A young man of curious demeanour sees me reading this book on the tram and cannot resist the urge to comment – in the affirmative.001675275-hq-168-80.jpg

Haruki Murakami has received many honours and is very popular in Japan. “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” his most recent novel, sold over a million copies in Japan in its first week of publication. It is my first experience with Murakami and I am fascinated.

Tsukuru Tazaki is one of five inseparable friends, until he is cut off. His friends from Nagoya, their hometown, all have names that indicate a colour: black, white, red and blue. After leaving school and attending university in Tokyo, Tsukuru finds himself alienated in the bigger city and initially believes it is because he is ‘colorless’. He is mostly alone; he meditates and prefers classical music, but he dreams vividly of intimacy and connectivity.

As a thirty-six year old railway engineer, Tsukuru is forced to explore his beginnings and to understand why he can’t seem to maintain friendships and relationships. His girlfriend Sara spurs him to un-pack his past, explore the teenage doubt and face the rejection. He discovers he was, in Nagoya, the glue to their group.

It is said there is as much railway-line covering tiny Japan as that connecting all of Australia, such is the density of the network there. The railway system might be a clever mechanism for Murakami to express grief, connectivity and coming of age. Although at times the pace is restrained, I cannot put the book down. I find his writing clear and precise.

I particularly enjoyed the objective descriptions of Tsukuru’s work as a railway engineer and found the scenes where he observes the comings and goings of trains and how well the platforms function for their passengers revealing about the mind of an engineer – railway at least.

And the more I think about “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki” the more rapt I become about Murakami’s style and the journey he constructs.

REALTIME is an exhibition that brings together recent works by the Japanese contemporary video artist Miyanaga Akira. The exhibition’s title, REALTIME, refers to the artist’s technique of using film footage of everyday life.” National Gallery Victoria

He changes the way we look at things, splicing and layering images over one constant scene. His exhibition of six short videos is located upstairs (at NGV) and worth the visit. You can view some of Akira’s work by YouTube.