Hanshinkan Boy: 阪神間少年

Murakami Haruki

The Shukugawa River between A and B

The Murakamis moved from A to B then C.

In a essay Henkyō・Kinkyō (辺境・近境, lit. Remote Region/Near Region, English translation NA), Murakami wrote his early life in the town:

We moved to Nishinomiya (西宮) soon after I was born in Kyoto, then moved again to adjoining city Ashiya, and spent most of my teenage years there.

Hanshinkan (阪神間, lit. Between Osaka (大阪) and Kobe (神戸) area, in more limited, the urban corridor between Nishinomiya and Kobe which faces mountain in the north and sea in the south.) at the time was ― perhaps even now ― a comfy place to spend during one’s boyhood to the adolescent period.

In the peaceful laid back suburban town tinged with a free atmosphere, I rambled in the hills and swimming with friends at a nearby beach. He recalls his peaceful suburban boyhood as a time of rambling in the hills and swimming with friends at nearby beach.

Murakami Haruki High School ODAKANE Fuji

Looking down at Kobe city from Kobe High School on the hill.

Adjacent to the town, there was a big port city, Kobe where I went off to concerts or hunted for second-handed American paperbacks, wearing clothes from VAN jacket (Ivy-Style clothing company dominated among young people in ‘60s through ‘70s).

My High School stood on the hillside of Kobe; naturally I often hanged about in the downtown for example San’nomiya (三宮).

He also went shopping for records he started collecting form fifteen years old, and saw the movies at several small but cheap and cozy theaters there. In this manner, a typical Hanshin-kan (阪神間, Hanshin area) Boy was formed.

The First House

Murakami Haruki First home in the town

One of Hasruki’s earliest memories is of falling into a stream in front of the house and being swept toward a gaping culvert .

Left of the picture you can see the hedge of Kōyō Gakuin (甲陽学院).

Mouse over for the image of the main gae of the school.

They moved in the area three times until Haruki left there after graduating from high school. The first residence (A) was a company house of Tatsuuma Brewing Company (辰馬酒造) who founded Kōyō Gakuin (甲陽学院) junior high school, where Haruki’s farther, Chiaki taught Japanese classical literature, and the house was right in front of the school.

Kōyō was and is one of the top three leading independent schools in the region next to Nada () which was/is No.1 in the country. Both Kōyō and Nada were established by sake breweries, Tatsuuma in Nishinomiya and Kanō and Yamamura in Nada, Kobe respectively―the other one, Rokko (六甲) is a school for Jesuit.

The sake breweries in the regions accumulated wealth by sending sake on special "barrel ships" known as tarukaisen down to the flourishing market in Edo and have constituted conglomerates. Tatuuma donated a library to Nishiomiya city just like Kōmura Library in the Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore was donated by a local sake breweries.

One of Hasruki’s earliest memories is of falling into a stream in front of the house and being swept toward a gaping culvert looking the surface from under water, a terrifying experience he recreated in Chapter 9 of Book One of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, “Culverts and an Absolute Insufficiency of Electricity….”.

There is not a trace of the first house, but the stream―better to say a gully―is still there.

The Second House

Murakami Haruki

Mouse over for the image of the ground of Nishinomiya Shrine.

The family soon moved to the second residence (B), also a company owned, 400 meter (1,312 feet) east of the first one across Shukugawa (夙川) River.

Haruki went to Kōroen (香櫨園) elementary school. He swam everyday at the beach running barefoot from his house in summer, and went to a venerable Nishinomiya shrine of the Ebisu () sect of Shinto at least from the Heian Period (平安時代; 794-1185)―it is said that there are about 3,500 shrines under it―to go shrimping and do exploratory in deep woods.

Prior to graduating form elementary school, Haruki took the entrance examination for Kōyō Gakuin junior high school. Some Kōyō alumnus said Haruki failed the entrance exam even though school officials jacked up the sores in the test, others say that he erased all answers once he filled in and deliberately failed the exam. Which was true? Only Haruki knows. Anyway, a Chiaki’s colleague in charge of the exam who lived in the same residential site hesitated to tell them the result, another alumnus said.


Feature Story

  • Google Earth

    The Town :

    Let's start with the town, where Haruki grew up and his stories came from. The sea out in front, hills behind, and right next door, major port.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Junior High School Years : 中学時代

    Of his middle-school years, Murakami has written that all he remembers is being beaten by his teachers. He didn't like them and they didn't like him because he wouldn't study.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Family Ties : 親子関係

    Young Haruki would often hear his parents discussing eighth-century poetry or medieval war takes at the dinner table. Haruki said, “Throughout my teens I became hate ‘Japanese literature’ and ‘teachers’.”

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Books and Music : 本と音楽

    Haruki was permitted to buy books on credit at the local bookstore, as long as he avoided comic books or trashy weekly magazines, and he became a voracious reader.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    High School Years : 高校時代

    Haruki would play Mahjongg almost every day, fool around with girls, spend hours in jazz cafés and cinemas, smoke, skip school, read novels during class, and so forth, but his grades were never terrible.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Leaving Home : 街を離れる

    "The town has deep hold on me; almost all my memories are tied up with the place. Yet the spring I left town to enter university, I let out a sigh of relief from the bottom of my heart,"Haruki said in his novel.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    The River :

    "The road by the river had been one of my favorites. I could walk at the same speed as the river. I could feel it breathing. It was alive. The town belonged to the river from the very beginning, and it would always be the way."

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    The Lost Sea : 失われた海

    In his novels and essays, Murakami expressed his deep emotional attachment to the sea that was close to him throughout his adolescence years.


  • VAN Jacket

    VAN is a Japanese clothing brand, established in 1954 and swept Japanese fashion scene in the 1960s and early 70s.

    They focused on IVY League clothes, popular during the late 1950s in the Northeastern United States, and said to have originated on college campuses, particularly those of the Ivy League.