Leaving Home : 街を離れる

Haruki Murakami Ashiya Library

Ashiya City Library  芦屋市立図書館

In Kafka on the Shore, Haruki describes the Komura Memorial Library, "Right in front of the Komura Memorial Library's imposing front gate stand two nearly trimmed plum trees. Inside the gate a gravel path winds past other beautifully manicured bushesnand trees - pines and magnolias, kerria and azaleas - with not a fallen leaf in sight. a couple of stone lanterns peek out between trees, as does a small pond."

“He chose to study Law on the assumption that he had some interest in it, but joined the high proportion of examinees who fail the first time around and became rōnin (浪人, masterless samurai) preparing for entry the following year. He spent most of 1967 studying (or as he tells it, dozing) at the local Ashiya library,” Rubin said. Ashiya City Library, unlike Nishinomiya City Library, was not donated by any sake brewery; it is somewhat akin to Kōmura Library in Kafka on the Shore in the ambience―stately façade and Japanese garden.

Haruki’s failure disappointed Chiaki’s expectations and as mentioned before, Haruki was no longer happy at home. Next spring, Haruki passed the entrance exam for the Department of Literature at Waseda University in Tokyo, one of the topnotch private universities who has produced a lot of writers, journalists, and editors.

In Hear the wind Sings, Boku―one of Japanese first-person singular pronouns Murakami used for ‘I’ in the story that is unpretentious and used primarily by young men in informal circumstances―conveyed his feeling for leaving the town:
There’s all kinds of people in town. In my eighteen years, I learned all kinds of things there. 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. I’d come home for the springs and summer vacations, but mostly I’d pass the time drinking beer.

Murakami’s parents lived the third house until they left the town in 1995 after the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and moved back to Chiaki’s hometown, Kyoto because the house was heavily damaged.

Murakami walked from Nishinomiya to Kobe two years after the quake, and wrote in a essay Henkyō・Kinkyō, “The tangible bond between Hanshin-kan and me [Boku] was lost except accumulated memories―they are my important assets. I cannot anymore call there my ‘hometown’ in a precise sense; the fact brings me some sense of loss.”

“Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that’s how we’ve got to live,” said Boku in Hear The Wind Sings.


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

    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

    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.


    Hear the Wind Sing
  • Hear the Wind Sing   風の歌を聴け

    "I never saw the girl with four fingers on her left hand again. When I returned to the town that winter, she'd quit the record store and moved out of her apartment. Disappeared, leaving not a trace in the tide of time."

    "When I'm back in the town in summer, I always walk the same street she walked, sit down on the stone steps of the warehouse, and gaze out to sea, all by myself. And just when I feel like crying, I never can."

    "That's how it goes."