The new Haruki Murakami Library opened its doors at Waseda University in Tokyo
LLearning is really no different from breathing. Whether you’re in a classroom or not, you are constantly taking in the world around you. I hope that this Library will become a place of learning where you can breathe easy, a place that will allow you to pass through walls of all kinds- whether those erected within academic institutions or along national borders.
Designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates, the new Haruki Murakami Library opened its doors this month at Waseda University. The Library is dedicated to the work of the renowned Japanese author and hosts 3,000 of his books in 50 different languages. "To be honest, I wish a place like this could have been built only after I'm dead," joked the Japanese novelist at the inaugural press conference. We had the chance to visit this unique project and interview professor Giorgio Amitrano - eminent orientalist and expert of Japanese literature – who translated the works of Murakami into Italian.
The idea of remodeling the pre-existing Building No. 4 of Waseda Campus started in 2018 when Murakami offered to donate his collection to Waseda University. “The original Building No. 4 was just your average ordinary building, but its ordinariness is what makes the building stylish. Discovering the ordinary is an important theme, you see. Just how stylish, and how intriguing, our everyday life can be… Doesn’t this concept run throughout Murakami’s literature? The same concept applies when dealing with architecture.”, said the architect Kengo Kuma when describing the construction works. The Library was entirely funded by Fellow Waseda alumnus Tadashi Yanai – the owner of Uniqlo - who donated 1.2 billion yen for this project.
The Waseda International House of Literature (this is the official name of the Library) is conceived as a space to encourage the young generations of students to challenge themselves. Describing this project, Kuma mentioned his efforts in “conjuring Murakami’s world to the space.” The wooden tunnels – featured both inside and outside the construction - are a metaphor for Murakami’s stories. Here the protagonists often travel between the real world and parallel reality. Similarly, the tunnels bring the visitors from their everyday world to a different one, the world of Murakami. Kuma has imagined this space as a lively place to socialize, rather than a traditional quiet library. The Library's motto is “Explore Your Story, Speak Your Heart,” and the founders aimed to encourage Waseda’s students to be more proactive, starting by traveling abroad to discover the diversity of other cultures.