Haruki Murakami is a pretty big name in the literary world, especially for those like me. It’s kind of hard to major in Japanese and not have his name crop up about forty times a year. It’s also a bit difficult to not read anything he wrote, and being the lazy couch potato that I am, I did try to avoid him if only to spite my teachers. But that doesn’t mean I never read him. Far from it, actually.
Even before college, I ended up reading his Underground, which was about a gas attack on a train in Tokyo and was comprised entirely of interviews, and liked it. Hell, I was captivated by it. But despite my firm I-don’t-have-to-do-what-you-tell-me-to attitude I carried through high school and college—don’t ask me how I managed to get the credits to graduate—I did read his works. And for the most part, I would recommend them to just about anyone. You don’t even have to be a fan of Japanese literature.
Anyway, the other day, I got to thinking about The Sims again and how relationships work, and that reminded me of Murakami’s On Meeting My 100 Percent Woman One Fine April Morning. This story could possibly be thought of as a slightly depressing, definitely comical, yet potentially realistic, telling of love at first sight. But unlike most love stories, this one doesn’t contain what I would typically expect. There’s no overbearing romance filled with pointless purple prose, or long-winded passages of the characters getting to know each other for the sake of realism before they Woo-Hoo. Instead, the entire story—which is very short—is more of a contemplation of how our nameless character reacts to seeing his love upon first sight, and how he knows she’s his true love.
The story is told from an unnamed man’s point of view. The first half tells of what happened on an April morning, the second of what he wanted to say to the woman he sees. In the end, he says nothing and doesn’t get to meet his ‘one-hundred percent’ woman.
Forgive me, but I find Murakami’s writing style to be a little bland. It’s just not my cup-of-tea, but I can certainly see why other people like his works. Please keep in my mind that I am entirely aware that just because I don’t like something, that doesn’t make it terrible. The story itself is, for the most part, interesting, and though it’s not my favorite thing out there, it does keep my attention. As stated before, it’s about love at first sight, and that’s probably why I’m not the biggest fan.
So the story goes that an unnamed man is walking down a street. He sees a woman and proclaims that she is his one-hundred percent woman. The story’s comical, because it treats the notion of love like a mathematical equation. I get the impression that a ‘one-hundred percent’ woman or man is someone who someone else loves with one-hundred percent of their emotional heart. And throughout the entire piece, he keeps referring to a person’s ability to love in numbers.
And they were even able to regain 75 or 85 percent of their ability to fall in love.
As I said, this entire concept reminds me of a Sims game where two of the characters start gradually getting to know each other. And the player knows that they are, indeed, falling in love just because the game provides a little bar that fills up with a little green light, stating that Sim so-and-so is 52 percent in love with this other Sim. That’s all followed up by a picture of a tiny pink heart or two. Like a Sims’s player who knows that his characters like each other, Murakami’s reader knows the woman is the man’s one-hundred percent woman simply because Murakami tells us so, not because he shows it. I get the impression that this is the tone Murakami wanted. As such, I think the diction and style are appropriate for the story.
As I stated earlier, the story is divided into two parts, the first half about what happens, and the second about what our unnamed narrator wants to happen. Both of them are closely connected to each other, and the similarities are very apparent. In the first half, the man sees his one-hundred percent woman. He wants to talk to her, get to know her, let her get to know him, and possibly sleep with her in the end. He sees her walking east to west down a Harajuku back street as he goes west to east. He thinks of reasons to speak to her, but in the end decides that those are too stupid.
Eventually, they pass each other by, and she disappears into the crowd. After she’s gone, he realizes what he wants to say to her. The second half of the story explains this. Unlike the first part, however, it is told from a third-person perspective, instead of first. It states that the two met each other years ago, randomly decided that they were one-hundred percent people for each other, spent some time together, and parted ways, thinking that if they were truly one-hundred percent people, they would cross paths again and get married right away.
Unfortunately, both become ill and forget about the other. Years later, the girl walks east to west on a Harajuku back street as the man walks west to east. They see each other, and he thinks:
She is the 100 percent woman for me.
And she thinks:
He is the 100 percent man for me.
They pass each other once more and it’s implied that they never see each other again. As anyone can see, the second half is the same story as the first, and even though the second part is just the imagination of the unnamed man, it provides more insight into the relationship between the two characters.
Murakami’s story, like all other stories, gives the reader a message. To me, it gave two. The first was that a one-hundred percent partner doesn’t have to be a perfect person. He or she doesn’t have to be spectacular, overly beautiful, or causing heads to turn wherever he or she might be going. When the man first sees the woman, he says:
She wasn’t an especially pretty woman. It wasn’t that she was wearing fine clothes, either. In the back, her hair still showed how she’d slept on it: and her age must have already been close to thirty.
This story shows that love is not based on appearances. Even after the man loses sight of her, he states that while he knows she’s his one-hundred percent woman, he doesn’t remember what she looks like. He can’t recall her eye shape, breast size, or even whether or not she had a nose.
The second message I think it sends is to take opportunities when they come despite doubts. The man had the chance to talk to the woman, but he didn’t because he thought all of his excuses were pathetic. After she leaves, he regrets his decision. In the second half of the story, after the two meet at an earlier age, the reason they part with the notion that they will see each other again if they are truly one-hundred percent lovers is because they have doubts.
However, a tiny, really tiny, doubt drifted across their hearts; could it really be all right for a dream to come completely true this simply?
They part, get ill, and forget each other. So when they do see each other again, they don’t realize that they are one-hundred percent lovers and go their separate ways. Murakami eventually ends the story with a line directed at the readers:
Isn’t that a sad story?
Yeah, I agree that it is a sad story. Unfortunately, it is really short, but it doesn’t need to be long. You could probably read the whole thing through in just a few minutes, if even that. I don’t know how many of you guys are Murakami fans, but he’s a must for a lot of readers.