One of the preoccupying themes of Japanese literature in this century has been the question of what it means to be Japanese, especially in an era that has seen the rise and fall of militarism and the decline of traditional culture. But from reading the books of Haruki Murakami, one of the country's most celebrated novelists, you'd never know he was Japanese at all: his characters read Turgenev and Jack London, listen to Rossini and Bob Dylan, eat pate de foie gras and spaghetti, and know how to make a proper salty dog. In Murakami's early books, the references to Western pop culture were sometimes so obscure that they even flew over the heads of many Americans. Murakami's protagonists are soft, irresolute men, often homebodies with dynamic girlfriends or wives, who go through long, inert periods of ennui -- a blatant renunciation of the frenetic, male-dominated ethos of modern Japan. Perhaps for that reason, his books are huge successes there: a two-volume novel called ''Norwegian Wood'' (taking its title from the Beatles song) has sold more than four million copies, making him Japan's best-selling novelist.