Murakami is my favourite Japanese novelist. This is not a particularly difficult title to earn considering that he’s the only Japanese novelist I’ve ever read, but perhaps the title of “one of my favourite authors in general” will be more convincing.
I’ve read half-a-dozen of his books and have enjoyed every one. He blends the real world with fantasy and always leaves some questions left unanswered. He’s a marathon runner and music enthusiast, and the latter trait is strongly represented in all of the works of his I’ve read.
Kafka on the Shore is probably the best place to start (that’s where I did). I am currently awaiting the translation of his latest book 1Q84 into English. North American release date: September 2011.