The Sheep Man’s Christmas

December 24, 2022 By mk

The Sheep Man’s Christmas is a picture book by Haruki Murakami, published in Japan in 1985.

The illustrations are by Maki Sasaki, who drew the cover illustrations for Hear the Wind Sing (1979), Pinball in 1973 (1980), Wild Sheep Chase (1982) and A Perfect Day for Kangaroos (1983).

Murakami was a fan of Sasaki’s illustrations since his university days, and upon creating this picture book, Murakami asked Sasaki to draw a picture at first and suggested he would come up with the story afterwards.

Sasaki sent Murakami a drawing of a whale sleeping near a lighthouse and a life-size teddy bear playing with a girl, and Murakami spent a year writing the text, to which Sasaki drew pictures (in the end, the whale and teddy bear drawings were not used).

Murakami’s own illustrations of the Sheep Man appear in Wild Sheep Chase (published in 1982).

In The Sheep Man’s Christmas, the Sheep Man has a more adorable appearance, and the story progresses in a lovely way.

After eating a doughnut, Sheep Man cannot compose Christmas music.
He falls into the secret hole having doughnuts as his lunch.
He meets twin girls wearing shirts 208 and 209.
In the end, he receives a Christmas card that says: “May the Sheep Man World be peaceful and happy forever”.

Sheep were first imported to Japan in the 7th century, but until the mid-19th century, there were almost no sheep in the country, but everyone knew of its existence because it was part of the Chinese zodiac. In other words, a sheep had been an animal everyone knew but had never seen.

In Japan, sheep had no religious connotations, so the way Murakami projected his imagination onto it may seem exotic to people who grew up in a culture that has been deeply involved a life with sheep since ancient times.

Interestingly, by combining Murakami’s created Sheep Man with Christmas (which has almost lost its religious context in Japan), he reaches to present the essence of Christmas – love and peace.

Have a good Christmas!