Haruki Murakam

Without a doubt, Haruki Murakami is one of the well-recognized Japanese authors in the literary world who has countless fans worldwide. But we bet not even those die-hard Murakami fans knew that few of his masterpieces existed in live-action as well.

Known for his unconventional storytelling that incorporates fantasy and surrealism, Murakami’s work certainly possesses the quality to be a feature film. Here, in today’s article, we have included eight classic Haruki Murakami’s work that has been adapted into motion pictures.

Haruki Murakami Movie Adaptation
Haruki Murakami, Bestselling Japanese Writer

While for book lovers, the thought itself is daunting as movies have a reputation for running the perfect story adding a bit of flimsy affair; most of this work has done justice to his surreal creation that transcends reality and enters the realm of fantasy.

1. Hear the Wind Sing

Hear the Wind Sing is not only the first of Murakami’s work to be adapted but also the very first work that identified him as a writer. Published in 1979, Haruki’s debut work is not well-known internationally as it has limited copy until recent years. But it did win Gunzo Literature Prize, a literary contest in Japan, and the win encouraged him to pursue writing.

Since he considered his early work and Pinball to be immature and flimsy, not many copies were made. However, it did not stop Kazuki Omori from adapting the novel into an hour and forty minutes long film.

Since Murakami’s early work features a protagonist amidst the summer in 1970, he spends most time visiting bars as a college student. During his time there, the main character encounters many people who change his insight about the world.

2. Attack on the Bakery

Now, there is much confusion regarding this second adaptation. Attack on the Bakery follows the story of two friends that commit crime out of hunger. And as the name suggests, they attack the bakery with nothing but kitchen knives in the hope of getting something to cease their hunger.

Directed by Naoto Yamakawa, the movie only runs a little under 17 minutes but still perfectly manages to capture the essence of the story.

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Now, here comes the issue, some fans claim that the movie is based on Murakami’s other short story, “The Second Bakery Attack” that appeared in the translated collection, The Elephant Vanishes.

Though both of the stories follow similar plots, the stories have their differences, including the place they attack. For the knowledge, in the second part, the duo attack McDonald’s.

Moreover, this movie can’t be based on “The Second Bakery Attack” as the short story was published in 1985, while the movie was released ahead in 1982.

3. A Girl, She is 100%

This is another one of Haruki Murakami’s short stories and was also included in the collection of The Elephant Vanishes. Based upon “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning,” which was published in 1981, the movie “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl” touches the theme of love and loss, similar to his later work, 1Q84.

Likewise, the short story was adapted into a short film by Naoto Yamakawa in 1983 and titled ‘A Girl, She is 100%’ and runs a little under 11 minutes.

Despite his out of the world experience and fantasy mirage, Murakami was able to the essence of relationships and longing. And as usual, the main protagonist seeing a woman that is not particularly pretty, which is common in Murakami’s work.

4. Tony Takitani

Loneliness and longing are not something new in the works, including many other things of Haruki Murakami. Directed by Jun Ichikawa, the movie is 75 minutes long and perfectly captures the essence of that Murakami project in his work.

Likewise, this movie was adapted from his short story titled “Tony Takitani,” originally published in 1990 and later included in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman in 2006. The story follows a man who is treated as an outsider his whole life because of his Americanized name, Tony Takitani, as the title.

It also follows the story of love and loss like his other former works, which is a must-see for his fans.

5. All God’s Children Can Dance

Coming at number 5 is All God’s Children Can Dance, published in 1999 and included later in the short story collection, After the Quake in 2002. The book was later adapted into a movie by Robert Logevall under the same name in 2008.

Moreover, the movie runs for an hour and twenty-five minutes, and most fans have claimed to be disappointing when compared to his original works. This is one of the incidences where book lovers are tormented by the adaptation of what could have been a masterpiece.

The story follows the theme of forbidden love, simply stated an interesting mother-son relationship, and even touched on the theme of identity and religion. In the story, the main protagonist, Yoshiya, questions the religious upbringing that forces him to make new changes along the way.

