A Wild Sheep Chase Places

December 25, 2020 By mk

[SPOILER ALERT] This article includes information about Haruki Murakami’s “A Wild Sheep Chase”. I hope it helps you to extend your imagination to the scenes that appeared in the novel.

A Wild Sheep Chase is set at three areas

  • Tokyo: “I” lived, dated, married and divorced, and “Boss” lived
  • Hokkaido: The Dolphine Hotel and the Villa existed
  • Hyogo: “the town” (J’s bar and the beach)

The distances among Sapporo-Tokyo-Kobe are almost those of Montreal-Delaware-Virginia or Copenhagen-Munich-Bourgogne.

“I” lived in Tokyo and met his girlfriend and received a rat letter from his friend, Rat. Following his request, “I” went to Hyogo to meet Rat’s ex-girlfriend and returned to Tokyo. Then “I” went to Hokkaido to chase the sheep. In the end, “I” went back to Hyogo again.

In Tokyo, “I” lived in Mitaka. It is next to Kichijoji where Sumire (Sputnik Sweetheart) lived. As there is a direct train from Mitaka to Waseda, it is convenient to commute to Waseda University (he may have attended as Murakami did).

From the autumn of that year on into the spring of the next, once a week on Tuesday nights, she’d drop in at my apartment outside Mitaka. (Ch.1)

ICU (International Christian University) locates at the west edge of Mitaka City. Beside ICU, there is Nogawa Park; former ICU’s golf field which became public park since 1980, two years before the novel was published.
<Nogawa Park map>

Waking up Wednesday mornings, we’d go for a walk through the woods to the ICU campus and have lunch in the dining hall. (Ch.1)

Murakami graduated from Waseda University in 1975, debut as a writer in 1979 and published A Wild Sheep Chase in 1982. Even now, there are many coffee shops around the university.
<Waseda University map>

 There was a small coffee shop near the university where I hung out with friends. (Ch.1)

The only streetcar (Tram) in Tokyo runs from Waseda to Minowa. Near the end of the line, there is a crematory in Machiya where small houses and buildings stand side by side.
Waseda tram station Map>

The day of the funeral, I took a streetcar from Waseda. I got off near the end of the line. (Ch.1)

Akasaka is a residential and commercial district where many bars and clubs located. It is regarded as a bit posh and expensive place near the business district so that few teenagers are seen in town.
<Akasaka J’s Bar Map>

The office of her call girl club, registered as a “talent club” for appearances, was located in Akasaka (Ch.4)

Kanda is a business district where small buildings are crowded. The author set the place to explain the girl is in very ordinary life in the daytime.

Three days a week she’d commute to Kanda, to the third floor of a small office building, and from nine to five she’d proofread, make tea, run downstairs (no elevator in the building) and buy erasers. (Ch.4)

“I” had dinner with the girl at a fancy French restaurant in Aoyama boulevard. Aoyama is one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Tokyo. The author himself used to live in Aoyama and hang around.

I called for a reservation at the fanciest French restaurant I knew. On Aoyama Boulevard.(Ch.4)

Although the house of “the boss” is totally factious, we can see “a Meiji-era Western-style manor with an annexe of a traditional one-story Japanese-style villa in Ueno. Kyū-Iwasaki-tei Garden was built by the founders of Mitsubishi in the late 19th century and now is open to the public. <map>

In its first incarnation, it seems to have been a Meiji-era Western-style manor… To the left of the original structure, no less antithetical to the multiple elements already there, sprawled a traditional one-story Japanese-style villa. (Ch.12)

Sapporo is the largest city in Hokkaido. Unlike many Japanese cities, Sapporo was constructed based on the plan to layout the grid’s streets. The symbol mark of Hokkaido is a five-pointed star.

It was this chestnut-colored sheep with the star on its back. (Ch.18)

As Sapporo was not attacked during WW2, several western-style buildings built in the 19-20th century are still functional. Territorial Government still keeps its old buildings.

I went to the Territorial Tourist Agency…“The Livestock Section of the Territorial Government knew next to nothing,” she said. (Ch.26)
This was our Dolphin Hotel. (Ch.25)

The Delphine Hotel is a fictitious place in Sapporo, but Iruka (Delphine) Hotel is in 312 km (194 miles) west of Sapporo on the coast facing the Sea of Okhotsk.

Bifuka is in the 180 km (110 miles) north of Sapporo. It used to be a connecting point to Bikou Line to Niupu until 1985. (The novel was published in 1982)

“This is our destination?” she asked. “No, not here. We’ve got another train ride from here. Our destination is a much, much smaller town than this.” (Ch.30)
The waiting room, like most waiting rooms, was deserted and unremarkable (Ch.30)

Haruki Murakami Library is in the Bifuka station’s waiting room; it is nothing like the waiting room described in the novel.

It was 2:40 when the train reached its destination, Junitaki-cho. (Ch.30)

Junitaki-cho is a fictional place but is known to be modelled around the former Niupu station where the trolley service works on the old railways.

Straight on across the pasture stood an old American-style two-story wood-frame house. (Ch.32)

Matsuyama Farm hosts an only accommodation (not available now due to Covid) in the Niupu area and has sheep ranch. Sheep can be seen in many places in Hokkaido, but we often need some luck to see them.

“The town” appeared in Murakami’s early works is believed to be in this area. And the beach appeared in the last page of the novel and mentioned in “Abandoning a Cat” published in 2020. It is closed to his home and the high school that his father worked as a teacher.

We rode along the Shukugawa River, arrived at the beach at Koroen, set the box down among some trees there, and, without a backward glance, headed home. (Abandoning a Cat)

I walked along the river to its mouth. I sat down on the last fifty yards of beach, and I cried. I never cried so much in my life… I could hear the sound of waves as I started to walk. (Epilogue)

Murakami’s early Trilogy started with hearing the wind sing and ended with hearing the sound of waves, and then he started to walk to the next step.