What’s your favorite book?
The Great Gatsby. I translated it a couple of years ago. I wanted to translate it when I was in my 20s, but I wasn’t ready.
How has distance-running affected you as a writer?
You need two things to write a big book: concentration and endurance. Running long distances gives me the power of endurance.
What sneakers do you run in?
New York City
I don’t stick to one brand. Now I’m using Nike — but the Nike people gave them to me.
To what extent do you see yourself as a Japanese author, as opposed to just an author?
I’m a Japanese writer. I was born in Japan and I live mainly in Japan. I think in Japanese and I write in Japanese. And, still, I look at things globally. For instance, my characters like tofu a lot. Let’s say that a Norwegian reader reads that and thinks, “That guy likes tofu.” But I don’t know if he knows what tofu is! Still, he can understand what [the character] feels.
How do Western cultural references affect your stories?
When I write that my character is cooking spaghetti for lunch, some Western readers say it’s strange: “Why is a Japanese guy cooking spaghetti for lunch?” And when a character listens to Radiohead while driving, some people will say he’s too Westernized. But that’s natural to me.
Food is significant in your novels. What’s your ideal meal?
My favorite meal is when you have no idea what to cook and you open the refrigerator and find celery, egg, tofu and tomato. I use everything and make my own dish. That is my perfect food. No planning.
Why has your writing found such an international audience?
New York City
I have no idea. But style is very important. If prose has a natural rhythm it won’t be spoiled by translation.
How has jazz influenced your writing?
I owned a jazz club and was listening to jazz every day from morning to night. I appreciate the sense of rhythm and improvisation. A good musician doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s spur of the moment. When I write a novel or story, I don’t know what is going to happen next.
Why do you tell stories that have magical elements?
I believe that the magic and power of a story can encourage and fascinate you. In prehistory, outside the cave it was dark, but inside they had a fire and somebody was good at telling stories. Every time I write, I think of the cave. We are one group, outside it’s dark and wolves are howling, but I have a story to tell.
Can you elaborate about your forthcoming novel?
I’ve been writing that book for close to two years and it’s going to be the biggest book I’ve ever written. All my books are weird love stories. I love weird love stories. And this book is a very long, weird love story.
Picture: Haruki Murakami is working on a new novel (file photo). (AFP: Michal Cizek)