Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of The World is one of Murakami’s most surrealistic and experimental novels. It’s perhaps the only one that could be categorized as true ‘science fiction.’ Only half of the book takes place in the ‘real’ world, with each alternating chapter taking us to the walled town located deep within the protagonist’s subconscious.
In Tokyo, a secret information war between the Calcutecs (of which the protagonist is a member) and the Semiotics is taking place, as an old scientist with an underground lab is behind a lot more than he first lets on. Furthermore, grotesque creatures known as the INKlings have an underground base beneath important Tokyo government buildings, and it’s suspected that they may be in cahoots with the Semiotics.
SENDAGAYA WALKING TOUR
Many of the notable scenes of the novel take place deep underground beneath Tokyo, but we’re at least given descriptions of under which landmarks the characters are traversing. Much of the action happens in between Sendagaya and Aoyama-Itchome stations.
This section of The Murakami Pilgrimage features a day tour itinerary for Sendagaya which will take you on a walking tour throughout the neighborhood. Even though most of the Sendagaya locations mentioned in the book are not even visited by the characters over the course of the story, this neighborhood should be of special interest to Haruki Murakami fans. This is the neighborhood where the author himself lived when starting his career as a writer.
A number of places mentioned in the novel, such as Jingu Baseball Stadium, are also of special importance to the author. As he writes about in his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it was while witnessing a home run at the stadium that he first decided he could write a novel.
While running his jazz bar Peter Cat, Murakami wrote his first two novels before closing the bar to focus on writing full-time. While Peter Cat is not mentioned in Hard-Boiled Wonderland, it happens to be very close to all the other Sendagaya locations. The former spot of the bar today is nothing more than a generic restaurant, but it still remains somewhat of a pilgrimage spot for Murakami fans to this day. Around the corner, a local bookstore even has some of the old lanterns from the bar on display in the back.
Another popular Sendagaya destination is Gaien Park, where one can visit the Meiji Picture Gallery dedicated to the life of Emperor Meiji. Nearby you can also find a large fountain and a grassy area where you can lie down and wait for the end of the world.
“I’d go to the barber, get a shave, stroll over to Gaien Park, lie down and gaze up at the blue.”
Note: Sendagaya is the home of the former National Olympic Stadium, and currently a new stadium is being built at the same spot. With that in mind, finding your way around Sendagaya’s Gaien Park area may be confusing leading up to the 2020 Olympics due to all the construction taking place.
Our narrator lives in an unnamed part of Setagaya Ward, and all we really know about it is that it contains a library. Setagaya is one of the largest and most populous wards in Tokyo which makes guessing the approximate location difficult.
Some other Tokyo scenes take place in Shinjuku station, where the narrator stores the unicorn skull in a locker, and Ginza, where he goes shopping toward the end of the book. The novel’s finale takes us to Hibiya Park, where the protagonist decides to spend his last day alive drinking a couple of beers with his librarian girlfriend.