compulsion like this?”
“I don’t watch TV. Except for when baseball’s on, and sometimes the news. If it’s a film I might record it, or watch online…You definitely sound like you are addicted to television. Couldn’t you throw your set away somewhere? After I got married I lived without a TV for fifteen years. You should give it a go.”
4) Heaven is a plate of fried oysters
A 34-year-old housewife wrote in to ask if Mr. Murakami believes in heaven. “What do you think it’s like? And what do you think happens to our souls after we die?”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but after I die, I just want to sleep. I don’t need heaven or hell or a cabaret club. I just want to sleep quietly, without getting in anyone’s way. And maybe eat some deep-fried oysters from time to time.”
5) He doesn’t like the word “Harukist”
A 46-year-old system engineer and die-hard Murakami fan wrote in to ask “What should Murakami fans should call themselves?” Star Trek fans are called Trekkies, he pointed out, so how about “Harukki” (ハルッキー)? Murakami was not keen, however, suggesting “Murakami Shugisha” instead (村上主義者, meaning Murakami-ist), and giving the following justification:
“‘Well you know, he’s a Murakami Shugisha, so…’ It sounds like pre-war communists or something. Murakami Shugisha could hide out underground like Christian exiles and read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.”
When another fan wrote in to tell Mr. Murakami of his intense irritation at being referred to as a “Harukist”, the author suggested:
“‘Murakami Shugisha’ sounds cooler. You could get sheep tattoos on your arms to show the world: I’m a Murakami Shugisha, so don’t mess with me.”
For English-speaking fans, we’d like to suggest the slightly abridged “Murakamist”, which rolls off the tongue nicely, and also sounds enough like a political philosophy to alarm the neighbours.
▼ Watch this space for Murakamists with starred sheep tattoos.
Vintage, via exorcising ghosts
6) He supports gay marriage
After reading the author’s latest work Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, one fan wrote to ask Murakami’s views on gay marriage. “I have many gay friends and acquaintances, some of whom [in the US] are married,” the writer replied. “They are happily married. It’s great. So what I’m saying is, I support gay marriage.”
Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Japan, and gay couples can face discrimination when seeking apartments, or when one partner is ill, hospitals can deny visitation rights on the grounds that unmarried couples are not related. Tokyo’s Shibuya ward moved to recognise same-sex couples this month by issuing “partnership certificates”, but these documents are neither legally binding nor recognised by the Japanese government.
7) He wants to have a “nasty monkey’s tail”
Murakami also accepted questions in other languages, including some in English!
In English as in Japanese, the author showed his playful side, with this thoughtful response:
“Dear LeeAnna, I would like to have a tail, like a monkey’s tail. I want to use it when I am dating my girlfriend. She says, ‘Hey, don’t do that with your nasty tail!’ It must be fun.”
Realising that LeeAnna’s mail was the 16,000th he had received, he also gave her the nickname “NASTY TAIL” as a kind of commemorative souvenir. Let’s just hope she doesn’t get that new nickname tattooed on her.
If you want to read more of Murakami’s delightful answers, the Murakami-san no Tokoro website will stay live until the end of March. After that, we’re looking forward to reading his new piece – about a gay marriage party in heaven, perhaps? We won’t be surprised if there are some fried oysters or men with monkey tails in there somewhere…
Source, top image: Murakami-san no Tokoro