TOKYO - A small Japanese town was fuming at best-selling novelist Haruki Murakami on Wednesday after a new story appeared to suggest its residents habitually throw lit cigarettes from car windows.
The remote town of Nakatonbetsu on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido says it will demand an explanation from the publisher over how it allowed such a description to pass over an editor's desk.
The offending passage appeared in the new 24-page novella, entitled "Drive my car - men without women", which was published in the December edition of the long established monthly magazine "Bungeishunju".
It depicts fictionalised conversations between a widowed middle-aged actor and his 24-year-old chauffeuse who hails from Nakatonbetsu, a real-life mountain town whose population has dwindled to 1,900 from a peak of 7,600 in 1950.
When she flips a lit cigarette out of the driver's window, the actor thinks to himself: "Probably this is something everyone in Nakatonbetsu commonly does."
Murakami, 65, whose often surrealist works have been translated into about 40 languages, is widely spoken of as a future Nobel Literature laureate.
But members of the eight-strong town assembly were not amused at their portrayal as a home for litterbugs and intend to demand an explanation of publisher Bungeishunju, Shuichi Takai, head of the assembly's secretariat, told AFP.
"In early spring, the town people gather of their own will in a clean-up operation to collect litter on roads," Takai said.
"We also work hard to prevent wildfires as 90 per cent of our town is covered with mountain forests. It is never a town where people litter with cigarettes everyday," he added. "We want to know why the name of a real town had to be used like that."
Bungeishunju said it had no comment to make as it had yet to receive any inquiry from the town.
Murakami's latest book, "Shikisai wo Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to Kare no Junrei no Toshi (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage)", became the biggest-selling novel of 2013 after its April release.
An English-language translation is expected some time this year.