Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hello Japan! March mini-challenge: A Month of Murakami

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. You can post about the task on your blog. Or if you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above, or if you have any questions please feel free to email me at inspringthedawn AT gmail DOT com.
March's Topic

March is all about Murakami, Haruki* Murakami that is.  This month for the Japanese Literature Book Group we'll be reading two of his earlier books, A Wild Sheep Chase, that we'll begin discussing on March 10th, and Dance Dance Dance that we'll begin discussing on March 29th. As well, we'll be starting a new read-along book this month, and you guessed it, it's by Murakami as well. On March 15th we'll discuss Book One of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, with Book Two and Book Three following on April and May 15th respectively. So since it was shaping up to be a month of Murakami, I thought we might as well go across the board to include the Hello Japan! mini-challenge too.

March's Task

Haruki Murakami is certainly one of Japan's most famous contemporary authors with his novels bestsellers in Japan and translated into many other languages around the world. This month's task is to read, or otherwise experience Haruki Murakami's work. There are several ways to complete the mini-challenge, whether you're new to Murakami or already a big fan.

You can read one of his novels:
Hear the Wind Sing (風の歌を聴け Kaze no uta o kike)
Pinball, 1973 (年のピンボール 1973-nen no pinbōru)
A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険 Hitsuji o meguru bōken)
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド Sekai no owari to hādoboirudo wandārando)
Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森 Noruwei no mori)
Dance Dance DanceDance Dance Dance (ダンス・ダンス・ダンス Dansu dansu dansu)
South of the Border, West of the Sun (国境の南、太陽の西 Kokkyō no minami, taiyō no nishi)
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル Nejimaki-dori kuronikuru)
Sputnik Sweetheart (スプートニクの恋人 Supūtoniku no koibito)
Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka)
After Dark (アフターダーク Afutā Dāku)
1Q84 (1Q84 Ichi-kyū-hachi-yon) -- not yet published in English

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

or one of his works of non-fiction:
Underground (アンダーグラウンド Andāguraundo)
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (走ることについて語るときに僕の語ること Hashiru koto ni tsuite kataru toki ni boku no kataru koto)

or a collection of his short stories:
The Elephant Vanishes
after the quake (神の子どもたちはみな踊る, Kami no kodomo-tachi wa mina odoru)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
Many of the stories in these collections were also published in The New Yorker, and can still be found in their digital archives. Unfortunately to read the full stories online you need to be a subscriber (I swear it used to be free!?), but they do seem to have a free 4-issue trial offer if anyone is interested).
If you'd just like to dip your toe in, or don't have time to add another book to your schedule this month, reading a single short story is enough to complete the mini-challenge.

You could even read a book about Haruki Murakami like Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words by Jay Rubin.

For more information you might also like to visit Random House's Murakami site, or Vintage Books UK. Plus, he has many other essays and short stories that haven't been translated into English, so if you can read Japanese feel free to read anything that he's written, or has been written about him.

I'd also encourage you to be creative, if you feel so inclined.  Reading something is the most obvious way to complete the task, but you could also watch the movie, Tony Takitani, which is based on the short story of the same name.  Or gather some interesting facts about the author, or his books.  Or tell us a story of searching for your lost cat!  Or a recipe for spaghetti!  ;)  I'd love to see what you would come up with.  And you never know, I might be inclined to add another prize for a truly fun, original post. 

March's Prize

I'm going to offer up two prizes this month.  Murakami's first two books have never been officially released outside of Japan, and even in Japan, Pinball, 1973 had been out of print until last year when it was brought back into circulation.  So this month, two participants who take part in the mini-challenge will be selected at random to win either a copy of Hear the Wind Sing, or Pinball, 1973.

Hello Japan! March Prize

To be eligible for the prize, you must complete this month's mini-challenge and provide a link to your post.  Anyone taking part in any of the Japanese Literature Book Group or Read-along discussions this month will have automatically completed the task, so don't forget to come back here to submit links to any of your related posts.  If you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment with the details on this post, or email me at inspringthedawn AT gmail DOT com. You are welcome to post more than once and add the links below.  I love it when you are enthusiastic about a topic!  However, each participant will receive only one entry per month.  It doesn't matter if you've won previously, you're eligible each month that you participate.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Once you have completed the task, don't forget to come back here to add your link to the Mr. Linky below. Please submit the link to the actual post, not just to your top page, and please only submit links to posts relating to the Hello Japan! task for this month. All other links will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding.  Have fun!

*No slight intended to the other, also famous, Japanese author, Ryu Murakami.

Photo source: I couldn't discover the the original source of the photo, which was found via a simple Google search. I will credit the photographer if that information becomes available.

The small print:  Links in this post to Amazon (including book covers) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.


  1. Ohhh, I haven't read Murakami is ages - I'm definitely going to try to participate this time around!

  2. I've read The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood. I am not sure which one to read next!

  3. I have posted a link to my posts on the 'Trilogy of the Rat' books (all four of them counting 'Dance, Dance, Dance'!). Please feel free to read them, but try to read the books first! I am still atttempting to get myself a copy of 'Pinball, 1973', so... :)

    There are lots of other Murakami posts on my blog too!

  4. This is the perfect excuse to finally read that copy of Hear the Wind Sing a lovely blogging friend was kind enough to send me ;)

  5. so tempted! We'll see how much I get through. Still have a bit of Kawabata to read on my TBR for this month, but they are short so I may time for some of Murakami too. Are any of them shorter...I know Wind-Up Bird is quite long...

