Sputnik Sweetheart, narrated by the elementary school teacher simply known as K, revolves around Sumire and her infatuation with her older boss Miu. Business obligations take the pair to Europe and they eventually decide to relax for awhile on a small, unnamed Greek island. After Sumire suddenly disappears into thin air, our narrator gets a call from a concerned Miu. He agrees to take a spontaneous trip to Greece to track down his friend Sumire, with whom he’s madly in love.
This is one of the few Murakami novels in which most of the significant points of the plot take place outside Japan. Aside from the small Greek island that the main characters visit, we also learn about a previous experience Miu had in a Swiss town that caused her hair to turn white. As The Murakami Pilgrimage only covers locations within Japan, we’re not left with so many places left to explore from this novel. There are, however, a few Tokyo locations mentioned in the book that make for an interesting day trip.
WEST TOKYO DAY TRIP:
KICHIJOJI TO TACHIKAWA
In the beginning of the novel, Sumire is living in the fashionable neighborhood of Kichijoji which is known for Inokashira Park. The neighborhood often tops polls and surveys of Tokyoites’ most desirable neighborhoods to live in. Kichijoji is also a popular place to shop, especially for used clothing. Many trendy used clothing stores line the narrow street leading up to the park.
I had to trudge out in the pitch dark all the way over here clutching this telephone card I got as a present at my cousin’s wedding. With a photo on it of the happy couple holding hands. Can you imagine how depressing that is?
Though not mentioned in Sputnik Sweetheart, the neighborhood of Kokubunji, a few stops west on the JR Chuo Line, should be of special interest to Haruki Murakami fans. This is the neighborhood in which the author himself lived for awhile and ran the original incarnation of his jazz bar Peter Cat.
Just one stop over on the Chuo Line is Kunitachi, where the narrator K lives in the novel. Sumire even uses the local Kunitachi area code, 0425, as the combination for her suitcase. The suburb is known for its many universities and University Boulevard, the main street outside the station, is where you’ll want to visit.
Finally, just one more stop to the west is Tachikawa. This is where, at the end of the novel, K is called upon to meet with the supermarket security guard after his student Carrot (who’s also the son of his girlfriend) gets caught shoplifting.
While most of the Tokyo portion of the book takes place in the western Tokyo suburbs (also known as the ‘Tama District’), a number of other Tokyo neighborhoods play minor roles.
Partway through the book, Sumire ends up moving to another popular neighborhood, Yoyogi-Uehara, just next to Yoyogi Park. In Harajuku, Miu has her small office in an apartment building somewhere near Meiji Shrine. Sumire and Miu first meet in Akasaka at wedding in a fancy hotel. K also visits Shinjuku a couple of time over the course of the novel.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, Greece is where most of the novel’s action takes place. We’re not given the island’s name but we know that it’s a tiny unnamed island that’s a short ferry ride from Rhodes, near the Turkish border.