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Haruki Murakami

Japan's most popular novelist has finally woken up to events in his own country. But can this ageing adolescent really grow up?

By Murray Sayle   October 2002

Japan was very much in the news in early 1995 and, for once, not because of its economy. On 17th January, an earthquake struck the port city of Kobe, devastating working-class districts and killing 5,000 people. Two months later, the followers of semi-crazed Buddhist guru Shoko Asahara attacked the Tokyo subway with homemade nerve gas, killing 12 people and injuring 1,000. Japan had seen nothing like it since Hiroshima.

None of this disturbed the routine of Haruki Murakami, Japan’s most successful writer, who returned from a spell in America in September. Brought up in Kobe, it did not occur to…

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