Haruki Murakami’s Advice Column (“Mr. Murakami’s Place”) Is Now Online: Read English Translations


Ear­li­er this month, the read­ing world thrilled to the news that Haru­ki Muraka­mi would, in a new col­umn on his offi­cial site, take on the role of agony uncle. I, for one, had to look up the term “agony uncle,” a term out of British Eng­lish, a lan­guage that sur­pris­es me even more often than does Murakami’s native Japan­ese. It means an advice colum­nist, or more specif­i­cal­ly an avun­cu­lar type of writer to whom read­ers can pour out their ago­nies.

Despite his rare pub­lic appear­ances and few first-per­son pieces avail­able in trans­la­tion, read­ers around the globe have sure­ly sensed the writer’s calm man­ner and sym­pa­thet­ic ear. And when he gives advice straight-up, as when he talks about what makes a good run­ner or writer (almost the same thing, to his mind) he does it with suc­cinct­ness and wis­dom. And so we have 村上さんのところ, or “Mr. Murakami’s Place,” where Muraka­mi will, over the next few months, briefly address all man­ner of read­er queries sub­mit­ted in Jan­u­ary.

(Which means that, if you have any­thing to ask him you’ve still got a few days left to do so. Though you’ll notice that the site appears almost entire­ly in Japan­ese, the Eng­lish-speak­ing Muraka­mi also answers ques­tions sub­mit­ted in that lan­guage; just con­sult James Smyth’s trans­la­tion of the ques­tion sub­mis­sion form if you want to go that route.)

“Do you think cats can under­stand how humans feel?” asks a fan named Vivian. “My cat Bobo ran away when she saw me cry­ing.” And despite, or because of, hav­ing spent a good deal of time ren­der­ing cats as lit­er­ary pres­ences, Muraka­mi feels a bit dubi­ous about the issue: “I sus­pect that either you or your cat is extreme­ly sen­si­tive. I have had many cats, but no cat has ever been so sym­pa­thet­ic. They were just as ego­is­tic as they could be.” “Do you have some places you always stay for a while?” asks a 20-year-old stu­dent. “An easy ques­tion. In the bed with some­one I love. Where else?”

Not only do the Japan­ese-lan­guage ques­tions and answers get slight­ly more expan­sive, they some­times even take the tra­di­tion­al advice-col­umn form. Take, for exam­ple, “On the Cusp of 30”:

30 is right around the cor­ner for me, but there isn’t a sin­gle thing that I feel like I’ve accom­plished.  When I was young, I thought to be an ‘adult’ must be so won­der­ful, but my cur­rent real­i­ty is so far away from what I imag­ined.  And when faced with that real­i­ty, I get very dis­heart­ened.  What should I do with myself?

(Jo & Maca, Female, 28)

I don’t mean to be rude, but I think “to be an ‘adult’ must be so won­der­ful,” is just wrong.  ‘Adult’ is noth­ing more than an emp­ty form.  What you fill that form with is your own respon­si­bil­i­ty.  Accom­plish­ments don’t come eas­i­ly.  When you start to fill your ‘adult’ form lit­tle by lit­tle, then every­thing will begin.  But 28 is not real­ly ‘adult.’  You’re only just begin­ning.

That trans­la­tion comes from an anony­mous trans­la­tor and Muraka­mi fan writ­ing their own Eng­lish com­pan­ion blog to the col­umn. It presents anoth­er urgent query from a des­per­ate read­er as fol­lows:

My wife quite fre­quent­ly belch­es right near the back of my head when she pass­es behind me.  When I say to her, “Stop burp­ing behind me all the time,” she says, “It’s not on pur­pose.  It just comes out.”  I don’t think I’m bring­ing it upon myself in any way.  Is there some­thing I can do to stop my wife’s belch­ing?

(ukuleleKazu, Male, 61, Self-Employed)

I hope you’ll par­don me for say­ing so, but I think belch­ing is far bet­ter than fart­ing. Per­haps you should think of it that way.

Muraka­mi has so far weighed in on such oth­er mat­ters of import as dis­ap­pear­ing cats [trans­la­tion], how to deal with ris­ing marathon times [trans­la­tion], his plans for fur­ther non-fic­tion writ­ing [trans­la­tion], what to do at age nine­teen [trans­la­tion], wan­ing libido [trans­la­tion], and his love of Ice­land [trans­la­tion]. Even if you don’t care about the nov­el­ist’s thoughts on these mat­ters, do take a look at the site and its abun­dance of bipedal cats and sheep, jazz albums, John­nie Walk­er fig­ures, and Yakult Swal­lows mem­o­ra­bil­ia — in any lan­guage, a Muraka­mi fan’s delight.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Lists the Three Essen­tial Qual­i­ties For All Seri­ous Nov­el­ists (And Run­ners)

A Pho­to­graph­ic Tour of Haru­ki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Mem­o­ry, and Real­i­ty Meet

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Trans­lates The Great Gats­by, the Nov­el That Influ­enced Him Most

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (14) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (14)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • mary lillis says:

    Good to hear from you . I look for­ward to more ques­tions and your answers.

