1Q84 on the Express Way

October 31, 2020 By mk

The story starts at Expressway Number 3 in Setagaya ward, southwest part of Tokyo.

The Yoga Gate

In 1984, the elevated expressway has often congested; but these days, as the expressway system expands, the traffic jam is getting less.

Setagaya is in about 8 km (5 miles) southwest from the palace. It was also a set of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, where the protagonist looked for a missing cat and went to the bottom of the well.
Aomame took a taxi from Kinuta and headed to Shibuya, but encountered a traffic jam on the Expressway No.3 and got off from the emergency stairs in Sangenjaya.

The Metropolitan Expressway No.3 was built as a part of the preparation for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic games. It was opened from the city centre to Shibuya nine days before the opening ceremony and extended in 1967.

Kangaeru Hito, 2010 Summer Issue

In the 2010 interview, Murakami said that he once had heard the news; somebody had pulled over in the traffic jam on the expressway and had gone down the stairs. Since then, he tried to gaze the emergency stairway when he drove on the Metropolitan Expressway and came up with the story when he drove on the Expressway No.3.

He said, “Anyway, let Aomame get in the traffic jam, and walk down the emergency stairs. Why is she so hectic? What is her plan to do? Does she have some mission to do? Then the plot was gradually solidified.”

One of the key landscape in the Expressway scene is the Esso gasoline billboard which is noticed as a landmark by the taxi driver.

On top of a building beyond the oncoming lanes, there was a big billboard advertising Esso gasoline with a smiling tiger holding a gas hose. (Book 1, Ch. 1)

As of now, there is no Esso billboard. Instead, Kygnus Oil billboard is set on the top of the building in Sangenjaya.

On the left, there is a emergency turnout near the billboard on the right.
Kygnus Oil billboard on the right.

The left side of the Esso tiger’s face was toward them. But in her memory it was his right side that had faced the world. The tiger had been reversed.

The emergency stairs is not accessible, but we can see how it looks like.