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Haruki Murakami and Shigesato Itoi: Let’s Meet in a Dream (Yume de Aimashou)

January 20, 2010

Let’s Meet in a Dream is a collection of short-short stories (or perhaps short-short-short stories) by Haruki Murakami and Shigesato Itoi, originally published in 1981.

The stories range from one to five pages long, although according to Murakami, these are not quite “stories.” Rather, the book is just a collection of random, aimless pieces of light-hearted writing that Murakami and Itoi clearly enjoyed making.

In a preface, written on the occasion of the book’s 1986 reprinting, Murakami explains it this way:

Once in a while, someone will bring up Let’s Meet in a Dream and the “collection of dialogues” between Itoi and myself. This, however, is clearly a mistake. Let’s Meet in a Dream is not a dialogue—but what, then, is it? I haven’t been able to find a good answer to this question.

Let’s Meet in a Dream is neither a short story collection nor a book of essays, nor is it a miscellaneous mix of assorted manuscripts. In short, I guess it’s a book of enigmas. From its very conception this book has always harbored mysteries. After all, every single chapter title sprawled across the book is written in katakana. The two of us, Itoi and I, just hammered out these stories, or essays, or whatever, and threw them all together. And now that I think about it it’s an incredibly unique—assertive, even—concept that I can’t quite make any sense of. It’s usually pretty confusing to figure out why we inadvertently write some words in katakana, anyway. But to that end, there exists an underground power plant by the name of Nariyuki (written in katakana), for which this book owes its successful completion and chance to see the light of day.

The result, to me, is as follows:

“Quite fascinating.”

What do you think?

I personally had a great time just working on it fifty-fifty with Shigesato Itoi.

The title, Let’s Meet in a Dream, was his brainchild. I’m not quite sure of the exact meaning behind it, either, but maybe it’s just saying, “Read this when you go to bed.” Or maybe it was some attempt between Itoi and I to meet up in some dream. Either way, the book is a complete mystery, from the tip of the title all the way down to the heart of the concept.

At the end of each chapter, there’s an “i” for Itoi or an “m” for Murakami. I think you’ll be able to figure us out without looking, though.

The book was originally published as a hardcover on November 25, 1981 through Tojusha. The table of contents just lists all of the stories with their simple, self-explanatory titles in Japanese alphabetical order. Here is a list of the short-shorts divided by author:

Haruki Murakami

Interview Shaving Cream Pinball
Indian Shigesato Itoi Philip Marlowe Part 1
Elevator Shangri La Philip Marlowe Part 2
Oil Sardine Jungle Book Brassiere
Onion Soup Sweet Sue Blue Suede Shoes
Kama Sutra Squeeze Blueberry Ice Cream
Cutlet Stereotype Playboy Party Joke
Cool Mint Gum Talcum Powder Match
Grape Drops Charlie Manuel Mat
K Tent Yakult Swallows
Coffee Bar Talk Lark
Coffee Cup High-Heeled Love Letter
Sudden Death Bread Radio
Season Off Beer

Shigesato Itoi

Assistant Coca-Cola Taxi Whale
Apartment Condor Chewing Gum Part 1 Hotel
Part-Time Job Surfer Chewing Gum Part 2 Ponytail
Allergy Salaryman Disneyland Margarine
Encore Season Date Masquerade
Interior City Boy Death Match Mirror Ball
West Coast Shower Doughnuts Moral
Etiquette Shortstop Dog Food Last Scene
Elite Jinx Nickname Lunch
All Night Superman Knock Runaway
Carpet Sweater Highway Raincoat
Campfire Xerox Haruki Murakami Wan (Bow-wow)
Quiz Show Ice Cream Handsome
Club Softball Baseball
Coin Direct Mail Penguin

Re-release

The book was rereleased on June 15, 1986 by Kodansha. In this edition, Itoi added one more story, “Special Issue.” Murakami removed the following stories from the original print:

Sudden Death
Shigesato Itoi
Shangri La
Stereotype
Philip Marlowe Part 2
Brassiere
Pinball
Yakult Swallows
Love Letter
Radio

And added the following stories:

Eisenhower
Asparagus
Antithese
Star Wars
Straight
Doughnuts Part 2
Mozart
Wham!