  • mary lillis says:

    what to do about a hus­band who divorced me, and now wants me back because he now knows he loves me?

  • Bea says:

    hi Muraka­mi San,
    I have been read­ing “The Wind up Bird Chron­i­cle” in the last month.
    I have felt like Alice in Won­der­land.
    The day after Mr Oka­da dis­cov­ered his mark on the cheek, I walked into a shoe shop and the assis­tant was an Asian young woman with an ink-black Mark on her right cheek, the size of a baby’s Palm!
    The next week, my Chi­nese friend put a pic­ture of her cat on Face­book. The cat had returned after dis­ap­pear­ing for a while!
    Two weeks ago, they announced on the news here in Aus­tralia that a man had been dis­cov­ered alive at the bot­tom of a well!
    Since I seem to be a char­ac­ter in your book, I would like some advice. What next?
    This is seri­ous, not jok­ing.

  • Aizat says:

    Dear Haru­ki,
    Is lying bad?

  • Marsha says:

    Alas, the trans­la­tion site (https://mrmurakamisplace.wordpress.com/) is no more. The site own­er says the site will be tak­en down today, so here’s the post­ed expla­na­tion (with a Jan 22 date), in case you don’t get a chance to see it:

    “Hel­lo every­one. Thanks for read­ing every­thing thus far. I appre­ci­ate all the kind com­ments.

    I have received con­tact from Mr. Murakami’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives very kind­ly ask­ing me to cease oper­a­tions here. They were extreme­ly polite about it, so don’t hold it against them, since I was doing this with­out any kind of per­mis­sion. But it was fun while it last­ed.

    This is my final note before I offi­cial­ly close the site lat­er today.”

  • Stacey says:

    Thanks for the update, Mar­sha. Any­one have resources for read­ing this in Eng­lish or infor­ma­tion on whether Muraka­mi will be offer­ing them him­self some­time in the future?

  • Luke says:

    The Way­back Machine has a cached copy of the Mr. Murikami’s Place word­press site:

  • Alex Holt says:

    The response to the 28 year old is a bit cold. He realis­es that suc­cess does not come eas­i­ly. I for one do not blame him for his dis­ap­point­ments. Is it wrong to hope and glo­ri­fy the future, and then share that you realise its imper­fec­tions? Think of Wait­ing for Godot — the char­ac­ters can­not even keep up with their own speech­es. Stark­ly shows the lim­its of our brain pow­ers. Arriv­ing some­where, whether geo­graph­i­cal or at a point in a our per­son­al growth is not always pos­si­ble.

  • russell green says:

    Dear Mr. Murika­mi,
    Your view of the world through your nov­els has been a won­der­ful­ly, fear­ful trip, but I have per­se­vered and enjoyed. I would like to read a nov­el by you in which the game of base­ball & the posi­tions played make up a part of the sto­ry. I’m sure that you would make it a most inter­est­ing read. Thanks you for being acces­si­ble.
    Rus­sell Green

  • Edu says:

    The page with the trans­la­tions has been delet­ed

  • Keristina says:

    Hey are you cry­ing that your lover has left you and the kids for anoth­er woman, you don’t have to cry any­more because i was in the same posi­tion till i heard about Dr. Ekpen of Ekpen Tem­ple how he has help so many peo­ple in there are rela­tion­ship, today i can bold­ly rec­om­mend Dr. Ekpen Of Ekpen Tem­ple to some­one for help. He did not fail me i also believe he can not fail you too con­tact him at ((((ekpen­tem­ple at gmail .com)))) good­luck.

  • Andrea Bordot says:

    I was search­ing for TX DPS PSB-02 ear­li­er this week and was informed about a great ser­vice with a huge forms library . If oth­ers are look­ing for TX DPS PSB-02 as well , here’s a http://goo.gl/lXcYj8

  • Someone Stupid says:

    What should I do if I left a friend request to my crush and he accept­ed it but our class com­memt­ed harsh­ly on it. Then he unfriends me because of the com­ments we were get­ting. What should I do?

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.