Thursday, 9 December 2010


[Yet another Murakami short story from the Spider Monkey collection]

Please don't ask me anything about Roppongi. Concerning the area of Roppongi, I have absolutely nothing I can teach you. If I have any kind of business there (and naturally, if I didn't have business there, I wouldn't go) I always alight at the Roppongi train station. In that instant of exiting the train, I am already confused. Is it Kamiyacho that is Roppongi? Or is this Roppongi? No matter how many times I've been there, I can never remember. Well, in any case, I stick it out and alight at Roppongi proper. Whilst being frightened by some distasteful foreboding - Today's going to be a bad day, for sure - I climb the stairs, then exit above ground. I regulate my breathing and all too soon I'm glancing about the place. Over there's the Mitsubishi Bank, and that's, um, the Almond Cafe and... As my thinking progresses, the inside of my head becomes confused, like wet mud spreading outwards slickly in the middle of a darkness. In my mind's eye I try to put together some kind of map but I always lose sight of the buildings and their interrelation. Which one is the Actors' Stage? Which one is the Defense Agency? Which is the WAVE Building? ...

I don't want you to misunderstand me: I am definitely not bad with directions. Rather, I think it must be something to do with the place. When I'm in Aoyama, or Shibuya, or Ginza, or Shinjuku, or any other place, and I'm walking around, I have not once become lost. But I want you to believe me: it's only Roppongi that's bad. I can't find my way anywhere in that place. I don't know the reason why, but it's bad there. Some kind of strange magnetic field or something like that might be having a strong effect on my spirit. Or maybe the Defense Agency is using a secret electronic device in some strange experiments. Or it could be that some aspect to do with Roppongi is stimulating some aspect of my subconscious, and in turn confusing some aspect within my frontal lobes, perhaps. Beyond that, there is no further reason I can imagine. There is no reason why Roppongi should make me so violently confused to such an extent.

So, to get back to the point, please don't ask me anything about Roppongi. And also don't ask me anything about structuralism. Concerning structuralism, I have absolutely nothing I can teach you.

Well, anyway, take care of yourself.

[In this translation I have attempted to be quite literal, as far as structure, content, and grammar are concerned. You might find some of the phrasing a little awkward, perhaps a little out of place or repetitive, and this might in part be attributable to its alien sound. If I were to translate it how I normally do, sentences would be moved around & chopped up, little phrases added to make the flow of it more natural sounding, and a general effort would have been made to give the translation a more English feel.

[Interesting vocabulary alert: bad at directions in Japanese is: 方向音痴 (ほうこうおんち) which breaks down into direction (方向) and tone-deaf (音痴). In the original it struck me as quite a Murakamiesque word to use, when one considers how much music permeates his work. When reading Murakami one can't help but notice the frequency of such sign-posts; his constant references to darkness & subtle strangeness on the one hand, and music & sports on the other. They are the symbols which give meaning to his world.]