The Times Literary Supplement
“You see, I’m like a cat”, he tells me, twice. “I know the best position, and I go there straight. And I do it on my own time. Many people don’t like that about me.”
Despite Murakami’s discomfort in Japan, and the disdain he receives from Japanese literary critics ten or more years his junior, his legacy is everywhere in contemporary Japanese culture. He’s there in the unvarnished prose and surreal happenstance in the work of younger writers, including Sayaka Murata (whose bestselling Convenience Store Woman is an eerily Murakamiesque blend of the magical mundane punctuated by violence) Mieko Kawakami and Hideo Furukawa (who wrote what he calls “a remix” of an early Murakami story, entitled Slow Boat), all of whom claim that his model as an independent, uncompromising artist forged their paths from the parochial forests of Japanese letters to the broader plains of world literature. The authors Masatsugu Ono and Aoko Matsuda, twenty and thirty years younger than Murakami, both pursued his double-life as a translator, Ono tackling French novels, Matsuda the short stories of Karen Russell.
For his part, Murakami has returned the favour, publicly praising for the first time a younger Japanese writer, Kawakami, and her novel, Chichi to ran (“Breasts and Eggs”) (2008). “She has a vision, voice and attitude. She doesn’t care what anybody else thinks, or about her reputation. She just writes what she feels is important to her.”
Murakami’s influence is there, too, in anime’s youngest superstar, the director Makoto Shinkai, who studied literature as a student, specializing in Murakami’s oeuvre. Shinkai’s best-known films, Five Centimeters Per Second and the box-office record-breaker, Your Name, swirl elliptically around stories of lost love, longing and the mysteries of time.