Photo/IllutrationYoriko Takahashi, 66, the owner of Takahashi Jinsei-do Shoten, is surrounded by her much-loved Murakami books in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, on Sep. 29. (Kotaro Ose)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KURASHIKI, Okayama Prefecture--Hardcore fans of Haruki Murakami are again in a tizzy as the annual Nobel Prize in Literature rolls around, not least at a bookstore here that specializes in works by the acclaimed author.

“If he wins the prize, we will be really happy,” said Yoriko Takahashi, 66, owner of Takahashi Jinsei-do Shoten (Takahashi's bookstore of life), which Murakami named himself 13 years ago.

The Nobel Prize winner will be announced Oct. 5, and Murakami is considered a contender by many. However, given past disappointments, Takahashi is hedging her bets. “It might not come true this year,” she acknowledged.

Takahashi runs the tucked-away shop from her living room. The book cabinet is crammed with Murakami’s works, and the space doubles as a cafe, where three local women were socializing when a reporter visited.

More than half of the store’s 2,000 books for sale were written or translated by Murakami.

The shop, whose exterior looks like a normal house with a porch at its entrance, is frequented by "Harukist" fans of the acclaimed author from around the country.

Takahashi’s first Murakami book was “Norwegian Wood,” which she read on the recommendation of her husband, Yasuo, 64, about 20 years ago.

“It was dark, and I couldn’t understand it that well,” said Takahashi of her first impression. She was, however, intrigued by Murakami’s mysterious perspective on the world and the beauty of his prose.

After reading more of Murakami’s books, Takahashi became a big fan.

Later, she decided to open a bookshop focused on Murakami’s works, and sent a postcard to the author via his publishing company in spring 2004. She wrote how much she liked the author and that she wanted to call her bookstore "Murakami Asahi-do" after his essay book.

A few weeks later, she received an e-mail from the man himself via the company.

Ever modest, Murakami did not give his seal of approval for Takahashi’s suggested name, but he did have another idea.

He wrote, “If a bookstore named ‘Takahashi Jinsei-do’ were to exist, I would love to visit there. What do you think?”

Takahashi was surprised by the novelist’s unexpected suggestion, and thrilled by his endearing choice of name. She likes the name more and more as time passes, in a similar way to how she feels about Murakami’s works, she said.

The enthusiast first opened her bookstore in a building in Kurashiki in December 2004, and then moved the business to her home in 2005.

“We still continue to run the bookstore in a hidden place,” Takahashi informed Murakami via a website through which anyone could pose questions to the literary giant during a limited period in 2015.

Murakami was worried about the shop’s prospects, replying to her, “I have heard of a ‘hidden restaurant,’ but not a ‘hidden bookstore.’ Is it marketable enough?”

But Murakami’s doubts were proved wrong, as the business is still there and known to those in the know.

As for the author’s Nobel Prize prospects, Takahashi has a laid-back attitude.

“I am looking forward to hearing the winner’s announcement, but I’m relaxed about it,” said Takahashi.