Japan thrilled by Ishiguro win — but Murakami fans let down again

Takehiko Kambayashi –
Books by Kazuo Ishiguro were snapped up at bookstores across Japan on Friday, a day after the Japanese-born British author was named the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for literature. Japanese translations of Ishiguro’s novels became sold out soon after bookstores opened in Tokyo and other major cities, local media reported.
The delighted publisher of the Japanese translations, Hayakawa publishing, will do another print run of 200,000 of some of his books, according to the daily Asahi newspaper.
“His books are widely read around the world because there is a fundamental theme lying deep beneath his diverse way of writing,” said Akira Yamaguchi from Hayakawa.
Ishiguro was a typical British gentleman, he said, who also had what he saw as typically Japanese traits, such as thoughtfulness for others.
The mayor of Nagasaki, a city of nearly 500,000 people on the main southern island of Kyushu, took the opportunity to highlight Ishiguro’s birthplace.
“In his debut work, ‘A Pale View of Hills,’ he portrays life in Nagasaki after the atomic bombing,” Mayor Tomihisa Taue said.
“I am proud of the great writer having Nagasaki in the back of his mind and making it a vital part of his work.”
Ishiguro was born in the port city in 1954, nine years after it was razed by a US atomic bombing at the end of World War II. Around 74,000 people were killed in the attack.
When his father began research at Britain’s National Institute of Oceanography, the 5-year-old Ishiguro moved to the country with his parents in 1960.
Maybe Ishiguro would be able to
visit his hometown someday, Mayor Taue said.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” said 91-year-old Teruko Tanaka, who taught Ishiguro at a kindergarten in the city, the Kyodo News agency reported.
Tanaka met Ishiguro when he visited the city after becoming a writer, and he later sent her an autographed copy of one of his novels.
“I didn’t think he’d win the prize while I’m alive,” Tanaka said.
Amid all the excitement about the Nagasaki native, many Japanese had hoped for a Nobel winner even closer to home, namely novelist and translator Haruki Murakami.
Murakami, a Japanese citizen, is friends with Ishiguro, and has himself been a favourite for the Nobel Prize in literature for many years.
About 200 Murakami fans who had gathered in Tokyo specifically for the Nobel announcement fell silent on Thursday night when they watched the Swedish academy’s live feed online. But they soon started to applaud Ishiguro’s win, according to daily Mainichi newspaper.
Hatonomori Shrine in the capital’s Sendagaya district is a near-sacred place for avid fans of Murakami because he started to work as a writer there while running a jazz bar with his wife.
The same sense of anticlimax was felt hundreds of kilometres away in Kobe High School, Murakami’s alma mater. Dozens of people, including some of his old schoolmates, have gathered there each year to celebrate a Murakami victory, the Nikkan sport newspaper reported.
This year’s decision by the Nobel committee elicited only a disappointed sigh, the paper said — for the 13th straight
year.  — dpa