J314                                                  Kafka on the Shore

Kafka Tamura leaves home on his 15th birthday = the 20th.

            His father = Koichi Tamura, famous sculptor whose work is “provocative, powerful, uncompromising” (203)

            His mother and older sister left when Kafka was 4?  In the family registry, there is no mention of a wife or elder sister; Kafka is listed as an illegitimate son.


Kafka wakes up in a shrine at night, sore, tee-shirt bloody; 4 hrs of time missing

Nakata wakes up in vacant lot after he has murdered Johnnie Walker—but no blood on him.

He does rescus Mimi and Goma but can no longer talk to cats

He is in trouble; calls Sakura and spends night with her in Takamatsu – his sister?

Kafka’s father discovered murdered on the 30th—died on the 28th = same day he claimed to have killed Johnnie Walker

pp. 105-108, Oshima and Kafka discuss the complete works of Natume Soseki; Kafka admires The Miner and explains why.

Oshima’s cabin = quiet, dark, alone

Kafka was in the Komura library that day


Story of Miss Saeki’s Song, “Kafka on the Shore” – did she marry and have a son in Tokyo in the 1970s?


29th sardines, mackerel and leeches fall like rain from the sky

“Kafka on the Shore” painting in Kafka’s room – 12 year old boy Miss Saeki’s love?

Beach Scene in the painting would have taken place 40 years ago

Ôshima mentions on p, 199 Oedipus Rex who was drawn into tragedy by his courage and honesty = Irony = which helps a person Mature

pp. 201-02 father’s prophesy for Kafka:

“Someday you will murder your father and be with your mother and sleep with older sister, too.”

“In dreams begin responsibilities” (Yeats, 204) did Kafka murder his father “through a dream?”


The song, the lyrics, the melody, the beauty, the senseless violence that shatters Miss Saeki’s world.

Song mentions fish falling from sky, Kafka on the Shore, the entrance stone.

Lyrics are symbolic, poetic—she found the right words by bypassing meaning and logic; she captured the words in a dream


Dreams, metaphors, allegories, analogies.  That night Kafka sees a ghost in his room—the young Miss Saeki (205) Spurs Kafka’s interests in hearing the song.  The photo on the record—it oozes an energy she has since lost.

Leads to a discussion of the Rokujo Lady.


On p.225 Tale of Genji and Lady Rokujo come up. Living spirits passing down the tunnel of her subconscious into Aoi’s bedroom.  Kafka retreats with the Tanizaki Genji


Hoshino gives Nakata a ride.  He was a wild child but his Grandpa always bailed him out. He joined SDF and is now a good trucker.


Nakata goes to Shikoku to find the Entrance Stone.  Miss Saeki looked for the entrance to another world when she was 15.


 Kafka and Miss Saeki have sex but she is in a dream or trance stare.


 Enter Colonel Sanders—not a human, a concept with no form.  A revelation leaps over the border of the everyday.  A life without revelation is no life at all. (275)

God only exists in people’s minds; the emperor was a God then MacArthur said he wasn’t.  everything is in flux: the earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith, justice, evil—there are all fluid and in transition.  That means things are Contingent which is very post-modern.

Turns out, Miss Saeki interviewed survivors of lightning strikes for a book; Kafka’s father was a survivor.  Did they meet? She says no.

Kafka and Miss Saeki walk to the beach; he puts his arms around her and she says I did this exact same thing a long time ago.  “We're all dreaming aren’t we?” (299)

Kafka dreams that he rapes his sister, Sakura. But it never actually happened--only in his dreams--but "In dreams begins responsibilities" so Kafka feels respnsible.

There is a "thing," a dark shdow inside him and it has revealed itself. I don't yet know if this thing inside me is good or bad, but whichever it is, I canit hold it back or stop it. It's stil a slimy, faceless being, but it will son break free of its shell, show its face, and slough off its jelly-like coating. Then I'll know what it really is. Now, though, it's just a formless sign.(369)

Does this foreshadow the pale thing that comes out of Nakata's mouth, glistening with mucus? (452-54)

Kafka’s theory: his father wanted his wife, Miss Saeki back but couldn’t get her so he wanted his son to murder him, sleep with Saeki and his sister.  This is the prophecy, the curse.

Miss Saeki says she remembers no one named Tamura.  She feels things are changing around her.  Doesn’t know if what she did with Kafka was right or not—but they make love again.

