At the beginning of this year, Haruki Murakami put on the Agony Uncle hat by inviting fans to submit questions that he would, in turn, answer. Part Q + A, part advice column; incidentally, his advice is at times bizarre and at times he turns the questions on the readers, forcing them to address their own issues. Most of the questions asked about loneliness, love and loss, but of course there were also lots about cats and food. The site was all in Japanese, unfortunately, but there are English translations floating around. I have collated my favourites for your perusal:
My cat, whom I’ve taken care of for several years, has disappeared. Where did my disappearing cat go?
(Meowt of Luck, Female, 32)
Cats just disappear sometimes. You have to love and appreciate them while they’re near you.
Do you have some places always stay for a while? （recently）
Thank you for so much!
（no opinion 、男性、20歳、student ）
An easy question. In the bed with someone I love. Where else?
I have read all your books and the thing I’ve always wanted to say (if I ever got a chance) is thank you for sharing your gift with the world, and all your hard work.
For some time now, I’ve been fearing that I’ve become stuck in the past somehow. I find it very difficult to shake off painful memories and to forgive. It’s not something I’ve set out to do consciously, it’s just the way I’ve been living and only recently did I realise. What’s more, I sometimes cling on to the past thinking about good times, and good friends that belong in the past and are no longer around. At any rate, I seem unable to move on, and it worries me that that whatever I’m living now or later, will always be eclipsed by parts of my life that are gone.
Any words of advice on how to move on? Thanks again.
（Barletti、男性、32歳、Songwriter, English teacher）
As a writer, I regard my past as my priceless asset. There are good memories and bad memories in my past, of course, but whichever they are, they have made me what I am, for better or for worse. And I use those memories as precious material when I write my books. Those are my own things and nobody else’s.
I think you should look at your past in the same way. You can cling on to the past. It’s OK. Don’t worry. You can learn so many things from your past. You should make them useful. Your past will not eclipse your life. It will to enrich your life.
Hello, Murakami-san. It’s been a year since my ex and I broke up, but I still can’t get over her. When I look back, I can only remember the good memories. I even believe that she was the one for me. When I ask people for advice, they tell me to “move on” or “wait until you get over her.” Is there a third path that I can take?
(Cloth bag, male, 31 years old, office clerk)
Ray Charles once earnestly sang, “They say that time heals a broken heart / But time has stood still since we’ve been apart.” There’s no use of me singing “I can’t stop loooooooving you” to you, I suppose.
I understand what you’re going though. I also have been through the same experience. Who cares? Think about her all you want. Even after a broken heart you can “only remember the fun memories you had with her.” You don’t feel disgruntled at all? That is an amazing thing. Ray Charles said he’ll “live my life in dreams of yesterday.” It is such a sad song. Listen to Ray Charles and spend your time wiping your tears. Things will start looking up soon. Ricky Nelson also once said, “Today’s teardrops are tomorrow’s rainbows.” But you probably don’t know who Ricky Nelson is.
30 is right around the corner for me, but there isn’t a single thing that I feel like I’ve accomplished. When I was young, I thought to be an ‘adult’ must be so wonderful, but my current reality is so far away from what I imagined. And when faced with that reality, I get very disheartened. What should I do with myself?
(Jo & Maca, Female, 28)
I don’t mean to be rude, but I think “to be an ‘adult’ must be so wonderful,” is just wrong. ‘Adult’ is nothing more than an empty form. What you fill that form with is your own responsibility. Accomplishments don’t come easily. When you start to fill your ‘adult’ form little by little, then everything will begin. But 28 is not really ‘adult.’ You’re only just beginning.
My wife quite frequently belches right near the back of my head when she passes behind me. When I say to her, “Stop burping behind me all the time,” she says, “It’s not on purpose. It just comes out.” I don’t think I’m bringing it upon myself in any way. Is there something I can do to stop my wife’s belching?
(ukuleleKazu, Male, 61, Self-Employed)
I hope you’ll pardon me for saying so, but I think belching is far better than farting. Perhaps you should think of it that way.
Murakami-san, hello. Being that I’m a graduate student, I need to write a lot: reports, presentation speeches, emails to professors, etc. I’m not that great in writing, but if I don’t, I won’t be able to graduate. I struggle with it every day. How will this get easier? If you have any composition 101 techniques, can you let me know?
(Sakurai, female, 23 years old, graduate student)
Writing is similar to trying to seduce a woman. A lot has to do with practice, but mostly it’s innate. Anyway, good luck.
Dear Murakami-san, thank you for taking time to review my questions. My apology for [being] unable to write in Japanese. Do you think cats can understand how humans feel? My cat Bobo ran away when she saw me crying. At that time I feel like being left out by the entire world. Or [cats] just wouldn’t care less? Thank you, again, for all your words!
(VVN, female, 30+years old)
I suspect that either you or your cat is extremely sensitive. I have had many cats, but no cat has ever been so sympathetic. They were just as egotistical.