Haruki Murakami’s Italy

Two literary masterpieces by the Japanese writer, Norwegian Wood and Dance Dance Dance, were written between Rome and Sicily.

Haruki Murakami on Graffiti
Street art depicting Haruki Murakami. White Demon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Not many people know that Haruki Murakami, the acclaimed Japanese author renowned for his enigmatic and surreal books, lived in Italy for two years, from 1986 to 1988. This period marked not only a time hiatus but a true creative metamorphosis as he etched two of his most iconic bestsellers, Norwegian Wood and Dance Dance Dance, against the backdrop of Rome and Sicily.

As reported by digital newspaper Affari Italiani, Murakami often unveiled fond memories of his Italian period. He particularly appreciated Italian cuisine, with pasta and pizza becoming his portal to the intricate local gastronomic culture. Beyond these classic meals, Murakami’s predilection for Tuscany manifested with regular pilgrimages from the capital, not only in pursuit of artistic inspiration, but to procure the elixir of viticulture. His wine-centric excursions transformed into a frequent ritual, making him embed the vineyards and hills of Tuscany into his books through indirect references.

Mornings in Rome dawned with Murakami’s disciplined jogging sessions along the Lungotevere, where he recounts that stray dogs occasionally chased him through the Tiber riverwalk. This routine soon became a symbiotic dance with one of the most chaotic arteries of the city, an intimate communion with its writing and sporting pulse.

After a decade-long absence, Haruki Murakami returned to Italy in 2019, and more precisely in Alba, Piedmont. During this visit, he imparted a lectio magistralis, as he was awarded the prestigious Lattes Grinzane literary prize, a testament to the evergreen magnetism of his prose.

If you know his books, you know that Haruki Murakami’s narrative goes well beyond physical spaces; they are doorways to the intangible echoes of creative musings that, for more attentive readers, sometimes recall the very essence of Italy. Each step on the Roman cobblestones, every sip of Chianti, and all words penned during his stay in the country actively contributed to a literary career transcending time and borders.