Note: Stories are posted in reverse order. (Select them from the archive to read chronologically)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

cool mint gum

It happened a long time ago, but I once saw a young woman driving a charcoal grey Volkswagen. She was wearing a pink summer dress, and her nicely shaped breasts were sticking out like jet engines. Also, she was wearing white sandals. The reason I knew about the sandals was because she stopped her car in front of the bench where I was sitting, rustled her sandals against the floor of the car as she put them on (she must have been driving barefoot all this time), and walked right past me as she went to the store to buy some cool mint gum.

I was staring at her through all of this. Her dress fit tightly, so -- how can I say this -- it ended up being a very enjoyable stare. Her shoulders moved gracefully, and her belly seemed as flat as a sheet of drawing paper-- she was that slender. In short, she was the girl who single-handedly embodied the summer of 1967. I imagined that on a shelf in her room she had a collection of everything having to do with the summer of ‘67, neatly placed there like organized pairs of underwear.

She opened the gum wrapper and tossed a single piece of gum in her mouth. Chewing on her gum in a way that was downright charming, she walked right past me once more.

And then her charcoal grey Volkswagen drove off into the flow of summer, like a river trout gracefully swimming upstream.

It’s been 14 years since then, but every time I see a charcoal grey Volkswagen it reminds me of her.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

quiz show

“Now for the first question. Which is darker: 2 berkshire pigs or 3 mountain goats?”

I was the first one to light up the bulb.

“The 2 berkshire pigs!”

“Yes, you are correct! You advance one level. And now we continue to the second question. This next one is really easy, so keep your hand on the button!"

"Who is the most beautiful person on this island? Please answer out of these next three women: 1. The eldest daughter of the royal family. 2. The middle daughter of the royal family. 3. The third daughter of the royal family.”

It was a difficult question. The royal daughters were the three ugliest hags living on this whole island. Even a berkshire pig would know that.

Even though none of them had pressed the button, all of the contestants rang in at once.

“Ah, a photo finish! What a quandry! Well, let’s call on a contestant. Contestant 5, go ahead!”

It was me. Although I thought I’d be wrong, I blurted out “Number 1.”
Without even waiting for me to finish speaking, the show host shouted “Yes! Right answer! You’re on a roll, contestant 5! Now for the third question.”

What was right about that answer? It’s pretty bad if the most beautiful woman in this country was 45 and weighed 260 pounds.

“And now for the next question: ‘Rainforests always get a lot of rain. What kind of weather does a sunforest have?’ This question was written by the King himself!”

A sunforest? Do those even exist in this country?

The young man at booth #2 pressed his switch.

“It’s always sunny!” ‘BZZZZZZT’ went the buzzer.

“I’m so sorry. We’ll have to call on someone else. Contestant 5, you’re doing well. Why don’t you give it a try?”

“It snows there, right?” I answered out of desperation.

“Amazing! You are absolutely correct! Contestant 5, that was the Royal Question, so you’ve advanced three more levels!”

“Question four. What kind of person is the head of the royal family? Please choose from these three options: 1. A wonderful person. 2. An amazing person. 3. A great person.”

How much of this island’s TV programming did the Royal Family Broadcasting Company own, and were all of the questions going to be like this?

“Enough, enough. I can already see the right answer written in his face. He’s correct, totally correct! He was going to answer “3. A great person.” Contestant 5, you’ve advanced another level!”

Without even understanding why, I was quickly pushed up to the 10th level.
The other contestants, who hadn’t even advanced a single level, were just sitting there quietly, their faces frozen in creepy dazed smiles.

The host was ecstatic.

“You’ve soared into an unbeatable lead at level 10, contestant 5! There’s an incredible prize from the King waiting for you!”

I almost felt like I was being led into a trap, but winning a prize seemed pretty tempting.

Last week on this program, a player from a neighboring town won a berkshire pig. And the week before that, another contestant who reached level 10 received a canoe that was painted white. He apparently carried it back with him, all the way to the other side of the mountain.

In any case, this week’s Royal Quiz’s Happiness Door must lead somewhere, trap or not.

In the middle of the audience, the King, who was being attended upon by his mistresses, peered at the stage with an expression of extreme contentment.
The three ugly daughters were there as well, their faces beaming with their idiotic gummy smiles.

