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Haruki Murakami, describing music as his 'writing teacher,' to debut as DJ

Novelist Haruki Murakami in the recording studio at Tokyo FM. (Photo courtesy of Tokyo FM)

TOKYO -- In a first for Haruki Murakami, the world-renowned novelist and music aficionado will be playing disk jockey for a radio show set to be broadcast on Aug. 5.

During taping of the Tokyo FM radio program, Murakami is said to have called music his "writing teacher." Murakami also revealed anecdotes from his youth and about his famous novel "Norwegian Wood" during the 55-minute show, in which his readers and other listeners will have the rare chance to hear his voice.

An avid record collector, Murakami spends much of the year overseas, where he pores over records at record stores. He's also a runner who's been in numerous marathons, and the radio show is centered on the themes of music and running.

Murakami, who usually keeps his distance from the media, has made efforts to reach out to his readers, including setting up a website in 2015 for a limited time only, called "Murakami-san no Tokoro" (Mr. Murakami's place), where he answered questions from fans.

"I bet he always had an interest in interacting with listeners through his true love, music," Tokyo FM's executive planner, Hiroshi Nobue, said. "Novels are something you read by yourself, and the radio is, for the most part, something you listen to by yourself as well. In that they are both forms of one-on-one communication, I thought he would have an affinity to radio, so I proposed that he do a program with us."

Nobue got in contact with Murakami this past spring through Murakami's editor at a publishing house, and invited Murakami to the studio, where the writer showed an interest in the turntables and the jazz records that were there. "We usually don't have those things lying around, but we did some research on what Mr. Murakami liked, and put them there before he came," Nobue confessed.

"This is an LP record of a musician named Horace Silver," Murakami said, as he sat in front of the microphone. "I bought it with my girlfriend when I was in high school."

During a recorded session, Murakami shared his memories of a song, and explained the backstory to the song or the musician like a pro, with Nobue sneaking in questions here and there. Nobue recorded the dialogue, edited it as if Murakami were giving a monologue, and gave it to the novelist as a present.

"I think that gave him a sense of what recording for radio would be like," Nobue said. From there on, Murakami's participation in a show as a radio jockey progressed quickly from a mere proposal to a scheduled plan.

According to Tokyo FM, tasks are divided up among various staff members -- such as disk jockeys, directors and assistants -- on most radio programs that are broadcast nationwide, but in his case, Murakami selected the music and directed the program himself. Recording took place in June and July.

"The only person in Japan who records radio shows this way nowadays is (the singer-songwriter) Mr. Tatsuro Yamashita," Nobue said. "Mr. Murakami's selections were varied -- some songs were practically unknowns, while others were very uniquely arranged. Add to that Mr. Murakami's very respectful commentary and stories from his life, which give you a sneak peek into his character.

"It will not just be the first opportunity for the voice of one of the greatest novelists to be heard across Japan, it will also be a joyous moment for radio in which quality music will be introduced to our listeners," Nobue added, passion seeping through his words. "It will be a highlight of the last summer of the Heisei era."

"Murakami Radio ~Run & Songs~" will be broadcast on Tokyo FM on Aug. 5, from 7 p.m. to 7:55 p.m.

(Japanese original by Tomohiro Inoue, Cultural News Department)

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