Words Rebecca Ilham
Prolific and imaginative, Murakami has successfully captured the attention of readers worldwide, opening for them the doors to today’s Japan. As he was a resident of Tokyo since his university years in the late 1960’s, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that no place better represented in Murakami’s many works than the capital of Japan itself.
Here are some of the most coveted spots out of the books for all Murakami fans to visit!
1. YOYOGI PARK
Murakami fans would recognize this vast nature-rich patch from Murakami’s recent work, 1Q84, where Tengo, the main character works in a cram school nearby. It is also heavily mentioned in Murakami’s running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, as his preferred running spot whenever he’s in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park is also perfect for walks and picnics. On weekends, it is a gathering place for music fans, cosplayers and various hobby groups!
2. SHINJUKU STATION
The busiest train station in the world, Shinjuku Station is prominently featured in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, a novel in which its main character, Tazaki, an engineer who repairs train platforms, has a habit of spending a few hours at night on Platform 9 of the station, lost in thought as trains pass by. Toru from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also likes to observe people’s faces (don’t ask why) here. There are many shops and eateries in the station building to keep one entertained, but a true Murakami fan might rather be seeking for Tazaki and Toru’s favourite spots!
While people usually associate Shibuya with its famous pedestrian crossings (fondly known as “The Scramble”) and the Hachiko statue outside the train station, Murakami fans are more familiar with it as the location where Aomame carries out her first assassination assignment in 1Q84. That might sound scary, but thankfully Shibuya’s dark sides are limited to the pages only. In reality, it’s a cheery place for shopping and hanging out that is popular among the youth.
The mecca of youth culture and quirky fashion, Harajuku is mentioned in Dance Dance Dance when Boku, the main character, goes on a walk along one of its backstreets, Takeshita-dori. It’s always crowded with visitors, but a stroll along many independent boutiques, small stores and many faces is a must to get a glimpse of the latest fashion trends among Tokyo’s young (and not-so-young) people.
Boku, also from Dance Dance Dance likes to go to this upscale area, to buy groceries from the fancy Kinokuniya supermarket. Murakami also featured it as a place for romantic rendezvous, Tazaki and Sara’s date in a French café on Aoyama Boulevard in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Unfortunately, it is also here that Tazaki sees Sara holding hands with another man. Murakami enthusiasts might want to track down the French café and sit down for a meal before going on a search for the supermarket lettuce that Boku prefers.
Koenji is a prominent setting in 1Q84; it isn’t only the place where Tengo lives, but also where Aomame later goes into hiding. It might not be in the city centre but Koenji famous for its underground music scene, hip cafes and record shops. So there are plenty of things to do when Murakami fans are done looking for the slide that Tengo climbs onto to see the moon better during one of his nocturnal walks. Hopefully it’s not a spoiler to mention that this is also where he is reunited with Aomame. In summer, Koenji’s Awa Odori Festival, the largest traditional dance festival in Japan, attracting over a million visitors.
K from Sputnik Sweetheart settles down and takes up arubaito (part-time work) in this suburb just outside the Tokyo metropolitan area after dropping out of college. In one scene, Murakami describes a date between K and Sumire at the nearby Inokashira Park, where they enjoy the gorgeous autumn scenery. Try guessing which bench is Sumire’s favourite!
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