TOKYO - Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has started offering opinions and advice on queries from fans in an online agony uncle column, kicking things off by revealing his fears over hate speech and his own failing eyesight.
The publicity-shy writer started the project Thursday at "Murakami-san no tokoro" or "Mr. Murakami's place" where he hoped for easy-going, fun exchanges with readers.
The first batch of answers - mostly in short and simple sentences - appeared at www.welluneednt.com on Friday, adorned by illustrations of a man resembling Murakami alongside several animals.
In an early response to a 51-year-old doctor who had asked for "a special invitation ticket" to peek into his life, Murakami said would prefer to keep his tiny "secrets" to himself.
"I'd be troubled if my life was peeked at. Please take a peek at other people's lives," he said.
A single mother asked for tips on persuading her 11-year-old son stop playing games all the time and start reading books so he would become like the writer.
Murakami said: "Growing up like me? What does that mean? I don't quite get it... But it's pretty tough if you become me." He said whether or not to become an avid reader was up to the boy. In any case, he added: "I cannot read many books anymore as my eyes may have weakened recently".
In response to a 22-year-old student who asked for his thoughts on hate speech, a topic that has caused much liberal hand-wringing in Japan of late, Murakami said: "We have to do something about this trend." "It's not fair" to speak ill of people because of their race or other things they can do nothing about.
A 49-year-old reader asked what he had eaten for his birthday, which fell on January 12.
Murakami, whose writing often wanders off in tangential directions, answered that he had long known he shared a birthday with American author Jack London but discovered recently that it was also the day Adolf Hitler's right-hand man was born.