Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Haruki Murakami’s “Kino" (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel) was originally published in the February 23 & March 2, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
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Click for a larger image.

I’ve only responded positively to one Murakami story, but I’m anxious to give this one a go. I’ll have thoughts up here soon. In the meantime, please feel free to comment below.

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By |2015-02-16T01:25:04-04:00February 16th, 2015|Categories: Haruki Murakami, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: , |17 Comments


  1. henry February 17, 2015 at 4:30 am

    After reading “Kino” I searched out the collection that it is a part of. Apparently the cover artwork is a representation of elements directly from the story “Kino”. We see the bar that Kino, the main character owns, lives and works in and we see the cat, which leaves the bar one day and never returns. What isn’t depicted in the picture are the three snakes. The snakes being an element of darkness in the story. A startling presence for Kino, and one that seems to hold meaning for him. The departure of the cat (a warm presence) and the manifestation of the snakes seems a reaction to Kino’s failure to reconcile the feelings and/or failings not only of his past relationship with his wife, but of his inability to replace the (self-made?) hole in his heart chipped into existence by his very own conscious trample into isolationism.

    It isn’t long before Kino catches, yet barely reacts to catching his wife in bed with his work colleague. He accepts his pain, buries it, and decides to exit stage left from reality. His new place (the bar) is a landscape of almost twilight zonish mystery with characters who inhabit the space he’s in as if they are constituent parts that belong there.

    The two men who present a conflict to Kino are quickly dispatched by Kamita (a strange presence himself) who guides Kino squarely and subjectively in an effort which seems unequivocal and designed to save Kino from himself. Even the woman Kino sleeps with, almost as if he is led to her by successive doors that close shut behind him, is damaged goods.

    The remedy for Kino, as prescribed by Kamita, is to isolate himself far away for a long time. Via this isolation he comes to the realization of how closed off from the world he was in mind and heart, how he had allowed cumulative hurts to bury him away. The final sentence zooms us away to view the world from a wider lens; one that reflects a cold world immune to Kino’s personal tragedy or anyone’s for that matter.

    I was able to appreciate Murakami’s creation of the nature of Kino and how his behavior altered his place in life, but I also would have enjoyed more conflict and action perhaps involving the two troublemakers in the bar (I wanted to be brought outside the bar with Kamita and those two) or perhaps by Kino himself in a more active confrontation with the world and the people he was in contact with. A dark story mostly and maybe most suited to the tone Murakami chose.

  2. Andrea February 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I read the story of Kino and I was so taken by the way Kino accepted the things that happened to him and just brushed them off. My interpretation was that all the characters that appeared were layers of Kino trying to tell him something that he refused to see. I will have to read it again because I am sure I will discover another layer myself.

  3. winstonsdad February 17, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    I rrad as thou it wasn’t by him to see how much was obviously his style and tics .Well a few paragraphs in and you know who has written it a bar in Japan ,a lonely man ,some jazz ,a cat and other things tell you it’s written by him suppose the great shame is this is one of a new collection that may take a few years to get fully translated

  4. lotusgreen February 19, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Nothing could ever better represent repressed sorrow than a spate of blue snakes and a gray cat gone missing. At least that iconography seems to work for Haruki Murakami in this masterpiece, and it works for me as well.

    And to get us to that point, we must share Kino’s feelings of calm and peaceful residence for a time being. I mean… Art Tatum! Who could be better?! With these comforts could we not remain forever? But like with most peace, calm, and comfort, reality walks up to the door and just won’t stop knocking. And reality, by its very nature, must be covered with scars, must at least occasionally be threatening, and must bring us up short to our own moral discrepancies.

    The wedding of a man and the real world may only be consummated after the honeymoon is over, and if the results don’t rip you apart half-way from Sunday, you’re doing it wrong.

    [As always, written before reading anything above. — Lily]

  5. Roger February 20, 2015 at 12:47 am

    This story really surprised me, not by being mysterious the way one expects Murakami to be, but by how Kino and the reader are pulled along with imagery and revelations that give us a chance to try to solve the mystery. It seemed as if Murakami was trying to help us figure it all out this time, in contrast to his more typical approach of leaving us on our own to puzzle over what we’ve read. Once Kamita politely sends Kino into exile, Murakami has Kino struggle to figure out the meaning of what is happening, and the reader gets the excitement of doing so along with him.

