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The River :


"The water was as clear as ever. It came straight out of the hills with nothing to pollute it along the way. The river had silted up with the small rocks and gravel washed down from the hills, creating little falls here and there. Beneath each fall, a deep pool had formed where small fish gathered."

A Wild Sheep Chase

The river, Ashiya-gawa (芦屋川, Ashiya river) is about 6-kilometer / 3.7-mile long running almost straight from Mt. Rokkō (六甲山) to sea. The river has clear water since the mountain of granite filters rainwater―same water seeped underground has supplied good water to sake breweries in this region.

In urban zone the river has raised bed due to the accumulation of the decomposed granite soil. This geographic dimensions incurred the Great Hanshin Flood in1938; Tanizaki Jun'ichirō (谷崎 潤一郎; 1886-1965) covered the flood in his―“the greatest cosmopolitan novel since the Meiji Restoration”―The Makioka Sisters (細雪 Sasameyuki, lit. light snow, 1943-1948). Tezuka Osamu, M.D. (手塚 治虫; 1928-1989) also pick it up in his manga, Adolf, known in Japan as Adolf ni Tsugu (アドルフに告ぐ, lit. Tell Adolf).

Before and after ‘An Adventure Surrounding Sheep’ in his A Wild Sheep Chase, a protagonist, Boku walked along the river from J’s Bar to the ‘Fifty yards sea’.

The Song Is Over:

The night was unexpectedly warm, though the sky was its usual heavy overcast. A most breeze was blowing in slow and easy from the south. Same as it used to. A sea scent mingled with a hint of rain. Insects calling from the clumps of grass along the river. Everything brimming with a languished nostalgia. It seemed that it would rain any minutes. When it did, it came in so fine a drizzle that you couldn’t tell if it was raining or not, but I got completely drenched anyway.

I could just make out river flowing in the white light of the mercury-vapor streetlamp. The water was as clear as ever. It came straight out of the hills with nothing to pollute it along the way. The river had silted up with the small rocks and gravel washed down from the hills, creating little falls here and there. Beneath each fall, a deep pool had formed where small fish gathered.

During dry spells, the whole river used to dry up into sandy bed, leaving only a faintly damp white trail. Years ago, on my walks I’d trace that trail upstream, searching for where the river had gone.

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. More than anything, it was the river we had thank for creating the town. For grinding down from the hills over how many hundreds of thousands of years, for hauling the dirt, filling the sea, and making the tree grow. The town belonged to the river from the very beginning, and it would always be the way.

Because this was the rainy season, the river flowed uninterrupted to the sea. The trees planted along the banks were fragrant with new leaves. There was a greenness in the air. Couples strolled arm in arm, old folks walked their dogs, high school kids hung around their motorbikes, smoking cigarettes. Your typical early summer evening.

I stopped into a liquor store, brought two cans of beer, and carried them in a paper bag down to the sea. When the river met the sea, it turned into an inlet, or rather into an half-filled canal. Here was the only untouched stretch of oceanfront left, fifty yards of it. There was even something of the old beach. Small waves rolled in, leaving smooth pieces of driftwood. On the concrete jetty, bits of old nails and spray-paint graffiti remained.

Fifty yards of honest-to-goodness shoreline. If you overlooked the fact that it was hemmed in by thirty-foot-high concrete walls. And the walls kept going straight out for several miles, channeling the sea narrowly in between. And that tall buildings lined either side. Fifty yards sea. The rest was history.

A Wild Sheep Chase

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 Lost Sea : 失われた海

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


  • 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