It takes so little time for writers like Haruki Murakami to abduct you into their mind-bending worlds. Revisiting some of these first lines will make you laugh, while others will make you wonder. The rest might even bore you a little, despite how exciting the novel ends up. Here are the best first lines from his most well known short stories, novels, and even his memoir.
“There’s a wise old saying that goes like this: A real gentlemen never discusses women he’s broken up with or how much tax he’s paid. Actually, this is a total lie. I just made it up. Sorry!”
“Once upon a time–more like fifteen years ago, actually–I lived in a privately run dorm for college students in Tokyo.”
“From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.”
“They ran across the little restaurant entirely by accident.”
“When I closed my eyes, the scent of the wind wafted up toward me. A May wind, swelling up like a piece of fruit, with a rough outer skin, slimy flesh, dozens of seeds. The flesh split open in midair, spraying seeds like gentle buckshot into the bare skin of my arms, leaving behind a faint trace of pain.”
“I bought a newspaper at the harbor and came across an article about an old woman who had been eaten by cats.”
“Eyes mark the shape of the city.”
“The ‘I’ here, you should know, means me, Haruki Murakami, the author of the story. Mostly this is a third-person narrative, but here at the beginning the narrator does make an appearance. Just like in an old-fashioned play where the narrator stands before the curtain, delivers a prologue, then bows out. I appreciate your patience, and promise I won’t keep you long.”
“Two rafts were anchored offshore like twin islands.”
“She waited on tables as usual that day, her twentieth birthday.”
“Sachi lost her nineteen-year-old son to a big shark that attacked him when he was surfing in Hanalei Bay.”
1Q84 Book I
“The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast. Janacek’s Sinfonietta–probably not the ideal music to hear in a taxi caught in traffic.”
1Q84 Book II
“Although the rainy season had not been declared officially over, the Tokyo sky was intensely blue and the midsummer sun beat down on the earth. With their newly thickened burden of green leaves, the willows once again cast dense, trembling shadows on the street.”
1Q84 Book III
“‘I wonder if you would mind not smoking, Mr. Ushikawa,’ the shorter man said.
“Thanks to his rare talent for keeping a diary over an extended period of time without missing a single day, he was able to cite the exact date his vomiting started and the exact date it stopped.”
“A friend of mine has a habit of going to the zoo whenever there’s a typhoon.”
“I was thirty-seven then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to the Hamburg airport.”
“That afternoon she asked him, “Is that an old habit, the way you talk to yourself?”
“Cash isn’t the only thing I take from my father’s study when I leave home.”
“All the stories you’ve been telling tonight seem to fall into two categories. There’s the type where you have the world of the living on one side, the world of death on the other, and some force that allows a crossing-over from one side to the other.”
“The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure: it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished.”
“There were four kangaroos in the cage–one male, two females, and a newborn baby kangaroo.”
“When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.”
“When I reached the bottom of a narrow concrete stairway, I found myself in a corridor that stretched on forever straight ahead–a long corridor with ceilings so high the passageway felt more like a dried-up drainage canal than a corridor. It had no decoration of any kind. It was an authentic corridor that was all corridor and nothing but corridor.”
“The library was even more hushed than usual.”
“1971 was the Year of Spaghetti.”
“I often dream about the Dolphin Hotel. In these dreams, I’m there, implicated in some kind of ongoing circumstance. All indications are that I belong to this dream continuity.”
“Tony Takitani’s real name was really that: Tony Takitani.”
“It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition. A friend rang me up and read it to me. Nothing special. Something a rookie reporter fresh out of college might’ve written for practice. The date, a street corner, a person driving a truck, a pedestrian, a casualty, an investigation of possible negligence. Sounded like one of those poems on the inner flap of a magazine. ‘Where’s the funeral?’ I asked.”
“My husband’s an Ice Man.”
“In the spring of her twenty-second year, Sumire fell in love for the first time in her life. An intense love, a veritable tornado sweeping across the plains–flattening everything in its path, tossing things up in the air, ripping them to shreds, crushing them to bits.”
“Half awake, I was reading the morning paper when an ad down in one corner caught my eye: “Celebrated Sharpie Cakes, Manufacturer Seeking New Products. Major Informational Seminar.”
“My birthday’s the fourth of January, 1951. The first week of the first month of the first year of the second half of the twentieth century. Something to commemorate, I guess, which is why my parents named me Hajime – ‘Beginning’ in Japanese.”
Thanks for reading. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite first line from these stories or any I didn’t mention. In case you missed it, here is a what I think is the best reading order for Murakami’s stories.
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Jessica S. Manuel earned her B.A. in English with an emphasis in Critical Theory and a minor in Theological Studies from The Master’s University. She went on to earn her M.A. in English (Literature) from San Francisco State University where she studied 19th-20th Century Literature with a special studies emphasis in Critical Theory. After examining the intersections of psychoanalysis and contemporary literature, she wrote her thesis on Haruki Murakami’s use of the unconscious in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. After finishing her degree, she continued her education at University of California, San Diego where she studied Teaching Adult Learners and literature. She offers online adult literature courses for life-long learners through Book Oblivion Academy and also teaches writing and literature courses at the college level.