“And now, this week’s prize!”

The drum roll began.

“Just as in the name, here’s your door to happiness!”

The blackout curtains around the venue were pulled shut, throwing everything into darkness.
A single spotlight, swinging around in circles like it was looking for the host, suddenly stopped.

The 260 lb. eldest daughter, squinting her eyes as if dazzled, stood up. Our eyes met, and she lowered her gaze in embarrassment.


Translator’s note: The question about rain forests was originally a pun on tree frogs (lit. “rain frogs” in Japanese.) A literal translation of the question would be “It rains whenever a rainfrog croaks. What happens when a sunfrog croaks?”

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Speaking of the cutlets in Kobe, how in the world do they decide the price for beef cutlets? I’m not talking about wiener schnitzel or cordon bleu here, I mean plain old beef cutlets.

               I think it’s a real shame that you can’t get them in Tokyo. A capital city without any beef cutlets? It’s like we’re in 1942 Stalingrad.

                You know, whenever I start thinking about them, I immediately turn into a beef cutlet fanatic like I’ve been swept along by a bullet train.

                Beef cutlets and bread are a truly delicious combination. I like to take beef cutlets and slather them with some mustard and butter, placing them between pieces of bread that are sliced just a little thin. Into the toaster oven they go for a light toasting, along with just two slices of watercress. To drink, maybe a glass of unsweetened ice tea, or perhaps a bottle of Märzenbier. Oh... oh yes...

Plain beef cutlets are best when they’re as large as the soles of size-9 sneakers. The meat can’t be too thick or too thin either. Meat that’s too thin just makes you look poor, and having it too thick is a let-down as well. Above all, the meat mustn’t have any gristle. The crust should be fried until crispy; its texture slightly firmer than that of pork cutlets. Also, you have to make sure that the breading isn’t too thin.

                It may be just a side-dish, but you definitely need shredded cabbage as well. Adding shredded cabbage to a plate of beef cutlets is like adding a Playboy bunny sticker to a Rolls-Royce. Noodles that are lightly boiled in salt water, kidney beans, watercress, and other simple sides are OK, but if it comes with a carrot demi-glace, you might as well throw it in your ashtray.  

                Now for the rice. A mix of barley and rice would be ideal, but since most restaurants don’t carry it, you’ll just have to settle for white rice. Something like a bread roll wouldn’t be proper at all.
                The way to eat a beef cutlet is around the same as how you eat a pork cutlet. The only difference is the sensations you get when you put a knife to it. The crispness of the breading, the meat’s tenderness that’s normally obscured by the characteristic firmness of beef, the breading again, and then finally the clack of your knife against the plate: it’s to die for!

                When I was a child, my father would take me to the movies, and on the way back we’d always have beef cutlets. From the window of the restaurant I could see the harbor, and the peaks of mount Rokko standing out in all directions.

                In the guide books for Kobe, all you’ll see are restaurants serving beef steaks (and if you just want that, there’s no point in going all the way to Kobe when you can get it at restaurant 10 minutes away in Tokyo!), with no mention of beef cutlets. Why is that?


Saturday, March 17, 2012

kama sutra

“Happy birthday,” she said, handing me a small, beautiful box tied with a green ribbon.  We were in a nice restaurant on the 32nd floor of a skyscraper, having roast beef for dinner as we drank scotch and water. It was my birthday, after all.

            “Hey. Do you know what I’m thinking about? Try and guess!”

            “Hair clippers?” I asked. Of course, I was just joking with her.

            I removed the wrapping paper, unveiling a shiny, ruby-colored box with a movie ticket sized piece of paper inside. Written on it were the words “Pleasure Ticket.”

            “You can use it whenever you like!” she said.

            Returning home, I opened up the highest drawer on my desk. Inside of it were 78 “pleasure tickets” in a variety of colors, each from 78 different girls. I pulled out the whole thing and added my new ticket, making it 79. A fairly reasonable number.

In my backyard I dug a hole with a shovel, burying the 79 “pleasure tickets” that I had packed into an empty can of Grape Drops. Afterwards I pulled out a hose and watered it. I guess I’m just that kind of person.


