The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is considered by many to be Haruki Murakami’s masterpiece. Originally published in the mid 1990’s, the novel is set in 1984 Tokyo (and possibly in the same universe as 1Q84). The story is told from the point of view of protagonist Toru Okada, who goes from searching for his missing cat to searching for his missing wife. Over the course of the book he has many strange experiences, such as entering another dimension via a portal at the bottom of a well and then doing an unusual job for a woman he meets in Shinjuku.
Toru’s adventures take place entirely in Tokyo, although the lengthy monologues of Lieutenant Mamiya bring us to wartime Manchuria, Mongolia and the Soviet Union. Though a pretty common theme throughout Murakami’s work, wartime Manchuria and Siberia play especially large roles in this novel.
TOKYO DAY TOUR:
GINZA TO GOTOKUJI
In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Toru and his 15-year-old neighbor May Kasahara work part-time in Ginza, surveying the baldness of the men they see walk by for a wig company. Aside from the Wako Building in front of which they work, other Ginza landmarks include the Sony Building, a multi-storied Sony showroom, the Mitsukoshi department store and the Kabukiza Theatre.
No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a walk around Shinjuku, the area where Toru goes to stare at people’s faces after the strange mark appears on his cheek. For days he sits outside the station and people watches. Eventually he moves on to “a small, tiled plaza outside a glass high-rise,” which is where he first meets Nutmeg.
There are plenty of fascinating high-rise buildings in the western part of Shinjuku. The iconic Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho), Shinjuku Center Building or the NS Building are all potential candidates for where Toru went to sit.
Also in Shinjuku is the majestic Shinjuku Gyoen, or Imperial Garden. While it doesn’t play a large role in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Shinjuku Gyoen is where Toru and Kumiko went on one of their early dates. It’s a must-visit destination during your time in Tokyo.
The swank Akasaka neighborhood in Minato Ward, also featured prominently in many other Murakami novels, again makes an appearance in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This is where Nutmeg and Cinnamon have their office under the name of one of their mysterious shell companies, and it’s also where Kumiko’s brother Noboru Wataya has his own office. There are some interesting sites around the area, such as Hie Shrine, which make the trip to Akasaka well worth the visit.
Toru Okada and his wife live in a house in Setagaya Ward. We know that “The house was pretty far from the nearest station on the Odakyu Line,” but this station is never named. Some likely candidates would be the neighborhoods of Umegaoka, Gotokuji or Kyodo.
Considering how Gotokuji Temple is the birthplace of the beckoning cat figurine and that the novel begins with a cat gone missing, this would be the best area to visit when seeking out the place that Toru, Kumiko and May Kasahara call home.
Ueno Zoo is where Toru and Kumiko went on their first date. None of the characters visit Ueno again at the time the story takes place, but the zoo and its jellyfish are referenced several times throughout the novel.
Toru first meets Malta Kano in person in a tearoom in the Pacific Hotel near Shinagawa Station. The Pacific Hotel was closed in 2010 but the Keikyu Ex Inn Shinagawa currently operates in the same building.