Kafka feels lost Oshima advises him to listen to the wind.  His problems are not his fault, not that of DNA or Structuralism. Life operates on a mechanism of forces of destruction and loss.  Our lives are just shadows of that guiding principle. 

Kafka goes into the forest.  Carefully, at first, marking his trail with yellow spray paint but eventually he sheds his fear, drops his gear; he is a hollow man with nothing left to fear; and then he meets the two Imperial Soldiers lost years ago.  They are guarding the entrance and they have been waiting for him.
Why relics from WWII? Is Murakami signalling readers that the past--especially Japanese conduct in WWII--is never far away from the present? The past is something that must be dealt with?

Special Crow chapter:

He and Johnnie Walker meet in the forest.  JW believes the flute he made from cat’s souls will protect him.  His flute is beyond any world’s standards of good and evil, love or hatred.  He could make a supersized one that could become a system unto itself.  Crow attacks JW with his talons and rips his eyes and tongue out.  JW just laughs a silent laugh.

 Nakata wants to return to normal Nakata; he needs to take care of Johnnie Walker and get his shadow back. For that, he has to open the entrance.
Nakata and Hoshino wind up at Komura Library—destiny.

Nakata meets Miss Saeki and they talk.  She has been waiting for him. Nakata has no memories
while Miss Saeki has no real friends; only her memories. She lives in the past but now it is time for that to end.


"Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart."

She opened the entrance a long time ago in hopes to prevent her perfect world form collapsing.  She failed. 

Nakata opened the entrance recently with Hoshino "so things would be restored to the way they should be."

Miss Saeki's life ended at age 20; everything after that, including a marriage, was meaningless.  But, she wrote all her memories down.  A record of her life.

The PROCESS (of writing) was important, and necessary; but the final product is meaningless, she says. (392)

Now, she needs Nakata to burn the manuscript that contains all of her memories. 

Nakata puts his hands on hers and siphons off her pain.  She too has only half a shadow. 

She then dies at her desk.

Hoshino and Nakata burn her memories--so we will never have the answeres to whether she is kafka's mother or not--and
then Nakata dies, too.


Hoshino introduced to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio in a coffee shop—by the Million Dollar Trio.  He wrote it when he was 40 and never wrote another.  His best. 

Likened to Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Shoot the Piano Player—a similar spirit animates them, "an inward-moving spirit filled with a pliant, youthful curiosity."

Hoshino resolves: I am going to follow Nakata to the end of the line.

Kafka winds up deep in the forest in the strange village where time does not exist.  Or, anyway, “It is not much of a factor, here.”  If you accept its premises, you can become completely yourself.  Memories, like time, are not so important there.  “In a place where time isn’t important, neither is memory.” (438)

A young woman who looks like the young Miss Saeki cooks for Kafka and does his laundry but on p. 439 the real Miss Saeki—whose death was already mentioned on p. 395 after meeting with Mr. Nakata and giving him all her memories to burn—appears. She tells him she has burned up all her memories and they went up in smoke and disappeared into the air. 

She tells Kafka that he has to get out of there as quickly as he can.  She wants him to go back to the life he left and live a life.  The entrance is going to close soon.

He says that all his life he has had no one to love him, no one he could count on other than himself so he has no life to go back to. “For me, the idea of the life I left is meaningless.”  He does not know how to have a life but she tells him that he has to go back for her so that he can remember her. 

“If you remember me, I don’t care if everyone else forgets.” (440)

She tells him she wants him to take the painting, Kafka on the Shore.  It is yours; you were there and I was there beside you, watching you.  He remembers the moment, she was there and he was in love with her.  That is the memory.

They hold each other, he smells the ocean.  “Are you my mother?”  “You already know the answer to that.”  I do, but neither of us can put it into words; putting it into words will destroy any meaning. 

Miss Saeki confesses that she once abandoned someone she loved very much and shouldn’t have abandoned.  But she would lose him anyway; he would be taken away.  “Do you forgive me?”  “If I have the right, then I do forgive you.”  Mother.

Miss Saeki advises him to look at the painting that she has left for him back at the library.

"After all, the painting is originally yours.You were there and I was there beside you, watching you. On the shore, a long time ago." (441)


So are Kafka and Miss Saeki's lover somehow one?

Miss Saeki: “Farewell, Kafka Tamura.  Go back to where you belong and live.”

Kafka: "Miss Saeki, I don't know what it means to live

Miss Saeki: "Look at the painting. Keep looking at the painting, just like I did."