Saturday, February 11, 2012


What does it mean when you have a carpet that’s concealing a tatami mat? It’s a lot like a bowl of katsudon where the meat and eggs are completely covering the rice. But when you’re dealing with food, it’s not something that a lot of people would call misrepresentation.
Also, I’m sure that there are quite a few copies of “How to Please a Woman” that are still inside their Kinokuniya bookstore wrapping-paper covers. But then again, the people who own those books are generally much more interested in the contents than they are in the cover.

And what about sunglasses and eyes? It’s pretty unlikely for someone to wear sunglasses all the time, especially for stuff like taking a bath or sleeping, so covering one’s eyes is much less of a tragedy than covering a tatami mat.  

There’s also concealing one’s individuality with a business card. Except with that, the individuals are covering themselves up by choice, so it’s not at all alike.

So what about covering a long-torsoed body with a Western brand of clothes?

Somehow, I think that example comes closest to it.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

onion soup

Following the guidance of mother nature, we went and had sex. An hour later, we made love for the second time, all while under the guidance of mother nature. Whew!
            The first round of sex was... well, there was nothing bad about it, but it wasn’t that great either. How can I explain it? You could say it felt like there was an elderly lion in the other room, and he was gingerly brushing his teeth.
            The second time was amazing though!

It’s hard to explain exactly how amazing it was. Just the fact that we can experience something with our bodies that’s impossible to describe is simply incredible. I really don’t think there would be much meaning to life without it.

At one o’clock in the morning, after having had sex for the second time, the two of us lay in bed smoking. In the next room, the lion was warming up some soup for dinner. The nostalgic smell of onions wafted toward us through a gap in the door. She and I were completely enveloped by the pleasant mist, and it felt as if we were sitting in the middle of a giant cartoon speech bubble. With her tiny hand, she laid her palm on my chest.


Monday, November 21, 2011

oil sardine

Hey umpire,
what game were you watching?
I ate some canned sardines yesterday
who could’ve made a better call than that.

*[Yakult Swallows Poetry Anthology]


Sunday, November 20, 2011


"Please tell me what floor you would like," said the elevator girl.

"176th" answered the middle aged man.

"Floor 176. Alright sir."

"The 328th," said the young woman. She had really nice legs.

"Yes ma'am, floor 328."

"413th," I said.

"I'm very sorry," said the elevator girl, sounding genuinely apologetic. "This elevator only goes to the 390th floor."

“Lame," I sighed. "I left 3 pairs of socks up on the 413th."

“You’re welcome up to my place,” the young woman with nice legs softly whispered to me. “It’s on the 328th, but it’s much better than some old socks.”

It’s where I truly wanted to be.

She had an amazing room. Everything, from the lighting to her taste in furniture, the music playing in the background, the degree of air conditioning, even the softness of the carpet: all of it was perfect. Every little bit of it was exactly right for me, as if she had gone and figured out my tastes beforehand.

If I were James Bond, this is the part where I would have started getting suspicious, but lucky for me I wasn’t James Bond. Neither was I Mike Hammer, Lew Archer, or Philip Marlowe for that matter either. Isn’t it great being an ordinary citizen?         

As we sipped some well-chilled champagne, we talked at length about things like music, literature, sports, and the tending of tropical fish. The only thing still bothering me was the fact that I still had those 3 pairs of socks back up on the 413th floor.

“Oh right, the socks!” she said, as she took my hand and led me into another room where she smoothly and soundlessly opened a large, mahogany wardrobe. Inside of it were close to 2000 pairs of socks of various colors, all of them neatly rolled up into balls and stacked as if they were precious jewels.

“Do you like them?”
“They’re... wonderful,” I breathed with a sigh. “Oh so very wonderful.”
“If you want them, they’re all yours!”
            I drew her towards me, putting her lips against mine. Her nightgown fell gently to the floor.

And that’s why I now own 2000 pairs of socks.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The man who was introduced to me as a prospective marriage partner yesterday was part of the elite. 

The last part of his academic record, "Graduated from Tokyo University," came as no surprise. 

"Sorry for coming from such a low-end school," he told me, but the way he played with a ginkgo leaf between his fingers as he spoke made his real meaning apparent. 

