Novelist Haruki Murakami has opened Mr. Murakami's Place, a mostly Japanese-language website where he is offering advice to readers. Fans of the author of "1Q84" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" can ask anything but frequently stick to Murakami's areas of interest: literature, love and cats.
In a question asked and answered in English, Vivian wrote, "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 they (cats) just wouldn't care less?"
Murakmi replied, "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 egoistic as they could be."
The author, whose novel "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage" sold a million copies in its first week in Japan, has explained that he can't answer every question; when there are several on a single topic, he'll pick just one. Many of those questions are being submitted and answered in Japanese; a volunteer is translating them on a parallel website.
A 30-year-old woman asks, "I feel like whenever someone loves me, I can't love them back, and I only ever fall for people who have no interest in me. So I'm starting to think that reciprocal love must be a miracle."
Murakami replies, "That's quite unfortunate. Maybe it's some kind of genetic predisposition. Personally, I'm doing quite well in that area. Sorry."
Another woman asks, "I'm 35 years old and single. As a temp worker who hasn't had kids or gotten married, everyone around me always asks, 'Isn't there something you want to do with your life?' with some kind of expectation from me. It's like they don't approve of who I am and it's starting to really bother me. For me, I'm living my life to the fullest right now (looking for a stable job and trying many different things). I wonder, will that 'expectation' that is around me ever go away? Or am I really in the wrong and should change my way of thinking? Mr. Murakami, I would really appreciate anything you could say to me!"
Murakami replies, "In my opinion, if people have expectations of you, that's a wonderful thing. There aren't very many people like that. I think you must be a very special person to have given rise to so many expectations from those around you. Please try to rise to meet their expectations."
About his books, a fan writes, "I love all your novels, but the book Underground, in which you interviewed victims of the subway sarin gas attacks, had such a deep impact on my heart when I read it that I can still feel it even today. Do you have any plans to write more non-fiction like that? I would love it if you did."
Murakami replies, "There is something I've been thinking about, but I have not been able to pursue it yet. It turns out that the preparation really is taxing."
In addition to advice and questions about literature, Murakami may be seeding a mystery for readers. In two separate questions -- about his favorite author and the end of the world -- he replies with an unknown name, Toshiko Nekoyanagi. "I did some searching and cannot figure out who the heck Toshiko Nekoyanagi is," the translator writes. The name might be someone obscure but real, or just nonsense, or perhaps it's a character in an upcoming book.
Murakami will continue taking questions on his site through the end of January.