Mapping the Subterranean of Haruki Murakami’s Literary World


Author: Akiyoshi Suzuki, Konan Women’s University, Japan
Published: May 2013

Citation: Suzuki, A. (2013). Mapping the Subterranean of Haruki Murakami’s Literary World. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 2(1).


"A good map is worth a thousand words, cartographers say, and they are right: because it produces a thousand words: it raises doubts, ideas. It poses new questions, and forces you to look for new answers", said Franco Moretti (Moretti 1999, pp. 3–4). The purpose of this article is to bring to light relations that would otherwise remain hidden in this current time of globalization and to analyze the literary works of Haruki Murakami in a literary topography: in other words, through literary maps above and under the ground, of today and of the past, and on this world and on the other world. Making literary maps of Murakami's novels, especially of the routes of the characters walks in Tokyo, has been popular (e.g. Tokyo Kurenaidan 1999, Urazumi 2000). When we consider Murakami's obsession with the subterranean world, his fictional metaphors of features like a field well and the bottom of the sea, and the characters’ strange semiconscious walks, however, mapping just the surface of the ground is not enough. We should focus on Murakami’s subterrane as long as he is obsessed with the subterranean world. Therefore, I superimposed a map of ancient Tokyo on that of today. The result is that you find Murakami's characters, even when they walk in downtown Tokyo, tend to walk along the water's edge and through cemeteries and burial mounds: in short, they walk with or as spirits of the dead. These mappings show the past or the dead violently controls characters in the "here and now", and is a pattern from his early novels, which are set in Ashiya, Hyogo. Murakami tells that "Yamikuro" live under the world and controls violence above the ground. The anagram of "Yamikuro" is "I mark you". It means that people on the ground are controlled by the past or the dead under the ground, which is a typical expression for power of memory of Japanese.


Murakami, subterranean, maps, literary topography