    The image that struck me the most was that of the cigarette burns on the body of the woman Kino sleeps with, an image that manifests itself again when Kino imagines those same burns on his wife’s body. It seems bound up with the admonition Kino received from Kamita: that he, Kino, has not done something affirmatively wrong, but has failed to do the right thing. Kino’s lack of emotion toward his wife during their marriage, his failure to “pick[ ] up on clues” that something was wrong there — these failures of omission would appear to be what he gets a glimpse of when he “sees” the cigarette burns on his wife’s back. Earlier, with respect to the young woman he slept with, Kino asked himself: What kind of man would inflict such pain on a woman? It seems that Kino was such a man, that his cold neglect had inflicted pain on his wife, even though he didn’t intend to do harm. Kino’s imagining of the burn marks on his wife, that early hint of his upcoming awakening, was just so powerful that it may have hit me even harder than the full epiphany he experiences at the end. Like Lily said, a masterpiece.

  6. Ken February 21, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    The comments above are this site at its most exemplary. I really enjoyed this story–a sort of detective tale of the heart–and its mood, mystery but the allegorical level eluded me. The above comments, though, have been very insightful. This story was really needed after some rather small, even the successful ones, efforts in The New Yorker of late.

  7. Trevor Berrett February 21, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I still haven’t read the story, but Ken’s comment has me excited to read the comments above. It’s a double issue, so I have more time :-)

  8. MIKE February 22, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Morakami’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. A masterpiece.

  9. Gerald Siclovan February 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Murakami’s best stories put me into a kind of trance (“Barn Burning” comes to mind) and, for me, this is one of his best. I love how he moves from the the simple – though emotionally stifled, or at least neutral – setting of the bar to the enigmatic, emotional ‘undertow’ of the final paragraphs. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tended to give less importance to understanding the meaning of a story – after all, writers frequently say that they themselves don’t know! – and simply enjoy giving myself over to its mysteriousness. (As in life…) In this story, he pulled me into the comfortable, accustomed Murakami trance but the final sentences caused me to shudder. A masterpiece.

  10. Rosalind February 28, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I rarely underline NYer stories but lines ” like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in ” and ” happiness ? He wasn’t even sure what that meant. He didn’t have a clear sense,either, of emotions like pain or disappointment or resignation, and how they were suppose to feel”
    Truly, ranks with the best on the human condition..

    Miss Betsy’s comments

  11. Bill March 4, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I saw it as a life koan with Kamita the zen master. There are multiple unresolved issues for me that beg for another read to dig deeper into the imagery. Read Holy Writ in same NYer issue then reflect on Murakami’s use of commas too!

  12. MobiusKlein March 6, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Am I the only one who didn’t like the story? Okay, I am still a bit under its influence as I just finished reading it, but I feel like the first 90% of the story read like perfect perfection – a masterpiece as some of you noted – and then, at about the moment Kino actually decides to write a short note to his aunt, a pure bullshit: In its last page it was the typical New Yorker short story, that overbearing, too literary, cookie-cutter amalgam of phrases that is supposed to subliminally teach us something about the human condition, but ultimately is just a “dead metaphor” or the same old story the New Yorker has been selling us for the last 60 years, since the time of J.D. Salinger who could actually write them. It almost made me vomit. Such a way to kill a great story and doom it to irrelevance.

  13. Greg March 8, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you Roger for helping me appreciate certain aspects that I missed on my own. The story is now so much more rewarding to me!…..and thanks Ken and Gerald for your enjoyable follow-up comments.

  14. Dean September 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Short-time Murakami fan here. This is the second short story that I’ve read by him, after The Seventh Man.

    I will say that I love the way he created suspense in Kino, and in his short stories in general. You know something’s going to happen, but you don’t know when and you don’t know how.

    That being said, though, I, like many others, was not too satisfied with the ending. It seemed a little too convenient, and almost a little too… predictable. As if that’s obviously the ending that would have come naturally to Kino after a divorce. I was hoping for something a little more mysterious, a little more… magical, like many of Murakami’s works. Thus, on my first impression, I’m giving it a 7.5/10.

  15. notchris October 27, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Murakami’s Kino
    An Analysis

    Like the vast majority of Haruki Murakami’s works, “Kino” proves to dance on both the lines of surrealism and existentialism to a certain extent – depending on how the audience interprets the little things in the short piece. The character relies on the present, changing emotions, yet betrays the subconscious will to understand his own existence willingly. Instead, similar to his previous work “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”, we are met with the musings of the protagonist, Kino, upon another character, a character which we call Kamita. Here lies the base of all initial understandings acknowledged in the short story.

