Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage takes us to a number of Tokyo locations which are also frequently mentioned in other works. While the settings within Tokyo may be predictable for longtime Murakami readers, this 2013 novel provides us with a fresh perspective on some familiar areas from the eyes of protagonist Tsukuru, a man who designs train stations.
The end of the novel gives us a fascinating insight on Shinjuku Station, the busiest station in the world. Even if you’ve already passed through Shinjuku many times, reading about the intricate details required to keep it running smoothly helps one appreciate it even more.
What sets this book apart from other Murakami novels is that it’s the only one to feature scenes in the city of Nagoya, the protagonist’s hometown. Throughout the book, Tsukuru recalls many events from his childhood and teenage years which take place there and he even visits the city to meet with his old friends.
NAGOYA DAY TRIP ITINERARY
Though the scenes which happen in Nagoya don’t take up much space in the novel, The Murakami Pilgrimage contains a detailed day trip itinerary for those interested in exploring the city. Nagoya, with a population of over 2 million people, is one of Japan’s largest cities, although it’s not a common destination for tourists. The region is mainly known for its automobile industry and it’s the home of the world’s largest automaker, Toyota.
To get there, a Shinkansen from Tokyo (100 min.) costs ¥11,000 while a bus from Tokyo to Nagoya goes for as little as ¥3 – 4,000 (6 hrs). Without a JR rail pass, you could take a bus to Nagoya, spend a night in a cheap rental apartment and take another bus to Kansai, all for roughly the same price as a single Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Not too many specific locations are named in the novel, but we know that the Lexus Dealership where Ao works is in “in a quiet area near Nagoya Castle.” This would likely be the one near Takaoka Station, about a 10 minute walk northeast of the TV Tower.
While not incredibly close, the park where Tsukuru and Ao go to have a chat is likely the northern end of Hisaya Odori Park, a long park which stretches out over 2km throughout the city.
Further south, in the middle of the park is the TV Tower, a prominent symbol of the city, and popular (free) landmark Oasis 21. If you’re lucky you may also be there when there’s a festival going on in the park, giving you a chance to shop at a flea market or see some live bands perform.
Nagoya Castle, referred to only briefly in the novel, is a must-visit for anyone going to Nagoya. In addition to the scenic moat and lush greenery surrounding the main structure, the castle itself contains a multi-story museum with informational displays on Nagoya and the Edo period. The top floor also offers excellent views of the city.
Despite Nagoya not being the most riveting tourist destination in Japan, there a few other interesting sights to see around the city if you have more than a day. You may want to check out Osu-Kannon, a prominent Buddhist Temple, or Atsuta Shrine, one of the three most important shrines in all of Japan. This is also a popular place to try Nagoya’s local style of noodles called kishimen. If you’re travelling with children, the Nagoya City Science Museum is also worth a visit.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is also one of only a few Murakami novels in which the main character takes a trip abroad. Tsukuru visits Finland where his old friend Kuro lives. Here Murakami does an excellent job of describing the feel and atmosphere of the place.
Another notable part of the book takes place in Oita Prefecture which is located on the southern island of Kyushu. The book ends, however, without us ever knowing the fate of the mysterious jazz pianist who could see other people’s ‘true colors.’
Some of the prominent Tokyo settings of the novel include Shinjuku, Aoyama, Ginza, Jiyugaoka and Tokyo Station.