Book Review: The Strange Library by Murakami Haruki

The Strange Library (ふしぎな図書館: fushigi na toshokan) is a short story by Murakami Haruki.

The Japanese version was published  with  illustrations by Maki Sasaki in 2008. The story is based on a former different version (図書館奇談 toshokan kidan) published in the short story collection カンガルー日和 (kangaruu hiyori. Good weather for kangaroos) of 1986.

The Strange Library is told  from the perspective of a shy little boy who loves to read. On his way back from school it pops into his mind to borrow some history books from the local library.  Starting the moment he enters the building everything turns out very strange. First he is directed to room No. 107 in the basement where he never had been before and meets an odd librarian, who seems to inhabit this dusted dark area for ages.

The boy asks him politely for the book titles. The old man mumbles and rumbles on his way to a hidden archive in the back of the library.  When he returns with the books, he tells the boy, that it is forbidden to take them home. He has to stay and read them in a separate study room.  Now the boy is slightly scared by the man, and the thought of staying here any longer makes him feel uncomfortable, but he is also feeling obliged to go to the reading area and make no fuss about it.

Intimidated he follows the old weird man further downstairs through a labyrinth. Finally reaching the room the boy sits down to read. After a short while the sheepman arrives on the scene. He then tells him, that the boy is being held hostage. A wild and spooky story unfolds with an unforeseen twist at the end.

In this early work Murakami  makes use of surreal story telling, for which he is known as a bestseller author. The book is pretty short, but along with many illustrations it is an entertaining read. For students with intermediate language skills the Japanese version is relatively easy to understand.

Translations are available in many languages. I have seen the English and German versions of the book. The illustrations are very different from the Japanese version.

ふしぎな図書館 by 村上春樹. Illustrated by 佐々木木マキ。2008.


How to remember Japanese Characters ?

If you are not living in Japan you probably will not hear or read Japanese everyday. Therefore it is likely you will easily forget many Japanese characters (kanji) after a while.

Japanese calligraphy

The Japanese basics are always present in my head, but what is happening with more complicated and not often used words? I have to look them up and that is somehow annoying. But nevertheless, I think apart from reading Japanese books and using bilingual paper dictionaries the following sites are very helpful and professional for the purpose of learning, remembering and looking up kanjis.

Asahi-net provides the vocabulary of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) for several devices and languages. On-yomi, kun-yomi and meaning drills are available.

Jim Breen’ Japanese Page is for all people who are interested in Japanese language from the beginner to professional. It is very simplistic, but the most important site I know so far.

I made into my start page. It is very simple and easy to use. I get 36 kanji a day to memorize and look them up, if I do not know the reading or meaning. If I have some free time I play some Japanese quiz. Memorizing Japanese kanji with this flashcards is fun and easy. The vocabulary is useful and professional as well. There are words from Japanese newspapers, randomly chosen Japanese words, Japanese Language Proficiency test vocabulary lists and a lot more ready to use.

Extremely helpful is the following article about  how-to-guess-a-kanjis-reading-you-dont-know at

Recently I stumbled upon an article at Gaijinpot, I want to share with you: Nihongo On-the-Go: Japanese Language App Review.

Do you regard it as useful to read bilingual articles as in the Japan Times? I am not sure about that, although it is kind of fun as in this case.

Have you tried one of these methods? How do you practise Japanese and what is your way to remember all the kanjis?