A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami’s third novel, is the first book in which he experiments with the surrealist and supernatural storytelling elements that he would become known for. It features the same narrator from Murakami’s first two novels, Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. The Hyogo-born protagonist, now living in Tokyo, is called upon by the assistant of a powerful man simply known as ‘The Boss’ to hunt down the mysterious sheep that appears in a photo taken by his old friend the Rat. Most of the significant scenes of the book take place on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
Dance, Dance, Dance, though not published directly after A Wild Sheep Chase, is the next and final book in the series. The same protagonist is still living in Tokyo but takes a couple of trips back to Sapporo to re-visit the Dolphin Hotel. In contrast to the previous book, a large portion of Dance, Dance, Dance takes place in Tokyo and around the Kanto region. There are even some significant scenes which take place in tropical Hawaii.
As both novels share the same protagonist and feature a number of locations in common, these two books have been combined into a single section in The Murakami Pilgrimage.
SAPPORO DAY TRIP ITINERARY
The main character and his girlfriend Kiki first arrive in Sapporo to start their hunt for the sheep with the star on its back. Very few landmarks, streets or station names are revealed in this section of the book. Even the location of the enigmatic Dolphin Hotel is left a mystery to the reader. It’s possible, however, that its original inspiration is waiting to be discovered somewhere near Sapporo or Susukino Station. Interestingly, there happens to be a restaurant called “Cafe Dolphin” in Sapporo which has been around since the 1970’s, so it’s technically possible that Haruki Murakami could’ve walked past it during his travels.
In The Murakami Pilgrimage you’ll find a detailed day trip itinerary for Sapporo. In addition to the few specific sites actually named in the novel, you’ll also learn about the city’s most popular landmarks and sightseeing destinations.
AROUND THE AREA
While the itinerary can be carried out in a single day, you might want to consider spending at least three days in the city if time allows, as there are a couple of worthwhile side-trips you can take. One of these is Moerenuma Park, a free park designed by famous sculptor Isamu Noguchi in the early ’80’s.
In about 30 or 40 minutes from Sapporo you can also easily reach the popular tourist town of Otaru. The town is known for its canal and you can even find brick buildings preserved from the 1800’s, a rare sight in Japan.
The climax of A Wild Sheep Chase takes place in a fictional town called Junitaki-cho. It’s highly likely that the basis for Junitaki is a town called Bifuka. There are a number of reasons why people believe this to be so: the name of Junitaki translates to “twelve waterfalls.” Bifuka is also famous for waterfalls, but has 16 instead of 12. Junitaki is also described as being around 150 miles, or 240 kilometers from Sapporo. Bifuka is just about the same distance away. And of course, Bifuka is also home to many sheep, somewhat of a rarity in Japan.
Bifuka will likely be the highlight of your trip to Hokkaido. True to the novel, though, it’s not an easy place to get to. Making the journey to this isolated northern part of Hokkaido is only for the most dedicated of Haruki Murakami fans, but when you finally make it you won’t be disappointed.
In Bifuka you’ll have the chance to stay at a place incredibly reminiscent of the house that the Sheep Professor built and that the Rat’s father later purchased. Farm Inn Tonto, as it’s called, has been attracting a lot of media attention in recent years for its stark similarity to the setting of the novel.
It’s pretty eerie just how closely both the house and setting of Farm Inn Tonto match the setting of A Wild Sheep so perfectly. Even more surreal is the fact that the owners built the house without ever having read the novel or any other Murakami books. It was only after a number of others pointed out the similarities that they decided to read the books for themselves. Now they now warmly welcome Murakami fans from around the world.
There are a few other things to do in Bifuka besides lounging around the inn. You can see a large sheep pen in addition to the “Rail Car Kingdom,” which allows you to ride a small motorized car over the tracks of a now-defunct train line.
Aside from the protagonist’s trips to Sapporo and Hawaii, much of the action of Dance, Dance, Dance takes place in Tokyo. One of the neighborhoods that comes up a lot is the Akasaka district. Here we can easily find the part of town where Yuki lives – nearby Nogi shrine – as well as the Akasaka Police Department where the narrator gets taken in for questioning. The prostitute Mei was also tragically murdered in a fancy Akasaka hotel.
In Dance, Dance, Dance we learn that the narrator lives in Shibuya, although it’s not revealed exactly where. Some of the specific Shibuya locations that are named include the popular department store Tokyu Hands. The scene near the end of the book in Shakey’s Pizza likely also takes place in Shibuya, as there happens to be a branch just a couple minute walk from Tokyu Hands.
Elsewhere in Dance, Dance, Dance, the narrator also often walks his “usual course.” He starts in Shibuya, walks over to Harajuku, through Sendagaya and then into the Aoyama neighborhood before making the return to Shibuya.
If you’ve read other novels like After Dark, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and South of The Border, West of The Sun, you’ll find that the locations covered in the “usual course” also take the spotlight in these other books. The end of The Murakami Pilgrimage even contains a combined itinerary based around the “usual course” for those who’ve read all of Murakami’s books.
In addition to the Tokyo locations mentioned above, The Murakami Pilgrimage also contains a list of places you can go and visit in Kanagawa Prefecture. Some of these areas include Hakone, Enoshima and Yokohama – all fairly easy day trips from Tokyo.
In A Wild Sheep Chase, before his trip to Hokkaido, the narrator returns to his hometown somewhere in Hyogo Prefecture. If you’ve read Murakami’s first two books, this town should already be familiar to you. Hyogo is the focus of the first section of The Murakami Pilgrimage but make sure you read the prequels, Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 first.
At the insistence of both of Yuki’s parents, the narrator and Yuki also spend awhile in Hawaii during the events of Dance, Dance, Dance. Some of the locations mentioned include Waikiki, Makaha and Honolulu.