Here we go again ... it's time for the annual Haruki Murakami Nobel Prize in Literature merry-go-round.

Will he or won't he win it?

This question has loomed large in Japan for the past decade each time the Nobel Prize season approaches.

Murakami, 67, immensely popular in Japan and worldwide, is a perennial favorite to take the award.

It has become routine for Japanese bookstores to prominently display row upon row of his works to coincide with the Nobel Prize season, cashing in on the growing expectation of him one day, perhaps this year finally, landing the award.

This year's award will be announced Oct. 13.

Kinokuniya's flagship Shinjuku outlet in Tokyo went all-out on Murakami on Oct. 1 by lining up 20 or so titles ranging from his first novel “Hear the Wind Sing” (1979) to his latest, “Shokugyo to shite no Shosetsu-ka” (Novelist as a profession), a collection of essays published last year. There were also about 40 Chinese and English translations of his books there, too, so non-Japanese can grab a slice of the action.

“If he wins, we would like to make a song and dance and expand the space,” said Atsuki Ishii, an employee in charge of the store's Murakami book fair.

Murakami emerged as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature after he won the Franz Kafka Prize in 2006, the Czech Republic's literary award that is widely seen as a step to landing the Nobel.

The recipients of the Franz Kafka Prize in 2004 (Elfriede Jelinek) and 2005 (Harold Pinter) won the Nobel Prize.

There are other tips in predicting who will likely receive the highest honor in the literary world.

The media have been closely watching odds at Ladbrokes, a British-based betting company.

Last year, the award went to Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian author, who Ladbrokes named among the leading potential nominees, together, of course, with Murakami.

Murakami was the favorite as of Oct. 5.

The Swedish Academy in Stockholm narrows down a list of potential candidates to around five writers.

Recommendations for candidature are made from associations of authors around the world and past recipients.

It appears an author whose works have been translated into English and major languages in Europe have an advantage in the race.

In that sense, Murakami has the upper hand compared with other Japanese novelists.

His books have been translated into more than 50 languages.

“The quality of the English translation of Murakami’s works is high, which puts him well ahead of other Japanese authors,” said Koji Toko, a translator.

Murakami led Japanese novelists in the number of translated books on the shelves of the Swedish Academy’s library, apart from those of Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburo Oe, who won the award in 1968 and 1994, respectively.

Some analysts say an author who has incorporated a social perspective, such as human rights, has an edge in the race.

For example, Alexievich had written a number of books based on journalistic research, including “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster.”

“The Academy is going through a generational change right now and has several new, younger members," said Yukiko Duke, a Sweden-based journalist and translator who jointly translated some of Murakami’s books into Swedish. "The Academy as such has also let it be known that it will be looking at literature in a more broad sense of the word."

Duke said whether these changes will work in Murakami's favor is difficult to say.

“The common view here in Sweden is that he is a writer of great potentiality, but has yet to prove that he is worthy of the Nobel Prize,” she said. “Like Joyce Carol Oates, who is also a gifted writer, he is considered to be a bit too light--and maybe a bit too productive.”

Minato Kawamura, literary critic and author of the book “Murakami Haruki wa Nobel-sho o Toreru no ka?” (Can Haruki Murakami win the Nobel Prize?), describes his works as “telling a story by shedding light on the darkness of mind with the use of pop and sophisticated metaphors.”

That, he added, resonates with a vast number of overseas readers, as well.

In the end, whether Murakami will be named as the winner all depends on how the academy members assess his style.

“Will they conclude that his books are the embodiment of a new literature’s universality or remain in the genre of entertainment?” he said. “We will know which when the announcement is made.”

(This article was written by Kan Kashiwazaki, Ken Shiohara and Kenji Kimoto.)