After Dark Places

October 17, 2020 By mk

Although Murakami did not mention the name of the place, it is believed that the setting of After Dark (2004) is Shibuya, one of the most popular amusement districts in the heart of Tokyo.

Our line of sight chooses an area of concentrated brightness and, focusing there, silently descends to it—a sea of neon colors. They call this place an “amusement district.” (Ch.1)

Oct. 2019 at Shibuya Crossing (before Covid)

The crossing in front of the Shibuya Station Hachikō exit allows pedestrians to cross to all directions in the entire intersection. In the 2005 interview, he said that he was interested in the usage of “grammatical person” and wanted to use “we (first-person plural).” He said that “we” indicates the narrative collaboration between the author and the readers, as well as that he implied to set his alter ego who share the eye-sight with the readers.

“Welcome to Denny’s.” Everything about the restaurant is anonymous and interchangeable. (Ch.1)

Denny’s is one of the popular “family-restaurant” brands in Japan. Family-restaurant (“fami-res”) is defined as a casual chain restaurant serving standardised foods; cooked and frozen at “central kitchen” and distributed to the branch restaurants.

“I don’t eat anything but chicken salad here.” (Ch.1)

Agreed. Chikien salad is one of the best meals in Denny’s. In the late 1990s-2000s Tokyo, chicken salad was a popular choice for the young people who dine late at Denny’s as well as pancake, but not a crispy toast. It might be “a twist” made by the author.

“It’s that love ho over there.” (Ch.2)

“Love hotel” is an accommodation facility for anonymous usage by a couple in the name of love. It often offers a room by the hour. There are many love hotels in the former red-light district near the Shibuya station. As anonymity and privacy are respected in that area, people are supposed not to take a photo of the couples.

Mari and Kaoru walk down a deserted back street. (ch.5)

“Alphaville is the title of one of my favorite movies. Jean-Luc Godard.” (Ch.5)

In the mid-1990s, there was Nouvelle Vague revival movement in the Shibuya area, and DJs played Brigitte Bardot at the nightclub. It was not just a retro revival but remixing the old French flavour with the Tokyo pop culture at that time. Murakami belongs to the older generation and is known as a long time Godard fan, but, in 2004, when he picked “Alphaville” as a love hotel name in Shibuya, the name resonated with the memory of people who spend time in the time and place of the novel.

The park is deserted at this hour except for Mari and Takahashi. (Ch.11)

Kitaya Park is a small park near Denny’s. As of October 2020, it is under construction for redevelopment. The park will be open by the end of 2020 under a private finance initiative scheme; it means that fancy commercial facilities will be set in the park.

Dualism is not as important an issue for the crows as for the human beings. (Ch.18)

The way Murakami depicted the morning scenery of the crows in Shibuya is still real in 2020. The morning in the city begins this way after dark.