A Photographic Tour of Haruki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Memory, and Reality Meet


Last week saw me in line at one of Los Ange­les’ most beloved book­stores, wait­ing for a signed copy of Haru­ki Murakami’s new nov­el Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki and His Years of Pil­grim­age upon its mid­night release. The con­sid­er­able hub­bub around the book’s entry into Eng­lish — to say noth­ing of its orig­i­nal appear­ance last year in Japan­ese, when it sold a much-dis­cussed mil­lion copies in a sin­gle month — demon­strates, 35 years into the author’s career, the world’s unflag­ging appetite for Murakami­ana. Just recent­ly, we fea­tured the arti­facts of Murakami’s pas­sion for jazz and a col­lec­tion of his free short sto­ries online, just as many oth­ers have got into the spir­it by seek­ing out var­i­ous illu­mi­nat­ing inspi­ra­tions of, loca­tions in, and quo­ta­tions from his work. The author of the blog Ran­domwire, known only as David, has done all three, and tak­en pho­tographs to boot, in his grand three-part project of doc­u­ment­ing Murakami’s Tokyo: the Tokyo of his begin­nings, the Tokyo where he ran the jazz bars in which he began writ­ing, and the Tokyo which has giv­en his sto­ries their oth­er­world­ly touch.


Murakami’s “depic­tions of the lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion of mod­ern Japan­ese life ingra­ti­at­ed him with the country’s youth who often strug­gle to assert their indi­vid­u­al­i­ty in the face of soci­etal notions of con­for­mi­ty,” David writes, not­ing also that “such com­par­isons fail to do jus­tice to his unique brand of sur­re­al fan­ta­sy and urban real­ism which seam­less­ly blends togeth­er dream, mem­o­ry and real­i­ty against the back­drop of every­day life in Japan.” Know­ing the city of Tokyo as well as he knows the Muraka­mi canon, David works his way from the Den­ny’s where “Mari, while mind­ing her own busi­ness, is inter­rupt­ed by an old acquain­tance Taka­hashi in After Dark”; to Wase­da Uni­ver­si­ty, alma mater of both Muraka­mi him­self and Nor­we­gian Wood’s pro­tag­o­nist Toru Watan­abe; to both loca­tions of Peter Cat, the jazz café and bar Muraka­mi ran with his wife in the 1970s and ear­ly 80s; to Mei­ji Jin­gu sta­di­um, where Muraka­mi wit­nessed the home run that some­how con­vinced him he could write his first nov­el, Hear the Wind Sing; to DUG, anoth­er under­ground jazz bar vis­it­ed by stu­dents like Toru Watan­abe in the 1960s and still open today; to Met­ro­pol­i­tan Express­way No. 3, from which 1Q84’s pro­tag­o­nist Aomame climbs down into a par­al­lel real­i­ty.


David also drops into spots that, if they don’t count as ful­ly Murakami­an, at least count as Murakamiesque, such as an “antique shop-cum-café” oppo­site the first site of Peter Cat: “Like a sur­re­al plot twist in one of Murakami’s books the scene of me sit­ting there amongst the mounds of antique junk drink­ing tea from a porce­lain cup was verg­ing on the absurd. More than once I glanced out­side the win­dow just to check that the real world hadn’t left me behind.” If you find he missed any patch of Murakami’s Tokyo along the way, let him know; he has, he notes at the end of part three, almost enough for a part four — just as much of Col­or­less Tsuku­ru’s fol­low-up has no doubt already cohered in Murakami’s imag­i­na­tion, that fruit­ful meet­ing place of the real and the absurd. Here are the links to the exist­ing sec­tions: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

In Search of Haru­ki Muraka­mi, Japan’s Great Post­mod­ernist Nov­el­ist

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Trans­lates The Great Gats­by, the Nov­el That Influ­enced Him Most

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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