And she leaves. (442)

When Kakfka gets back to Oshima's cabin it is 4:16 pm. Back at the Komura library, Miss Saeki dies at 4:35 pm on Tuesday.


On the bullet train back to Tokyo, Crow tells Kafka he has done well. 

“But I still don’t know anything about life.”

“Look at the painting and listen to the wind.” (467)

Crow tell Kafka he should get some sleep; and when he awakens, he will be part of a brand-new world.


This suggests some closure and some new beginnings. Kafka has completed his quest, he has survived the metaphorical sandstorm.

He journeyed deep into the heart of the forest, into a place where time and memory don't count for very much;

he could have stayed there forever but he does not. He returns to face his life and all its challenges. He assumes responsibility.

He has come through his journey a changed person; he has grown up, become stronger, become more aware of how Memory and the Past may shape our lives in the Present.

Meanwhile, Hoshino must take over for Mr. Nakata who has died.  An Irony: Mr. Nakata wanted to return to his normal self with the ability to read; but then they just burned all Miss Saeki’s memories.

A cat comes and talks to him.  Toro.  Before he died but while he was asleep, Hoshino tells him how much he has meant to him—his time with Nakata was the most meaningful time in his life.  Now he must pay up and return the entrance stone—and fight with a demon?

Toro explains that he has to kill it, whatever it is.  Cats know everything and Mr. Hoshino is famous.  You have always taken everything lightly and now you have to make up for that.  Do it for Mr. Nakata. In a way, this has become a Quest Narrative: Hoshino, guided by the "Holy Fool," Nakata, must save the situation and make the world right.
They are like Frodo and Sam.

Murakami states in an interview:

"Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. Instead several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write."

So Murakami is bringing an open text to the reader who has to write him or herself into it.

What are the riddles?

1. They could be about IDENTITY. Who is Kafka and does part of him become part of Nakata? How about MEMORIES? Do MEMORIES make Identity? In the place deep in the forest, memories and time do not really mean much; they are no longer important.

2.They could also be about REALITY--what is it? where is it? Among the CHARACTERS, hich ones are real and when are they real?

Kafka, Nakata, the 15-year old Miss Saeki, the 50-year-old Miss Saeki, Johnnie Walker, Colonel Sanders, Sakura. Which ones are real? We never actually meet Kafka's father but he seems to be an empty man, Hollow Man, devoid of spirit--so he somehow becomes Johnnie Walker?

3. Could also be about a Body and Spirit dichotomy: Does Kafka's spirit join with Nakata's?

Clearly, Nakata's spirit does join with Hoshino's...At least their paths join alnong their journey together.

4. Is Miss Saeki Kafka's mother? She says no. She has no memory of Kafka's father or having children.

She also says at the end that Kafka knows the answer. But do we? All we are told is that if the "truth" gets articulated, it would not have any meaning; it would lose its meaning.

5. But is Miss Saeki really there, really present when we meet her in her 50s? Miss Saeki lost her spirit when her lover died; she can only live in the past after age 20. And she only has half of her shadow (like Nakata). So, she has not been really living or really WHOLE since she was 20.

Where does Miss Saeki's spirit go after she dies?

6. The nature of Kafka's JOURNEY. Kafka leaves home to search for his spirit. He says that "the journey I am taking is inside; what I am seeing is my inner self." (397)

He is no longer experiencing the fear he once did. Does the spirit of Miss Saeki's boyfriend find a place in Kafka?

7. Is Kafka's journey about reuniting his Mind and Spirit with his Body? Remember that "When you come out of this metaphysical sand]storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about." Is that what the journey is all about, too?

8. What is the long, pale slim object that comes out of Nakata's mouth? It has a tail like a salamander, but no legs, no eyes, no mouth or nose. Thick as a man's arm, it glistens like mucus. Once the entrance is closed, it can be disposed of easily. (452-54)

9. The text is not subtle about pointing our that everything is Metaphor (Goethe).

Is everyone, are all the characters METAPHORS? Johnnie Walker, Colonel Sanders?

10. Is this a narrative about becoming WHOLE?

SO, it is not just a JOURNEY of self-discovery but about uniting Body, Mind, Spirit in order to forge a new, genuine, real IDENTITY? These sorts of thing only have real MEANING or VALUE if you do them yourself, if you take charge and embark on the journey. Isn't that what Kafka is doing?

Much is made of the fact that Murakami usually has protagonists in their late 20s or 30s. A 15-year old is a new departure for him. Why did he do this? Is it because it is a time of character and identity formation?