The two of us sat on a public park bench and talked about ourselves.  

I narrowed my shoulders from feeling a little cold, and he removed his coat and draped it over me. Of course, it had the Burberry logo on the inside.

His father was an executive at the New Japan Steel corporation. I could tell that just by my woman's intuition; it instantly popped into my head. 

"You're certainly clever," he laughed. He was pretty perceptive himself. 

I'm the kind of person who can pick up on gossip at beauty parlors.

Elite though he was, bragging about that sort of thing really wasn't his style.
He was more the type to nonchalantly walk up to someone at the Tsubaki House disco club and ask: "Would you like to have a marriage interview with me?"

His car was a Mercedes-Benz.
The key holder had the Benz logo on it, so I asked him: "A Mercedes-Benz?"
"Yes, a Benz," he said.

He and I talked for what seemed like forever about our love of Shakespeare. He was telling me that he preferred the young Olivia Hussey.  

"Don't tell me I'm going too far," he said, as he reached for my body.

His naked self looked even more elite than when he was wearing clothes.
There, on his back where he was so carefully trying to hide, was the word "ELITE" tattooed in giant letters.


Thursday, May 26, 2011


You were so lovely when you were going to etiquette school.
You ate your soup without a sound, and played the piano quietly.
Your bows were deeper than the sea.
At the end of a meal, only the first few millimeters of the tips of your chopsticks would be dirty. 
Whenever you ate fish, the bones left on your plate were as beautiful as a museum specimen. 
You had fresh breath, your silky hair was neatly tied into braids, and your whole body had the subtle aroma of soap! 

Why, oh why did you stop attending etiquette school?
Those remarks about etiquette being a "load of garbage" did come from me, but you always used to softly chide me by saying "Oh, I don't think so at all."

Lately I've taken to brushing my teeth three times a day, three minutes each time: breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
I've been saying "Good morning," "Good afternoon," "Good evening," and "Good night" in a bright cheery voice every day as well.
I completely stopped my habit of watching TV while eating dinner, and now whenever I come back inside from outdoors, I wash my hands.

Now, it may be rude of me to presume this, but I'm worried that you might have taken up with some sort of bad boy. 
I wasn't trying to, but I accidentally overheard when you were talking with someone over the phone.

What does "We can go as far as doing B" mean? Is "B" some kind of kissing technique or something?
Sorry for my crazy imagination.
When you come home, I'd like to have a good talk with you.

Anyways, I'm off to work now.
-Love, Dad. (7:30 AM) 


west coast

Just about anyone looks silly when they're standing under cherry trees in full bloom.

As I took souvenir photos on the west coast, it looked as if everyone was right in the middle of shouting "Yeah!" in the pictures, but most of the time I think that was probably just an illusion of my viewing angle.

On the American west coast, I couldn't help but think that every single person going by was just putting on a cheerful performance. Then again, I suppose that there had to have been people putting on gloomy performances out there as well. 

Right now, as I'm writing something under the title "west coast," it's almost as if the cherry trees are somehow blooming above my head. It's making me uncomfortable.


Monday, April 4, 2011


Interior design is probably one of those things with its own section in dating guidebooks.

The Queen Anne table and those Italian-influenced modern-design shelves; the "Under Construction" banner that was swiped during a drunken binge; the bookshelf, casually arranged to show only books on difficult seeming subjects; maybe even those tiny panties you have pinned up there on your wall, with the excuse that you thought they seemed cute: everybody owns stuff that they've put there just for the sake of other people. 

Interior designs guard against the silence between words— they make up for their owners' lack of verbal finesse. 

When a guest takes a look around, they're guessing at what kinds of things the room's owner has in their mind, and whether they might be a kind person or not.

The room's owner, knowing this, will stop talking once they realize that their guest is just gazing around at everything. 

"What a nice room!"
"It's all just cheap stuff..."
"It's so you. It's cute!"
"Hey, take a look at this. If you look closely at the design on this curtain there's squirrels holding chestnuts!"
"Ah, so there are! You know, this squirrel kinda looks like you..."
"Oh wow... Oh! No, stop that. Umn-"

and that's how interior designs play a vital role by filling in for words while you're keeping company.

