The Lost Sea The sea in 1964; Haruki entered Kobe High School this year. Mouse over for the image of the sea in 1979 when he wrote his first novel Hear the Wind Sing.
    Image: The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI)

The Lost Sea : 失われた海

The Lost Sea Haruki swam everyday at the beach running barefoot from his house in summer. Mouse over for the image of old bulwark in 2011. Mouse out for the image of the almost same place in 1950s.

In his novels and essays, Murakami expressed his deep emotional attachment to the sea that was close to him throughout his adolescence years.

Together with beach erosion and water pollution, the beach once was popular among local people in its white sand and green pines―the beach appeared as a picturesque place in The Tales of Ise (伊勢物語, Ise monogatari), a Japanese collection of tanka poems and associated narratives) dating from as early as the Heian period (平安時代; 794-1192)―became unsuitable for swimming by 1960’s.

In 1963, the prefectural government decided to reclaim the land from the sea with the adjacent mountain gravel. They thought the area had an ideal work environment. In addition, the national government promoted the construction of high-rise apartment complexes there reflecting their policy on development of industrial methods of housing production. The public project started in 1969 and completed in 1975. In the same manner, they made an artificial island farther shore from 1974 and completed it in 1997.

The Lost Sea The high-rise apartment buildings on the filled ground:In A Wild Sheep Chase, 'J' said, "We see these buildings anywhere in the town."; Haruki calls them 'monolith', 'gravestone' or 'high-tech crematorium'. ODAKANE Fuji

Hruki felt a sense of nostalgia for the sea and saw the violence in its vanishment. He wrote in an essay:

"When I had a lucky, I happened to meet my female classmates on the beach; they sat down near by me and talked small mysterious matters with a scent of shampoo."
"Climbed up on the sea embankment; I could overlook the sea where I swam in everyday in a summer. I did fishing there too, and walked around the beach with my dog."

"I liked vegetating on the shore just looking out at the sea."

"My friends and I sometimes crept out of the houses at night and had a bonfire with driftwoods on the beach. "I loved salt-flavored sea air, distant roar of the sea, and things carried by the sea."

"The sea is no longer there now."

"Sorry to say, I rather feel much affinity as a home town for the seaside town in Kanagawa where I live now than the old town where I had grown up.
We have the sea where we can enjoy swimming and green mountains here; I think I should protect it from the ravages of nature. The lost landscape cannot be restored again."

"Once unleashed, the violent system would never go against the current. A part of the violence lurks under our foot, and the other part lurks inside us. One is also the metaphor of the other, or they are mutually exchangeable."

"They slept here like a pair of beasts who share the same dream."

  From Henkyō・Kinkyō (辺境・近境, lit. Remote Region/Near Region) Translation:ODAKANE Fuji

In A Wild Sheep Chase, Boku said:

I left the river and walked east along what had been the coastline road. Bewildering enough, the old jetty was still there. Now a jetty without an ocean is an odd creature indeed. I stopped at the exact spot where I used to park to look at the sea, went over to sit down on the jetty, and drank a beer. What a view! Instead of ocean, a vast expanse of reclaimed land and housing developments met my eyes. Faceless blocks of apartments, the miserable foundations of an attempt to build a neighborhood.

Asphalt roads threaded through the building complexes, here a parking lot, there a bus terminal. A gasoline station and a large park and a wonderful community center. Every thing brand new, everything unnatural. On one side, the oiles of soil hauled down from the hills for landfill loomed harsh and gray next to the areas which, not a part of the grand scheme, had been overtaken by quick-rooting weeds.

But what was there to say? Already it was a whole new game played by new rules. No one could stop now.

A slight humming in my ears. Like a sea breeze whistling through a rusty wire screen. Come to think of it, when was the last time I was at the beach? Let’s see. July 24, 6:30 A.M. Ideal time for the beach, ideal time of day. The beach still unspoiled by people. Seabird tracks scattered about the surf’s edge like pine needles after a brisk wind. The beach, hmm… I began walking again. Forget the beach. All that’s ages past.


Feature Story

  • Google Earth

    The Town :

    Let's start with the town, where Haruki grew up and his stories came from. The sea out in front, hills behind, and right next door, major port.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Hanshinkan Boy : 阪神間少年

    Hanshinkan, the area between Osaka and Kobe, was a comfy place to spend Haruki's boyhood to the adolescent period.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Junior High School Years : 中学時代

    Of his middle-school years, Murakami has written that all he remembers is being beaten by his teachers. He didn't like them and they didn't like him because he wouldn't study.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Family Ties : 親子関係

    Young Haruki would often hear his parents discussing eighth-century poetry or medieval war takes at the dinner table. Haruki said, “Throughout my teens I became hate ‘Japanese literature’ and ‘teachers’.”

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Books and Music : 本と音楽

    Haruki was permitted to buy books on credit at the local bookstore, as long as he avoided comic books or trashy weekly magazines, and he became a voracious reader.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    High School Years : 高校時代

    Haruki would play Mahjongg almost every day, fool around with girls, spend hours in jazz cafés and cinemas, smoke, skip school, read novels during class, and so forth, but his grades were never terrible.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    Leaving Home : 街を離れる

    "The town has deep hold on me; almost all my memories are tied up with the place. Yet the spring I left town to enter university, I let out a sigh of relief from the bottom of my heart,"Haruki said in his novel.

  • Odakane, Fuji for Cool Japan Illustrated

    The River :

    "The road by the river had been one of my favorites. I could walk at the same speed as the river. I could feel it breathing. It was alive. The town belonged to the river from the very beginning, and it would always be the way."

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  • A Wild Sheep Chase

    "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 brushed the sand from my trousers and got up, and if I had somewhere to go. The day had all but ended. I could hear the sound of waves as I started to walk."

A Wild Sheep Chase