  6. Yay, Pinball 1973! :))

    Cool assignment, I plan on reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

  7. Thanks to you I have realized how much I enjoy reading the Japanese authors! And you always have these wonderful challenges that inspire & encourage me to read more! Thanks for hosting this one! And am all ready!

  8. I'm going to try and join in on the discussions for "Wind Up Bird..." since I've already read it. The challenge will be remembering enough to say something! I haven't had a lot of time for reading or blogging because of a class I'm taking (Literary Exegesis & Analysis) so I'm happy to see that the current book is one I have at least read :o)

  9. Murakami Month Submission:

    I really enjoyed "A Wild Sheep Chase." And while I did find it perhaps not as accomplished as some other (later, of course) novels by him that I've read ("Hard-Boiled Wonderland ..." and "Wind-Up Bird ...", in particular), I still thought it was a fun, inventive, layered story with a satisfying ending.

    This makes the 6th book by Murakami that I've read and it certainly won't be the last. Especially since I know "Dance Dance Dance" is on its way to me from the library! :)

  10. I finished my fifth book of Murakami's with A Wild Sheep Chase, but I'm not stopping there! He is by far my most favorite author of the decade, and quite possibly, ever. I can't get enough of him! I'm looking forward to Dance Dance Dance, Tanabata. What is the second and third after Wind-Up Bird Chronicle?

  11. brizmus - I hadn't read Murakami for a couple of years so I've been enjoying reading some of his earlier books this month.

    Lenore - I'm looking forward to re-reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle this year for the read-along. It's been quite a few years since I read it. My favourite Murakami novels, of the ones I've read so far, are Kafka on the Shore, and Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Kafka had a lot of good reviews so I'd probably suggest that one.

    Tony - I'll definitely come to read your 'Trilogy of the Rat' posts once I've finished the 4 books. And the other Murakami posts too. So, have you read all of his books then? Meaning the ones that are available in English translation.

    Nymeth - Sounds like a good idea. :)
    It is a very short book so it shouldn't take much time.

    Rebecca - Other than the two early novels that are harder to get outside of Japan, I think After Dark is his shortest. I wasn't crazy about that one, although it had some glowing reviews from other bloggers. You could always try a few short stories if you didn't have time for a novel.

    gnoegnoe - I haven't read Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman yet. Maybe later this year if I can fit it in.

    Suzanne - You're very welcome. I'm glad you're enjoying the challenges. :)

    Terri B. - I'd love to chat about 'Wind-up Bird...' with you. I first read it a few years ago and have forgotten quite a lot of it but am looking forward to the re-read.
    Your class sounds interesting. Very understandable that you haven't had much time for blogging. I hope it's going well.

    Teresa - I'm planning to read all of his work eventually, all that is translated anyway, unless I someday manage to get motivated to study Japanese again. It really would be fantastic to read one of his books in the original Japanese.

    Bellezza - I love how he's become such a favourite of yours considering your initial reaction. :)
    Do you mean Book Two and Book Three OF The Wind-up Bird Chronicle? It was originally published in 3 volumes and for the read-along we're reading a Book a month. The English edition is all in one though the divisions are still indicated. Check out the Read-along schedule for the corresponding page numbers.

  12. Tanabata - I have now read all Murakami's fiction (with the obvious exception of '1Q84'), most a couple of times. Just waiting for the latest to be translated...

    My take on the sheep (from my post):

    "And the sheep (yes, there is a sheep)? Don't quote me on this, but I feel the sheep represents ambition and a drive to be as successful (as opposed to happy) as one can be."

    In fact, the sheep represents the opposite values to those of the protagonist (and, probably, Murakami): progress over privacy, industrialism over relaxation, the rat race over individuality.

    Possibly ;)

  13. A comparative post this time - enjoy ;)

  14. Tony - I'm still making my way through all of his books, that are available in English, for the first time, but have recently started a re-read of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle for the group. And I can definitely see myself reading most of them again. I'm very much looking forward to 1Q84 too.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on the sheep. I hope you don't mind, I'm going to copy it over to the discussion post.

  15. I love his works!! This month's challenge is another fun challenge :)

  16. Yay! I finally found the new challenge. I haven't joined in the last two months because I couldn't locate links to the new challenges. I searched for the challenge and "march" and got this page...

    I'm happy that Hello Japan is still going strong, I was soooo sad when I couldn't find the new month's challenge in Feb!

    I'll be trying to find one of the books to get reading!!

  17. I had an enjoyable Murakami March! Thanks for this month's mini misson tanabata! :)

  18. just had to join in, albeit late. but enjoy ;-D

  19. bokunosekai - Murakami is great fun to read, isn't he? :)

    Natakiya - I'm sorry you had trouble finding the challenge this month. In February I did forget to update the sidebar and main Hello Japan! page, until midway into the month. Sorry about that. But usually you should be able to find the link at either place. The wrap-up of the previous month and the new challenge are usually the first things I post each new month so if all else fails you can find the posts in my Archives, just click on the Archives over there on the right sidebar in the tabbed widget, and click on the appropriate month.

    gnoegnoe - You're welcome, I'm glad you enjoyed 'Murakami March', and thanks for taking part! :)

    Velvet - No worries. I hadn't compiled the link round-up yet anyway so you got in just in time. :)


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