Now, there may be people out there who will hang up squirrel curtains and buy potted plants to stare at in rooms where no one ever visits, but that's more like keeping a diary. There's really nothing strange about having a non-social interior.

Once in a while there might also be somebody who says something like "I just love the color red, so I coordinated the entire room's interior in red!" but that's just like throwing a wild party every single night. It would make your social life rather difficult in my opinion.

What I'm really currently interested in is finding out where the limits of interior design are in the placement of household Buddhist altars.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


This friend of mine has been making a ton of money. So much so that even he has no idea how much it is exactly. He owns a number of different companies, and each and every single one of them is tightly bound to the others like they're all part of some kind of jealous, many-legged beast. For example: company A makes loans to company B, company B exploits company C, company C skillfully double-crosses company D... you get the picture. So no matter what he tries, he just can't figure out the combined earnings of his businesses.

His accountant, a man who resembles Yoda wearing thick spectacles, would come along once a week. He'd punch away at the computer keyboard, write down a series of numbers with his fine ball-point pen, draw out some intricate line graphs, and run through the business records.

"I'm transferring these funds over to there," said the accountant.
"Uh huh," said my friend.
"But this is just on paper."
"Uh huh."
"Well, it's just on paper but transferring the money gives us an issue with taxes."
"Uh huh."
"But if we don't transfer it, the discrepancy in revenue between the last fiscal year and the current one looks too artificial."
"Uh huh."
"So we'll tabulate our reported net income at the same time that we transfer the money."
"Uh huh."

And that's how it goes. It's like running around hitting trees in the forest with a stick. In the end, you can't tell the trees you've hit from the ones you haven't. Even so, he still makes a profit.

No one knew how he had become so wealthy. He wasn't a remarkable man, and his grades weren't that good by any means. It wasn't like he was gifted with incredible foresight or quick thinking either. His character wasn't that exceptional. In fact, it was next to nothing. 

So nobody could believe it when they heard that he had gotten rich. No matter how hard they tried to wrap their heads around it, it seemed like a bad joke.

"You're kidding me," said one friend. "If that guy's rich, then I can fly."

But facts are facts. He's making more money than any of us... no, more than all of us put together.

"A long time ago, I saw this comedy western movie," my rich friend told me one day. "What was it called... It had this train that was being chased by Indians. And so the people on the train are burning as much coal as they can to try and get away. But they've used up more than half of it, so they're running out of fuel as they go."


He and I had met for the first time in years, completely by chance at the bar of some hotel. I had just come from someone's wedding ceremony (I can't recall who now), and he was returning from a company party.

"Once the coal runs out, they start throwing stuff like the seats and sections of the roof into the furnace chamber. And when all the seats and roofing have been used up, they take off their clothes and burn them too."

"I see."

"It's like a slapstick movie. You know what I mean."


"So, everyone burns their clothes. And after that, there's nearly nothing left. But the Indians are still in pursuit. There's no way out."

"Seems that way."

"Well, there's still one piece of luggage remaining. It turns out that it's filled with money. Right there in the train is the whole of the army's salary, packed away in bundles of cash. These bills could've filled Santa's sack five times over."

"So they had an easy time burning it?"

He nodded impassively. "Money's no substitute for staying alive."

"You're right about that."

"Well, it doesn't really matter. It's just a movie after all." He held a cigarette up to his mouth and the bartender swiftly lit it with a lighter. "The thing is, it's the way they go about burning it."

"How do they do it?"

"Well, basically they scoop the bills into the furnace with shovels. They shovel it in huge heaps right into the middle of the flames. Just try to imagine the sight of it. The fire's not important, but the shoveling itself!"

"I'm imagining it."

"How does it make you feel?" 

"I don't feel anything at all."

He slid his empty glass about 10 centimeters forward, and 20 seconds later a new glass with a fresh drink in it was placed down in front of him with a satisfying clink.

"What's your annual income?" he asked me.

I told him the honest amount.

"Before or after taxes?"

"Before," I said.

"It's really that little?"

"Yes," I admitted. It was a frank question, but for some reason I wasn't that put off by it.

"Aren't you a writer though?"

"I am according to my tax agent."

"Why is your income so little then?"

