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REVIEW: Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami.

UPDATE: My Wind/Pinball review can be found here.

ISBN: n/a
Publisher: n/a
Paperback: 160 pages

In Murakami fan circles, simply owning a copy of Pinball, 1973 is a mark of hardcore-ness. Like Hear the Wind Sing before it, Haruki Murakami does not allow English translations of Pinball, 1973 to be published outside of Japan. Back in the 80s, Alfred Birnbaum translated it into English and Kodansha published it as a novel for Japanese students who wanted to improve their English. While the English edition of Hear the Wind Sing continues to be reprinted and sold in Japan (and available for a moderate sum via eBay, see my review), Kodansha stopped its reprint runs of the English edition of Pinball, 1973 and has now become a collector's item, fetching vast amounts of money on auction sites and reseller stores. Last time I checked, the cheapest copy went for USD$2500.

Of course, Murakami addicts or the curious can always download a less than legal PDF of the book, painstakingly typed by a fan in the UK. But who wants to read PDFs? I don't. I prefer my books on paper, thank you very much. I won't say how, but I did manage to finally acquire a paperback copy of Pinball, 1973... and yes, it's less-than-legal, meaning it's not an authentic publication from Kodansha, meaning it's a pirated book. I know, I know, I'm gonna burn in book hell. But whatever. It's Murakami so it has to be worth it... right?

The novel itself concerns the same two individuals we got to know in Hear the Wind Sing, the nameless protagonist, of whom I will nickname "Boku*", and his best friend, the Rat. Boku has moved to Tokyo where, with the help of a university friend, has set up an English translation service. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, a pair of twin girls appear in Boku's apartment and they decide to stay indefinitely. Boku, being the stereotypical Murakami protagonist, doesn't mind and even relishes the opportunity to have a little company after he comes back from work.

While the twins have made themselves at home, Boku becomes obsessed with looking for a pinball machine he used to play at a bar he used to frequent, back in his small hometown. This bar happens to be run by another friend, J, and is also where the Rat spends most of his time reading Western literature, especially Russian epics. Rat, though he is in a comfortable relationship and is writing a novel, is not content with his life, and seeks for greater meaning.

Alone, Pinball, 1973, isn't a great novel but it is mostly readable. In comparison to Hear the Wind Sing, it is a much, much better effort and has the advantage of having a plot, no matter how vague. So was it really worth it, to go to all that effort in acquiring this elusive book? I don't know really. The book is rather mundane, yet still a little Murakami-esque. I guess I can console myself with the fact that my collection is somewhat complete. At least, until I raise enough dough to get an original copy.

* "Boku", the generic nickname for a nameless Murakami protagonist in any of his novels or short stories, was coined by Jay Rubin in his biography cum literary criticism, Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. The term seems to have stuck with a growing number of Murakami fans, so I too shall adopt it. Jay Rubin also happens to be one of Haruki Murakami's three English translators.


  1. Oh my God! You got the copy of pinball and hear the wind sing??? Oh my God !!!

    where can I get the copies??? and ofcourse the illegal ones haha cos i cant the afford kondansha's :( .

    Could you email me the details? Pleaseeeee . thankss.

    Oh. Hello Ted. Im zatey. I was browsing the net about murakami and stumbled on your blog. hee.

  2. Please check your mail, Zatey.

  3. Hey guys !

    In the quest of the gral (looking for "hear the wind sing") I found your website ! it's pretty interesting !

    You're both so lucky to got the book !
    I'm looking for the unofficial version of "Hear the wind sing" for almost a year but I still can't find it... =(
    Could you help me email by giving me the details? it'd be really nice !

  4. Hi Ted
    Can you tell me where I can find "copies" of Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball?

  5. Hi Giselle, please check your email.

  6. Hey Ted, nice review! I'm absolutely desperate to read this book. I'd love it if you could let me know how to find it!

    Murakami is a legend!

  7. The complete English translation of PINBALL 1973 can be found at:

  8. Would love to get the details of how to get Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 like you did.


  9. hello ted, could you tell me where to get hold of a hear the wind sing?
    I'm at

  10. Hear the wind sing on ebay for $10 worldwide

  11. Pinball 1973

    Sorry only a PDF.

  12. In case it looks like I'm trying to sell them the first link is from someome in Japan via ebay and the second is the only way I could find pinball for less then 100 Euro, and I'm in Ireland!!

    May have found pinball for around 50 euro but will post again when I have it in my house!!


  13. Hello Ted, I'd love to get some details on how to get a hold of this "copy" of Pinball, 1973.

    Thank you very much!

  14. Hi all. Any chances on getting a "copy" of "Hear the..." ? TY.

  15. Hey Ted
    Would it be at all possible to hear of how you acquired Pinball 1973 as a book, its the only Murakami book i have left to get and my wallet is unprepared for the burden of $400-$2500 prices. You'd be a saint to help. Also i enjoy the blog and reviews, i scoured all the posts and you give easily the most comprehensive Murakami reviews on the web that i have read.


  16. try this link:

  17. Ted! Nice article, read it only recently when I came a across this site in search for the two books missing on my shelf..

    Put the Pinball PDF on my site with the music mentioned in this fine novel.
    feel free to have a listen

    which one do you all like better? I'd say Hear the Wind Sing

  18. Hi guys, I'm sorry if I didn't get back to your email. I've been busy and I no longer have time to maintain this blog as much as I'd want to.

    But if you'd like a copy of Pinball, 1973, Kodansha has finally republished it so you can now get a legal copy without selling your first newborn.

    Apparently it's going on ebay for USD$19. I personally haven't confirmed that price though. Good luck!


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