High School Years : 高校時代

Kobe Highschool
ODAKANE Fuji

Kobe High School : 神戸高校

>Mouseover for downtown San'nomiya  三ノ宮 at the time.

Haruki entered Kobe High School the year he discovered jazz.

Kobe High School was/is the No.1 prefectural high school in Hyōgo where Kobe, Ashiya, and Nishinomiya belong. Murakami’s classmates from Kobe High School said that the young Murakami was a fashionable person, his hair grown out ―unusual for men and boys at the time― and wearing a button-down shirt and well-polished shoes.

In his novel Hear the Wind Sing, he wrote an episode about polishing father’s shoes:
“…it’s part of my upbringing. The word is children are supposed to polish their fathers’ shoes.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because me. Shoes must be symbolic of something. Anyway, every night, regular as a rubber stamp, my father gets home at eight o’clock, I polish his shoes, then I always take off for a beer.”
“Nice tradition.”
“Think so?”
“Sure, I think it’s right you should show your gratitude to your father.”
“Well, I’m always thankful he only has two feet.”

As was customary with top schools, Kobe High School had liberal atmosphere. Rubin described Haruki’s high school days:

He would play Mahjongg (enthusiastically, but badly) 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. In Kobe High, where he wrote for the school newspaper, Murakami’s reading branched out to the likes of hard-boiled detective novelists Ross MacDonald, Ed McBain, and Raymond Chandler, then Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Kurt Vonnegut.

The Downtown Kobe

Pinocchio

Pinochio : ピノキオ

Haruki sometimes visit Pinocchio (ピノキオ) with girlfriend.

>Mouseover for the image of one of his fovorate movie theater.

An international trading capital, Kobe had many bookstores with foreign residents’ second-hand paperbacks, literature in the original available at a half the price of the Japanese translations. Haruki was hooked. Fiction was not all that Murakami read with interest in high school. Another multi-volume set he claims to have read and reread at least 20 times was an unabridged world history published by the Cūō Kōron Company.

Somewhere along the way, though, he became a stubborn individualist. He has consistently avoided groups in a country where the group is the norm. “There was a time when everybody and his brother wanted to act cool. Toward the end of high school, I resolved to speak only half of what was on my mind, no more. I forget why exactly, but I stood by that resolution for a number of years. Then, one day, I discovered I’d actually become unable to speak more than half of what I had to say,” said Haruki.

“I have no idea what all that had to do with being cool. But if you can call an old refrigerator that needs defrosting year round ‘cool,’ then that’s what I was,” he said, “That’s why, seeing as how this cool head would otherwise doze right off into the sludge of time, I keep spurring myself on with beer and cigarettes to write these pages. I take lots of hot showers, shave twice a day, listen to old records over and over again. Even now, those moldy-oldies, Peter, Paul and Mary, are singing in the background. Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

“If Murakami hated studying for exams in school, the feeling was only compounded when it came time for him to confront Japan’s notorious ‘exam hell’,” said Rubin. Haruki’s grades might have been never terrible, but not enough for college entrance exam for competitive schools. He was good at history, but science subjects were not; this made it difficult to get in national universities like Kyoto University Chiaki attended.

“He was very good at English,” his classmates said, but entrance-exam-English might be different. Murakami said, “If teachers at the school knew that he translated English books, they would be surprised.”

—ODAKANE Fuji

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

    Hanshinkan Boy : 阪神間少年

    Hanshinkan, the area between Osaka and Kobe, was a comfy place to spend Haruki's boyhood to the adolescent period.

  • 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

    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.

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