"Well, it's just a job that's not very financially rewarding." 

"It seems that way," he said, sounding bored. He looked to me like a golf singles player who just found out that he had been teamed up with a beginner. I almost felt like apologizing.

"Scooping up money with a shovel: when I think about it, it's almost like I finally understand it all," my rich friend said. 

"And how does it feel?"

"I feel like I'm being chased by Indians!"


Thursday, February 17, 2011


May 12, Shiseido parlor of the La Floret, Shinjuku. The young female interviewer is 30 minutes late.

"Well, Mr. Murakami, I'd like to ask about the kinds of things you like to eat every day. So let's begin with what you have in the morning."

"First of all, in the morning"

"Wait, sorry. I forgot to turn up the volume on the recorder. Excuse me, please go ahead."

"First of all, in the morning I eat some vegetab"

"Interesting. What time do you wake up in the morning?"

"I get up at five. And then"

"Five o'clock? Five o'clock in the morning?"

"We're talking about mornings right now, aren't we?"

"I suppose we are... But what are you doing, waking up at five in the morning?"

"I'm running! It's not like I'm out stealing panties or anything like that."

"Hahaha.... So, around what time do you go to bed?"

"Nine thirty or ten. Anyway, isn't this interview supposed to be about food? I'm sorry, but I'm keeping people waiting and I don't have a lot of time."

"Right, right.... I apologize."

"I eat breakfast after I'm done jogging, at around six. I have a bowl of rice with plenty of vegetables, a roll of bread with two cups of coffee, and then two eggs, sunny-side up.

"How healthy!"

"It's really just because the vegetables near where I live are so cheap." 

(Cups of coffee are served, clattering against the table.) 

"And then that brings us around to lunch."

"It certainly does."

"What kinds of things do you have for lunch?"

"For lunch I usually hey, the tape isn't moving!"

"Ah, ah, ah! You're right... Darn. What happened?"

Click, click, click....

"The switch isn't on. See, it's set to 'OFF.'"

"Ahhh! I thought I had turned it on..."

"What should we do? Do you want me to repeat everything?"

"No, it's alright. I'll be able to remember it all. You wake up at five and go jogging, have a bowl of rice with salad on top, a roll, and some ham and eggs."

"Fried eggs."

"Yes yes, fried eggs."

"And two cups of coffee."

"Two cups, coffee."

"Can you remember that?"

"It's fine. I've got an incredible memory!"

<The Article>

Mr. Murakami has an early morning. He wakes up at 5:00 AM, and then goes jogging. "Actually, it's like I'm a panty thief, hahaha!" he laughed with embarrassment. His daily menu consists of a salad with ham and eggs, and of course two cans of beer... 



Miserliness and avarice, frugality and rationalism.

There's people out there who will bring these kinds of bad ideas into your mind as they prompt you to make noise by violently putting their left and right hands together. You can find a lot of them at places like concert halls. They're out there, and in no small numbers. 

As individuals, they don't have much power, but when many of them gather together it all makes for a thunderous noise. Once these malcontents understand what their din is forming, they're all completely filled with confidence by the noises that they're making. They have like-minded people all around them, so many of their bad ideas probably start feeling like good ones.
When things start getting this way, the threats among the noise eventually reach a purposeful crescendo. It's exactly like how a bill collector slams his desk to make you jump .

"Gimme my money's worth!"
"Come off it already!"
These sorts of rude remarks come flying out.

I'm the kind of person who finds this situation terrifying.
But when you're in the middle of an encore the atmosphere gets you feeling really good, so even I tend to join in with the "Gimme my money's worth!" people in clapping.

Just the other day, I went to a friend's concert and for the first time in a while I witnessed what could be called an encore-less performance.
In the midst of an unending applause, one of the band members just jumped up to the front and shouted into the microphone: "We're not performing anymore, so please go home! You can go amuse yourselves!"

The hecklers snapped to their senses, resumed their place as normal members of the audience, and gradually began to leave.
I guess they weren't really troublemakers individually. All of a sudden everybody was just caught up in the bad ideas. 
Anyway, I just think this "quid pro quo" attitude is something that I'd like to see done away with entirely.

In saying that, I'd probably never make a good musician.