Haruki Murakami spoke of his writing process
Bestselling author Haruki Murakami said writing a novel is like descending to a very dark second basement of your psyche, when you are not even sure where the corridors are.
In a rare public appearance by the publicity-shy but wildly popular writer, Murakami spoke at a seminar entitled "Observe soul, write soul" in the ancient city of Kyoto on Monday.
"For novelists or musicians, if they really want to create something, they need to go downstairs and find a passage to get into the second basement," Murakami said, comparing the human mind with a building.
"What I want to do is to go down there, but still stay sane."
About 500 Murakami fans won a ticket for the seminar at Kyoto University, the author's first public appearance in Japan for 18 years.
Press coverage was strictly regulated, with reporters barred from using audio or video equipment to record his speech and no photographs allowed of the author on stage.
Murakami, who wore casual salmon pink trousers and blue training shoes with a light green jacket, said he is fiercely private and hates the idea of being recognised easily on the street.
"Please think of me like an endangered species and just observe me quietly from far away," he said. "If you try to talk to me or touch me casually, I may get intimidated and bite you. So please be careful."
Murakami's last public appearances in his native Japan were at book-readings in the wake of the 1995 earthquake that levelled much of the western city of Kobe, Japanese media said.
The Monday seminar was held to mark the establishment of a literary prize in memory of late clinical psychologist Hayao Kawai, an old friend of Murakami.
The event also came less than a month after the publication of his latest novel: "Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi (Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage)".
The book tells the story of a young man struggling with an ordeal in his past, who uses the support offered by a romance to get back on his feet.
The author said he had experienced something similar even if not as bad as what the main character, Tsukuru Tazaki, had undergone.
"When you get really hurt, you would want to hide the trauma from other people's eyes and try to get past it, but you cannot leave it behind easily," he said. "What he experienced, I think is very real."
Murakami recalled the time he interviewed a young woman who lost her husband in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
"It was about half an hour later when I got on a train after the interview that tears suddenly welled up in my eyes. I could not stop crying for about an hour after that," he said.
"That kind of experience means a lot to me. It comes back even when I am writing a different story."
Murakami's latest novel is set to become one of the fastest selling Japanese novels in recent years, with a print run of a million copies to meet anticipated demand in the first week of sales.
No definitive sales figures have yet been released.
It is Murakami's first work in three years and comes after the final installment of the acclaimed "1Q84" a three-part novel containing the usual Murakami mixture of parallel universes, bizarre characters and surrealist happenings as the lives of a female murderer and a male novelist intertwine.