    The first sentence automatically proves the disconnection Kino has with his own whereabouts of the mind, of life itself: “The man always sat in the same seat, the stool farthest down the counter.” (Murakami). It is not surprising that Murakami would pull this stunt in a blatant introduction of his own style. The population of his audience regard his works as bluntly descriptive, yet something that dances around the literal fact we are supposed to observe quite easily as if it were in a real situation. The first portion of the piece relies heavily on this unfamiliar [turned familiar] man sitting at Kino’s bar. We must ask ourselves: what is this man’s story? Why is he so quiet? But the real questions we should be asking are those to do with the protagonist. We should wonder why the noun of every sentence is another character, not his own lingering in the bar. Murakami fails to justify Kino as a significant person until the later parts of the story. In more direct terms, it’s as if he wants the audience to pick up on Kino’s slight flaws, which lead to a greater meaning in the end. For example, Kino lives alone and picks up on little occurrences: the visitation of a silent man and a young female cat.
    Now say we objectify in a metaphorical sense, this man and this cat which visit the protagonist’s bar on [an almost] a daily basis. In the furthest of analyses, we can say the man represents Kino’s unwillingness to meet reality, the silence of the man refers to his either subconscious naivety of the fact that his wife left him (cheated on him) or the voluntary stubbornness to the fact. The cat can either represent his old life coming back to haunt him eerily (a cat pushes on superstitious moodiness or the female sex) or a newfound opportunity in the form of lonely meetings.

    The thing is, Kino is found with the great responsibility of actually acknowledging his past when foul situations erupt in his safe haven (the bar). Two men attempt to fight one another in his presence, yet instead of being perfectly passive, Kino steps in. This is his first step into the conception of not violence, but conflictions. He is not fighting the two men (Kamita, the silent man, actually is), but fighting, contrasting his willingness to push away the past and his feelings regarding his wife’s cheating and his loneliness and just the way he wanders about the world without any specific objective in mind for his own worldly successes or desires or whatnot.

    Like many other protagonists of great fiction, Kino endures a pilgrimage, not to “find himself” but to simply obey Kamita’s words: “Go far away, and don’t stay in one place for long.” (Murakami). Kamita, whether or not he exists as a portion of Kino’s subconscious mind or a person of great omniscience, pushes Kino to become exposed to reality. Once he leaves his material comforts (the bar, the cat, the man called Kamita), the truth will be observed in greater severity as he must endure self-reflection unwillingly. Say, if he were to travel with Kamita; Kino wouldn’t have thought about his wife leaving him for another man, he would have put the physical effort to converse with the other man about God knows what, instead of facing his own conflicts in life. I doubt it would be the same acknowledgement of self if Kamita were with him. This begins his journey to self-consciousness, but also a push away from Murakami’s initial existentialism.

  16. Cassidy February 21, 2018 at 3:41 am

    Why does Kino disobey Kamita’s words? Why does he include personal information in the last postcard to his aunt? He wants to connect with some form of humanity, but what does this actually DO? He confronts reality and external forces in doing it, but why is it against the will of Kamita (in notchris’s words, Murakami)???

  17. Anne January 11, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Maybe Kino’s “disobedience” of a directive from the “field (of) God” (Kamita) mirrors how people fail in nurturing their inner lives, fail to grow because they allow life’s distractions, even familial connections at times, to thwart progress. He was told to retreat from the life he was living, the hiding from what he needed to face and reconcile, and to isolate himself, to reflect on his life, meditate if you will about his ommissions. But rather than maintain that necessary, difficult focus he gives in to the world without instead of tending to the world within. Leave your home for now (leave your literal comforts and go figuratively into terra incognito – your psyche/your soul, etc., – as symbolized by the literal travel); relocate frequently (attachments, settling in, and routine sidetrack such a process, stay in the unknown); never write anything on the card other than the address (connections during the process are distractions from it), and don’t write your name on the card (divorce yourself from who you think you are as you work on finding out who you are.) Writing a note to his aunt is a very human thing to do, that need to stabilize himself, getting back to comfortable norms and knowns, reconnecting with “reality” as he perceives it to be, but to do so hinders progress, as the “field of God” surrounding Kino at the bar, then as he travels (because of the postcard-tether between the two) tried to warn him. The “God” messenger/force failed to see what was happening to Kino, was also comfortable at the bar, as anyone would be Kamita remarks, with the stasis, the avoidance, sheltering in place during the daily crisis of living. Like Clarence, Kamita will have to work on getting his wings and hearning a bell chime in recognition of that.

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