Murakami Wind Pinball

Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are Haruki Murakami’s very first two novels. The unnamed protagonist who narrates the story is the same in both books and is also the main character of the sequels – A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance. For years it was impossible to buy an official English translation of either book, but today they’re widely available and even packaged together. Therefore, in The Murakami Pilgrimage you’ll find both novels combined into a single section.

Haruki Murakami is from Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
The Kobe skyline


Hyogo is where the author himself grew up and for those who’ve read other Murakami novels, you may have noticed that the region is mentioned often. Without giving too much away, Kobe is also the hometown of the main characters from Norwegian Wood and all short stories in After The Quake are related to the city in one way or another.

Hear the Wind Sing largely takes place in Hyogo Prefecture but we’re not told exactly where. Although the name of the small town is left unnamed, it’s likely somewhere near the wealthy city of Ashiya, which is itself a suburb of the port city of Kobe. The town is described as having an “ocean in front . . . with mountains to the rear and a giant port next door.” An unnamed tiny town by the ocean could be any number of actual towns in Hyogo Prefecture. However, there are at least a couple of places mentioned in the novel that we can find in real life.

When the narrator first meets the Rat, they were drunk at 4 in the morning, driving around intoxicated when their car crashed into a stone pillar in a park with a monkey cage. The name of this park is “Ashiya-Uchide Park” and the monkey cage still remains – albeit without any monkeys.

Hear The Wind Sing Monkey Cage Park
The park with the monkey cage

Just behind the park is the Uchide branch of the Ashiya Public Library. While only mentioned briefly in the novel, this is the library where the author himself spent a lot of time as a teenager. Considering the prevalence of libraries in Murakami’s later works such as Kafka on the Shore, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The Strange Library, this particular building clearly had a major impact on the author’s life and career.

Uchide Ashiya Library Haruki Murakami
The Ashiya Public Library

The “J’s Bar” featured prominently in both Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 does not actually exist, but the next best thing can be found in the central Sannomiya district of Kobe. In 1981, a film adaptation of Hear The Wind Sing was released in Japan. The J’s Bar scenes were filmed in a bar called Half Time which is just a couple minute walk from Sannomiya station. The bar even features a pinball machine just like in the novels! The atmosphere is close enough to make you feel as if you were really in Murakami’s world.

Bar Half Time in Kobe
The real-life J’s Bar

There’s a lot to do around Kobe, like going up the Port Tower in Meriken Park or trying delicious cuisine in Chinatown.

Hear The Wind Sing Hyogo Guide
A sample of the Hyogo Prefecture day trip itinerary


Half of Pinball, 1973 takes place in Tokyo, where the narrator works at a translation service after having graduated from college. Not too many specific locations are mentioned here, but the sequel, A Wild Sheep Chase, reveals that he lives in Mitaka City during the events of the book. The golf course the narrator often visits with the twins has been converted into a public park, meaning anyone can now relax on the grass and play backgammon while watching the sunset from the 8th hole.

Sunset over Nogawa Park
The golf course from Pinball, 1973 is now a park open to the public
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