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​Haruki Murakami has opened a library in Tokyo dedicated to literature & music

Step through a tunnel into the wonderful world of Murakami, all soundtracked by lots and lots of jazz

  • Olivia Wycech
  • 11 September 2022

Officially called the Waseda University International House of Literature, step through a tunnel into a fantastical world of Haruki Muramaki's work: the Haruki Murakami Library is open to the public in Tokyo.

The building can be found on the main campus of Waseda University, where Murakami graduated in 1975. (Fun fact: he studied drama, not literature). The library contains an archive of over 3,000 mementos illuminating his 40 years as an author: books he's written, read or handpicked. Alongside the books, the library also holds rough drafts, handwritten manuscripts, photographs and clippings bequeathed by the celebrated author. Among them, there is another kind of library too, one with many, many records.

We've long known that Murakami is an avid vinyl collector. Obsessed is probably a better term; Murakami owns more than 10,000 records, which he sometimes plays on Japanese radio stations. Music is a running motif across his novels, and he always, always listens to music while he writes. Before becoming a writer, he also ran a jazz club called Peter Cat in Tokyo from 1974 to 1981. The piano and the chairs in the library's gallery come from Peter Cat and you can sit in them while thumbing through roughly 1,400 copies of first-edition Murakami books in Japanese across 50 different languages. Also, don't miss Sheep Man on the wall, drawn by Murakami himself.

In his home office (where he writes all those novels we feel all culty about), his vinyl collection lined the walls of his workspace. (Explore his study here). The scenario has been replicated in the library, and his records and their players have been re-homed in the replica. You can listen to them in the library's listening room, which has been fitted out with Luxman turntable, Accuphase amplifier, Marantz CD player and a pairing of Sonus Faber and JBL speakers. And if you look closely at the vinyl and notice a Peter Cat stamp on the sleeve, that means it was played long ago at his jazz café.

While listening, you can also sip on a custom blend of dark roast coffee, just how the author likes it. The student-run café is called Orange Cat, an obvious homage to his former club. Talk about being transported into his world...

The amalgamation of his possessions stems from his not having any children to pass his possessions onto. Instead, he wanted the space to become not a hushed reading zone but a cultural communication hub that brings together writers, readers, academia, students and musicians from Japan and worldwide to meet, interact, synergize and collaborate.

"I hope the library will become a base for the transmission of new culture," Murakami said at a press conference last year.

"Honestly, I wish something like this had been built after my death," he added. "Now it has been finished while I am alive, I am a bit nervous. What if I commit a crime? It would cause serious trouble to Waseda." (Spoken just like a line from his books)

He also explained the principle of the library as '物語を拓(ひら)こう、心を語ろう', which is translated as 'Explore Your Stories, Speak Your Heart'.

The facility was designed by Kengo Kuma, the architect of the Japan National Stadium featured in the 2020 Olympics. He based his design on the tunnel-like device Murakami employs in his books that carries readers to another world as they read his stories, in the same way the protagonist is transported from the real to the surreal.

To visit the library, you'll need to make a (free) booking for a designated time slot. Reservations can be made on the Waseda University's official website.

[images via Timeout/Kisa Toyoshima, Japan Times/KAZUAKI NAGATA, ADF]

Olivia Wycech is Mixmag Asia’s Culture Editor, follow her on Instagram.

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