Excited about your upcoming trip to Tokyo, but traveling with someone who has never read, or just doesn’t get, Murakami? In that case, it may be hard to justify dragging them out to see an emergency staircase, a children’s playground or an all-male college dormitory. If you find yourself in this situation, you may realize that there’s not too much overlap, unfortunately, between the settings of Murakami’s novels and Tokyo’s top touristy places.
Famous neighborhoods like Shibuya and Roppongi get mentioned plenty of times, of course, but Murakami doesn’t get very specific. And it’s unlikely that your non-Murakami loving friend or family member would be too enthused about visiting Shibuya only to sit in the family restaurants from After Dark!
Interestingly, most of the specific touristy spots which do appear in Murakami’s novels happen to be from a single book: Dance, Dance, Dance. Even with plenty of scenes taking place in Kanagawa, Sapporo and Hawaii, the unnamed narrator still has time to make it to some of Tokyo’s best sightseeing destinations.
While all the following locations are from Dance, Dance, Dance, you can also enjoy them yourself if you’re traveling alone and haven’t yet read the book. With that in mind, there will be minor spoilers ahead, but nothing that should ruin the book for you if it’s still on your reading list.
1. TOKYO TOWER
Over the course of Dance, Dance, Dance, the narrator occasionally goes to visit his friend Gotanda in the posh neighborhood of Azabu. From Gotanda’s window they can see a clear view of Tokyo Tower.
The tower is a worthwhile visit for anyone coming to Tokyo. Standing at 333 meters high, it was built back in 1958 takes obvious inspiration from the Eiffel Tower.
Tokyo Tower is currently overshadowed by the much taller Sky Tree, but that also means you can enjoy it with fewer tourists than there used to be.
The tower provides excellent views of the city for only ¥900.
2. NEZU MUSEUM
During the narrator’s “usual walking course,” he takes regular walks through neighborhoods like Harajuku, Sendagaya and Aoyama. Though he never visits during the book, he mentions walking past the Nezu Museum a few times in the novel. The museum is also mentioned in other Murakami works like Kino of the recent Men Without Women compilation.
The Nezu Museum is home to an impressive collection of traditional Japanese artwork. The items once belonged to former Tobu Railway Company president Nezu Kaichiro and were made available for public display upon his death in 1940.
Aside from the collection inside, the Nezu Museum is also known for its architecture, designed by Kengo Kuma in 2009, and its magnificent garden in the back.
The garden, which covers a space of over 17,000 square meters, was designed in a traditional Japanese style but contains sculptures and relics from other Asian countries like China.
3. MEIJI SHRINE
“I walked to Meiji Shrine, stretched out on the grass and looked up at the sky.”
Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo’s most popular shrines, is mentioned three times in Dance, Dance, Dance. It’s a place where the narrator, who lives in nearby Shibuya, sometimes goes to relax.
The shrine was built in 1920 in honor of Emperor Meiji, who is actually buried in Kyoto. Aside from the shrine itself, there is a large forested area which is great for taking a break from the noise and crowds of the city. The shrine is busiest in January, when Tokyoites wait in long lines to say a prayer for the new year.
4. TAKESHITA STREET
“At five, I walked to Harajuku and wandered through the teenybopper stalls along Takeshita Street.”
An easy walk from Meiji Shrine is the iconic and bustling Takeshita Street. Harajuku, despite being such a prominent neighborhood in Tokyo, rarely appears in Murakami’s work. Dance, Dance, Dance is one of the few exceptions, even if nothing dramatic occurs here.
For those unaware, Takeshita Street has long been synonymous with Tokyo youth culture and fashion. While most stores are intended for a younger clientele, the large Daiso ‘100 yen store’ is especially popular with tourists looking for some last minute souvenirs.
For more information on shopping options on and around Takeshita street, have a look here.
One of Murakami’s popular short stories, On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning, also takes place in Harajuku.
5. NOGI SHRINE
While perhaps the least well-known item on the list, Nogi Shrine is an interesting spot that’s worth a visit if you find yourself in the Akasaka or Roppongi area.
In the novel, Yuki and her mother live in a condo right next to it. The condo is described as being built of brick, and several brick buildings can be spotted around the shrine area.
Nogi Shrine is dedicated to Nogi Maresuke, a Meiji Era general who killed himself just after the death of Emperor Meiji. Originally established in 1927, the shrine was rebuilt after the war in 1957.
Another popular place from Dance, Dance, Dance to take your travel companions is the Tokyu Hands department store. You can read more about it in this post.
Many of Tokyo’s famous sightseeing spots are its parks. Famous parks like Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno all make appearances in Murakami novels. You can learn more about all those here.
Introducing ‘Sailingstone Travel’
You may be interested to know that the publishing company behind The Murakami Pilgrimage has launched a new travel web site called Sailingstone Travel.
For the time being, I’m acting as the site’s main contributor, and am excited to share some of my recent adventures and discoveries from around Southeast Asia. You can also expect to find some Japan-related content in the near future.
Please have a look here.