When I began to reread What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, I thought I would read it in one go, as I like it a lot; however I stopped when I read this paragraph:
Not long before, I’d been running a sort of jazz club near Sendagaya Station. It wasn’t so big, or so small, either. We had a grand piano and just barely enough space to squeeze in a quintet. During the day we served coffee, at night it was a bar. We served pretty decent food, too, and on the weekends featured live performances. This kind of live jazz club was still pretty rare back then, so we gained a steady clientele and the place did all right financially. Most people I knew had predicted that the bar wouldn’t do well. They figured that an establishment run as a kind of hobby wouldn’t work out, that somebody like me, who was pretty naive and most likely didn’t have the slightest aptitude for running a business, wouldn’t be able to make a go of it. Well, their predictions were totally off.
When I finished reading the paragraph I suddenly had the urge to go out and look for the place that Haruki Murakami had been running at the end of the 70’s before he became a writer. When I went out of my house, the only clue I had is that the club was near Sendagaya Station. I didn’t want to carry too much weight so I put my Canon S90 in my pocket and I went out looking for adventure.
Strolling around Sendagaya I found this sento (public hot spring baths) that looked like it had been running for a long time, it was likely that somebody there knew something about Murakami and I decided to go in and ask. An old woman welcomed me with a smile, I asked her about Murakami’s jazz club. She started to tell me about how the neighborhood was a great place to live in the old days;
she didn’t know anything about the jazz club, however she had heard about it.
I kept on walking with no destination in mind, I went across a small temple plenty of flowering cherry trees.
After a while I found a bookstore that also looked like it had been running for several years. “If Murakami worked and lived around here I am pretty sure he had been in this bookstore!” I thought with excitement. I went inside the bookstore, this time it was a man on his fifties the one who had to deal with my questions, he didn’t look really friendly. When I asked him about Haruki Murakami his face expression changed, his eyes glittered with excitement and he started to tell stories. It turned out that in fact Murakami had been several times in the bookstore buying and skimming through books during the time he had been the owner of the jazz club.
The man came out with me and indicated me the exact building where Murakami’s jazz bar had been located. Mission accomplished! The disappointment was that it was not a jazz bar anymore but a restaurant-cafeteria.
I don’t know why but I had always imagined that Murakami’s jazz club would be located in a basement, however it was located in a first floor. Here is where Murakami worked on his own business, and on his little free time wrote his first two novels: 風の歌を聴け / Kaze no uta o kike / Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. In Murakami’s own words, my life as a writer started like this:
So I went to the Kinokuniya store in Shinjuku and bought a sheaf of manuscript paper and a five-dollar Sailor fountain pen. A small capital investment on my part.
Gradually, though, I found myself wanting to write a more substantial kind of novel. With the first two, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, I basically enjoyed the process of writing, but there were parts I wasn’t too pleased with. With these first two novels I was only able to write in spurts, snatching bits of time here and there—a half hour here, an hour there—and because I was always tired and felt like I was competing against the clock as I wrote, I was never able to concentrate. With this kind of scattered approach I was able to write some interesting, fresh things, but the result was far from a complex or profound novel. I felt I’d been given a wonderful opportunity to be a novelist—a chance you just don’t get every day—and a natural desire sprang up to take it as far as I possibly could and write the kind of novel I’d feel satisfied with. I knew I could write something more large- scale. And after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to close the business for a while and concentrate solely on writing. At this point my income from the jazz club was more than my income as a novelist, a reality I had to resign myself to.
On my way home I bumped into this cute cat that seemed like it had just came out of Kafka on the Shore.