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Although the movie stays true to the plot, it is the casting choices that created significant differences. And now, here folks comes the importance of right casting.

6. The Second Bakery Attack

As mentioned above, the second short story “The Second Bakery Attack,” follows the same plot of “Attack on Bakery,” only this time the attack is on McDonald’s. Directed by Carlos Cuaron, the movie follows a young newlywed couple who breaks into the fast-food chain to satiate their growing hunger.

Similarly, the movie runs a little under 10 minutes, the same as the first adaptation.

7. Norwegian Wood

Now, this folk is the one that we are most excited about. It was the first novel that achieved national recognition and how most of his fans got introduced to his work. In a way, it is a gateway to many of his fans.

Published in 1987, the story follows the story of the main character, Toru Watanabe, on his romantic yet painful journey of love in his college days.

The way it portrays the nostalgic story of loss and sexuality resonated with the youth of Japan. Likewise, the story begins with nostalgia Toru feels inside a plane that was triggered by the song ‘Norwegian Wood’ by The Beatles.

Haruki Murakami Norwegian Wood
Cover for Norwegian Wood

Also, his memory trails the longing he felt for Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, as their passion is sparked by the death of their best friend. Later, Naoko retreats into her world, unable to bear the responsibilities that come her way while Toru wents on his college life.

Moreover, the book was adapted into 2 hours and 13 minuted long movie by Tran Anh Hung. It features some of the prominent figures in the Japanese entertainment industry. Unlike his other work(All God’s Children Can Dance), the casts perfectly fitted the character and brought them to life. Naoko, who was portrayed by Rinko Kikuchi, strung a special place in our hearts.

The way she displayed the longing feeling and pain of losing someone close and vulnerability over unbearable stress was impressive if pointed out.

Aside from that, Haruki Murakami personally requested to see the script before it was developed to ensure that it stayed true to the story.

8. Barn Burning

Finally, the latest and hopefully not the last of Haruki Murakami’s work to be adapted in major motion pictures. Based on his other short story, “Barn Burning,” published in 1992, the story follows an unnamed protagonist who searches for Barn Burning in Tokyo, followed by the absence of his nameless female counter.

Just like his other works, this story also follows a sense of loss and air of mystery tied to the true nature of reality. Interestingly, the story was included in Murakami’s later collection, The Elephant Vanishes, and is also Murakami’s play on William Faulkner‘s story of the same name.

Haruki Murakami Barn Burning
Casts of Barn Burning

Moreover, the story was then adapted into a movie by Lee Chang-dong, an award-winning Korean novelist, turned film-maker, and released in October 2018. He is best known for films like Poetry and Secret Sunshine.

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Likewise, the director has done a commendable job in turning merely 13 pages story into full 2 hours and 28 minutes movie. In fact, the director claimed that it was the subtle and minimal story in Murakami’s work that urged him to work on it.

As a matter of fact, Chang-dong brought his colors in the movie while still staying faithful to Murakami’s essence, bringing themes of loneliness and the blurred lines of reality.

To point some of the changes, all the characters have names, unlike Murakami’s version of the nameless narrator. Also, the story is set in Korea, specifically, the town of Paju, barn burning is replaced with the greenhouse as it is more prevalent in Korea’s setting.

But nonetheless, the movie has not in any way hindered the melancholic feeling from pouring out, giving justice to Murakami’s work.

However, Haruki Murakami’s work is not for everyone.

Well, folks, this marks the end of a few novels and short stories of Haruki Murakami that has been adapted into a movie. Yes, it is a lot less than other writers like Nicholas Sparks and Dan Brown, but it is still a major feat considering it is his non-English work.

Haruku Murakami Movie Adaptation
Midori and Toru from Norwegian Wood 

Moreover, to be fair, it is hard to portray and bring the same feel that Murakami is famously known for. His distressed feel of loneliness and loss is barely easy to portray in real life.

And even if it did hit the theatres, we hardly doubt the piece would do justice to his work. So, in a way, we can say that our imagination is better than the low graded version of his work.

But we do hope; we can see more of his work brought to life on-screen. And hopefully, we will be there to write about it too.


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