Japanese fans snap up first Murakami novel in six years

People line up to purchase the fresh copies of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami's new novella "The City and Its Uncertain Walls", which is the writer's new book in six years, at a book store in Shinjuku district of Tokyo early on 13 April, 2023AFP

Dozens of excited Haruki Murakami fans queued outside a bookstore in Tokyo on Thursday for the midnight release of the world-renowned author's first novel in six years.

Copies of "The City and Its Uncertain Walls", so far only available in Japanese, were piled up on tables at the entrance to Kinokuniya store in central Shinjuku district.

Shunsuke Mitsumoto was among the first to get his hands on the latest title by Murakami, who has a cult following for his surreal works peppered with references to pop culture.

"I want to read it as soon as I get home. As much as I want to savour each sentence, I will probably read the whole thing in one go," the 39-year-old told AFP.

"I'm excited to think that this book will take us to a new world again," added Mitsumoto, a member of a Murakami reading group.

Murakami's previous novel, "Killing Commendatore", was published in February 2017.

The bestselling author is known for his intricate tales of the absurdity and loneliness of modern life, which have been translated into about 50 languages.

In a message released by publisher Shinchosha ahead of the new book's release, Murakami said he had produced the novel in self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 74-year-old described his work process in typically enigmatic style, saying it had been "just like a 'dream reader' reads an 'old dream' at a library".

Perennially tipped for a Nobel prize, Murakami -- whose most famous novels include "Norwegian Wood" and "Kafka on the Shore" -- is a reclusive figure.

At the early-hours event on Thursday, 28-year-old fan Chikako Muramatsu said the author was "loved by a wide range of people".

"Many fans seem to be in my parents' generation, but there are some big Haruki fans in my generation too," she said.

Yuji Katayama, 54, said he was a long-time fan.

"I feel like I am growing older with the characters in his books. I feel empathy for them," he said.

"I consider his novels as my textbooks. By reading his books, I am exposed to new things, like his knowledge of foreign novels."