A trip to the new Haruki Murakami Library - How to Japanese - March 2022
This is How to Japanese, a monthly newsletter with something about Japan/Japanese and a dash of いろいろ.
日本・日本語： The Waseda International House of Literature (The Haruki Murakami Library)
I didn’t pay much attention to the announcement for The Haruki Murakami Library (aka The Waseda International House of Literature), so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went today. I was a bit disappointed upon arrival.
The building itself looks like something that had been sitting around on the edge of campus, ripe for renovation (and apparently that’s what it was in its previous existence as Building No. 4). Kengo Kuma threw on a wavy piece of metal. It felt super plain and understated, especially considering it’s squeezed between tall modern buildings and the ancient Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum.
But entrance is free (capped at 90 minutes, reservations required), and the interior makes the trip worth it. It’s a cleanly designed space with lots of wood and neutral-colored carpeting. Plenty of spaces to sit and read or listen to music, and you can even flip through first editions of many of his translations (all the Japanese first-editions are behind glass).
There’s also a replica of Murakami’s office space.
The highlight is the central stairway that doubles as a bookshelf divided thematically into lots of different topics, including Murakami’s works, his inspirations, writers and artists associated with him, and topics he wrote about.
Unfortunately the third-floor research archives/stacks are limited to Waseda faculty, graduate students, and undergrads who have a letter of introduction from a faculty advisor. Murakami donated material for the archive from his personal collection, although it’s not clear how much or what it includes. I imagine it’s a pretty cool collection if it indeed includes manuscripts with his editing (like maybe his first draft of Norwegian Wood or Hard-boiled Wonderland?).
I’d recommend keeping your expectations pretty low. It’s a very small space. There’s a gallery that will eventually have exhibitions, and maybe already has held a few, but you can get a basic gist of the place by visiting the ground-floor cafe and taking a peek at the stairway (although I imagine they wouldn’t let you browse the books without a reservation).
The library reminded me of Murakami’s ever-changing website, which has varied in quality over the years. I browsed through it for the first time in a while today and was impressed by the playlists provided for each book…although the links to individual songs don’t seem to work. The library is…mostly fine but doesn’t seem as fully realized as it could be.
I recommend NOT going on a Sunday when the bulk of the used bookstores in the Waseda area are closed.
I can, however, highly recommend checking out your local ward library whenever you get to Japan. Not only do they have newspapers to 立ち読み (tachiyomi, stand and read), there are all current issues of periodicals, free wi-fi, and huge availability of books. If what you want isn’t on the shelves, you’ll be inconvenienced by waiting an entire five minutes while it’s retrieved.
My favorite part is that you can print small receipts with information about books to help remember them or to show to staff to help you track them down.
The Nakahara Ward Library had everything I needed for an independent study. I wasn’t looking for anything too obscure, but none of the bookstores I’d been to had what I needed, and I had to determine whether I would be making a trek to the NDL. Fortunately I’ll be able to put that trip off until after I finish the program at IUC.
Oh, I made it to Japan! I’m here until July. Expect these to be somewhat briefer than usual until then.
Some solid beer journalism for Japanese craft drinkers.
So this happened last night/earlier today. The Japanese translator did impressive work.「ウィル・スミスにやられました。... テレビ史上最高の場面でしょうか」 The Japanese interpreter somehow remains transcendently calm but doesn't interpret Smith's response to Rock, which can be heard quite clearly.VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock https://t.co/j0Z184ZyXaTimothy Burke @bubbaprog
The new Aldous Harding album “Warm Chris” is out, and it’s great. Read a Japanese review here. The overall synopsis: 気さくでチャームに満ちたアルバムなのだ。