“Norwegian Wood” Explored: Haruki Murakami’s 14 Lessons on Healthy Living

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is lyrical, reflective, and possibly, one of the

most eloquent living narrators about writing, love, loss, introspection, and the human condition. Murakami has been made the subject of breathless comparisons to J.D Salinger to Jorge Luis Borges, and in a rare article in The Guardian newspaper in 2001, he revealed that much of the ethos in his writing is in trying to understand the meaning of life, and writing for him, is a voyage of self discovery.

“I’m looking for my own story…and descending to my own soul.”


Writing, for Murakami, is an introspective activity. Arguably, there is no one Murakami book that is wonderful, and as an avid fan looking to escape the realities of fast paced modern idiosyncrasies, I have often found myself drawn to each of his books in turn, from Dance Dance Dance to Kafka on the Shore. My favorite, in recent months has become Norwegian Wood, a novel set in a stark Japan in the 1960s, about a love triangle and finding direction in the midst of loss.

Here are 14 things all of us should know and implement in order to remain healthy, while being good to ourselves. These are based from direct quotes from the novel, which will invariably leave a lasting an incredible impression on any and all who read it!

1. Dare to be different:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

2. Self pity is annoying to witness, frustrating to constantly have to counter, and moreover, you’re taking a back seat on your life and decisions:

“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.”

3. Correspondence is simply correspondence. Judging our lives by correspondence, however, stifles the range of emotions you can feel.

“Letters are just pieces of paper,” I said. “Burn them, and what stays in your heart will stay; keep them, and what vanishes will vanish.”

4. Death is a part of life, and prematurely rationalizing death is an attempt to coerce a resolution which needs temporal and spatial understanding:

“No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.”

5. You can observe, see, and truly experience, even when you don’t think you can:

“If you’re in pitch blackness, all you can do is sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark.”

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...
6. Be careful about what you say. People are sensitive, and they will get hurt.

“What a terrible thing it is to wound someone you really care for and to do it so unconsciously.”

7. Don’t be a puppet to other people’s ideas of you:

“What makes us the most normal,” said Reiko, “is knowing that we’re not normal.”

8. Never bottle up your emotions. You need release. Write, walk, meet people, draw, paint. Do something, but don’t bottle it up. There’s nothing worse than feeling you’re all alone:

Cover of "Norwegian Wood"

Cover of Norwegian Wood

“She’s letting out her feelings. The scary thing is not being able to do that. When your feelings build up and harden and die inside, then you’re in big trouble.”

9. Everything takes time and sustained effort. Human relationships cannot be built in a day:

“People are strange when you’re a stranger.”

10. Give people a chance, even if you’re scared.

“It’s not a question of ‘what then’. Some people get a kick out of reading railroad timetables and that’s all they do all day. Some people make huge model boats out of matchsticks. So what’s wrong if there happens to be one guy in the world who enjoys trying to understand you?

11. Be open to love, regardless of whether you’ve been hurt before. The truth is, everyone’s been hurt before.

“When you fall in love, the natural thing to do is give yourself to it. That’s what I think. It’s just a form of sincerity.”

12. People are interconnected. Karma goes around:

“If I have left a wound inside you, it is not just your wound but mine as well.”

© Murakami

© Murakami (Photo credit: blackavar21)

13. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to babysit anyone. Your life is bigger than solving everyone else’s problems. It’s important to find balance and do your own thing (Murakami, for example, is fit, and loves to run, even in his 60s):

“Don’t you see? It’s just not possible for one person to watch over another person forever and ever. I mean, suppose we got married. You’d have to work during the day. Who’s going to watch over me while you’re away? Or if you go on a business trip, who’s going to watch over me then? Can I be glued to you every minute of our lives? What kind of equality would there be in that? What kind of relationship would that be? Sooner or later you’d get sick of me. You’d wonder what you were doing with your life, why you were spending all your time babysitting this woman. I couldn’t stand that. It wouldn’t solve any of my problems.”

14. Eat. Eat well, and eat nutritiously. It’s important, and it will keep you happy:

“It’s good when food tastes good, it’s kind of like proof you’re alive.”

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