Earthbound Rumor

There’s a long-standing rumor among fans of Itoi’s 1995 videogame, EarthBound, that a segment of the script was actually taken from this book. Hidden in a drawer in a piece of oceanfront property purchased by the unwitting player is the following sensationalist fragment:

“My Secret Life, chapter three.” (Story from the previous chapter.)

I was neither a murder suspect, nor a target for an international spy organization. But I drove a car down the Jersey Turnpike at 80 mph….

A police officer pulled me over and asked for my driver’s license. He said I was going 20 mph over the speed limit. I instantly pointed to my wife and said “I’m in a hurry, my wife is in labor.” Fortunately, my wife actually had a big stomach. I hoped he’d let me go with this excuse.

“Oh, since it’s an emergency. I’ll lead you to the hospital with my police car,” he said.

“No, it’s not necessary.”

“Why not?” asked the officer.

“Uh… well…”

“Let’s get going,” said the officer…

“No, no! We can’t! This baby is a demon child!”

The rumor was first propogated by Tim Rogers in his lengthy article about the game:

Mother 2 doesn’t let you look in dressers. However, in this purchased house, you can look in the dresser. Should you look, you are rewarded with . . . a magazine. You can’t even carry this magazine with you. After reading it, Ness throws it back in the dresser. The story Ness reads, which comes from the Let’s Meet in a Dream collection Shigesato Itoi wrote with Haruki Murakami, is basically this: a man and his wife go out to dinner and have an argument. On the drive back, the man is driving at dangerous speeds because of his anger. His wife isn’t talking to him. He drives so fast that he gets pulled over by a police officer. The cop asks him if he has any idea how fast he was going. The man breaks out into a sweat. He then screams at the cop, “You don’t understand — my wife is . . . pregnant!” The cop believes this. “She’s . . . going into labor!” The cop asks if there’s anything he can do. The man screams, “No! Stay back! This is a . . . demon child!”

But a look through both versions of Dream turns up no version of this story. (His recap of the in-game magazine article, of course, is also wrong.) There is also no rumor or even question of the magazine’s origin on the Japanese side of the internet; it’s probably just something Itoi wrote along with the rest of the game script. In length and content it’s totally congruent with the kind of weird short-shorts peppered throughout Let’s Meet in a Dream, but unfortunately this meeting is just a coincidence.

19 Comments
  1. Too bad i can’t read japanese, and even if i could, i can’t find this book anywhere.

    : /

    But thanks for translating these !

    A fan from brazil.

  2. Theo permalink

    Whoaaaa… mega (quasi-) natsukashii moment!! I totally forgot that I did a translation or two of one of these stories for one of my grad classes… (I think Salaryman was one of them). Some day, I’ll find it and send it to you so you can laugh at my uncanny ability to butcher Itoi… or rather, Japanese in general. :P

  3. Have you read The Legend of Koizumi?

    ムダヅモ無き改革
    ムダヅモ無き改革 2巻, etc..

    Just ordered two copies from my local Japanese bookshop. Strikes me as this same style of humor sorta.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Coin” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  2. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Interview” by Haruki Murakami « Yomuka!
  3. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Death Match” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  4. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Sweater” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  5. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Sweater” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  6. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Jinx” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  7. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Pinball” by Haruki Murakami « Yomuka!
  8. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Philip Marlowe Part I” by Haruki Murakami « Yomuka!
  9. Itoi & Let’s Meet in a Dream « EarthBound Central
  10. Dark and Dirty Shootin’ Action (A review of I/O Interactive’s Kane and Lynch 2) | rock and roll strikes back (dot com)
  11. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Interior” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  12. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Straight” by Haruki Murakami « Yomuka!
  13. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Straight” by Haruki Murakami « Yomuka!
  14. Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Short Stop” by Shigesato Itoi « Yomuka!
  15. “Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection” by Haruki Murakami « Yomuka!
  16. LOS NIVELES PERDIDOS. La historia desconocida de los videojuegos: Nivel 1-4 Mother | Atomix

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