Week 23: 海辺のカフカ - Kafka on the Shore 🏖 [END]

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海辺のカフカ - Kafka on the Shore :beach_umbrella: Home Thread

Week 23


Start Date: Oct 29
Previous Part: Week 22


Week Start Date Chapters Page Count
Week 23 Oct 29 48, 49 48

Discussion Rules

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I finished the book today, woo! Feels like it’s been a long time :tada:

As far as these chapters go I felt like the Hoshino chapter was a good ending for that plot but the Kafka chapter was a bit nothing :man_shrugging: I think in general in the 下 volume I really liked the Nakata/Hoshino chapters and was kind of disappointed with where the Kafka storyline went. It felt like a lot was set up for not all that much pay off at the end

This was the first Murakami I had read (in Japanese or English) and there was a lot I liked about it (and some things that were problematic). I can see myself reading more from him in the future.

PS - I just love Nakata and Hoshino :black_cat:


I kinda liked the book and kinda did not. I think Murakami’s not really for me, but I enjoyed parts of the book quite a lot, in particular the Nakata/Hoshino interactions in 下. When Hoshino starts getting used to Nakata’s weirdness, to the point where he expects and embraces it, I just love it.

On the other hand I wasn’t a fan of the “Murakami scenes”, and I also find it frustrating that nothing really gets explained. I get it, it’s open to interpretation, but I’m bad at interpreting and I like being spoon fed explanations :upside_down_face:


A bit late to the party but I finished the book as well! :tada:

Overall I must say I liked the first part a lot more, the second part had some serious drag around the middle… But the ending wrapped it up very nicely for me.

Hoshino and Nakata really turned more and more into a dream team. I really loved with how much respect they treated each other, and how they accepted and finally embraced each other’s strangenesses, culminating in Hoshino taking over some of Nakata’s strangenesses in the end, like talking to cats and stones. And when he said at the farewell that he will always think about what Nakata would say and do in any given situation, that was pretty much a :smiling_face_with_tear: moment.

With Kafka, when he was in the hut for the first time, I was really afraid he would go into the forest and do something stupid and get lost, but when he then finally went into the forest the second time around, it was totally clear to me that that was going to happen and I was totally fine with it.

Altogether, if I was to give an interpretation, for me the Hoshino/Nakata track was about respect and acceptance of others and being open to discovering unusual skills in people usually regarded as “dull” or “stupid”. The Kafka track was about growing up and building connections in the world, and also about losing connections and nonetheless preserving memories. He lost his family and all connections with his former world, but he found so many friends, like Oshima, Sakura, and of course he found his mother. In order to do this, Murakami drew some pretty drastic pictures, like Kafka had to go through this whole Oedipus thing, and his father / Johnny Walker had to be killed / maimed in cruel ways through two of his representatives. But especially the very last scenes of saying goodbye to Oshima and Sakura, and then returning to Tokyo, felt extremely wholesome to me.

Regarding Murakami books, I’ve only read 1Q84 so far, and I must say Kafka contains many many many more “Murakami scenes” compared to 1Q84, and it’s also much more violent. Not gonna lie, both aspects are also present in 1Q84, but I felt that it’s not so omnipresent. But maybe I just misremember, and also I read it in my native language, so my perception may be somewhat different.

My thoughts on finishing the book (unmarked spoilers)

I finished reading Kafka on the Shore! Right on schedule…

At first I was keeping up roughly with the book club schedule but not posting anything about it, because I found the book easy and generally pleasant and interesting to read, but one where it felt like I definitely had to take in the whole thing before being able to talk about it at all (so even now I’m writing this up before actually looking at any subsequent posts in the book club or anthing like that), and so I was in a sort of like, reserving judgment but mildly positive sort of state. That persisted up until the library bathroom scene, which I posted about at the time, where it shifted to reserving judgment but mildly negative, a shift that makes a big difference on how interested I was in picking it up to read more… After some time though the negative feeling mostly faded into more of a “let’s get it over with” feeling and I read the second half more quickly than the first half.

I remember in my earlier post I think I described the issue I had with that one scene as like, it felt like Murakami wasn’t trying to portray a real transgender experience, but just working the characters into whatever structure and metaphor he wanted to portray. And I think that’s probably valid, but also maybe not something to complain about per se, since it’s also I think like – what’s enjoyable about the entire book, since Murakami’s willingness to just put whatever the hell in there he wants and thinks will support what he’s trying to get across, unbound from taboos or exact logic or pre-existing expectations is what makes the book interesting and fun to read, with lots of specific details and unusual things happening to keep you generally enjoying what’s going on (or at least being curious enough about what’s going to happen next to keep reading). It’s a genuinely impressive skill, and I think I remember in creative writing classes in college I tried to channel that kind of writing (to surely less quality results) partly to write interesting things, and partly since I was never going to meet any of the deadlines if I was too inhibited by (some of!) the kinds of things Murakami clearly isn’t inhibited by (others I am 100% okay still being inhibited by).

Which I guess is to say that while it’s like, “here’s a strange story I’m going to tell you, and it’s up to you to figure out what to make of it” (which mostly I think it is) I’m pretty much on board, but when it edges a bit into like, soapbox type stuff? Like it feels like it does with the bathroom scene, and kinda does for a lot of those like, lectures on a particular piece of art. That stuff definitely isn’t… my favorite, especially when it strays into areas where it’s a lot harder to treat it as its own separate literary world being talked about, ignoring how real people in real societies might behave in your own experience. It feels like it leans very very heavily on like, literary benefit of the doubt in that sense, which is fine, but then if it ever comes across directly as “and now I’m going to tell you how the world works” I feel like I kneejerk reject it. (especially since I just don’t in general get the impression Murakami’s こだわり match my own.)

Overall I feel like the experience reading the book felt very much like playing a very long JRPG that I’m kind of into but not fully invested in (I’m thinking specifically of the Persona games I’ve played in the past), where it’s interesting enough to keep going through the moment-to-moment motions (either enjoying the battles well enough, or enjoying what weird thing is going to happen next), but the time investment : emotional investment ratio is maybe starting to feel too skewed to really want to keep going. But whereas with games I’ve tended to err on the side of dropping it when I start to feel that way… it’s harder to feel like I’ve gotten closure on a novel like this without actually reading the whole thing (and it’s probably less time investment overall anyway than a game like that?). And I think it was probably worthwhile. But both the game and the novel I’m describing end up in that odd twilight zone where I enjoyed them enough to want to play more games in the series / read more Murakami books some day, but didn’t enjoy them enough to probably get around to spending that much time again on one for quite a while.

But anyway – taking it as a whole novel, there’s surely enough rich and interesting things going on in here to be great fuel for say, a night spent feverishly trying to work out a thesis for an English paper due the next day (it’s even conveniently easy to read and segmented enough that it would probably be quite fun to go back and cross-reference things while building a train of thought). And it’s one of those books where on the one hand I kind of regret that I’m definitely not going to actually do something like that for it, and on the other hand am very glad I don’t have to. I suppose if I were to start exploring what kinds of things I would think about in the novel… I suppose my impression is it stands to some kind of reason that the business with ナカタ and the murder and the stone and whatnot are engineered in some way to facilitate Kafka’s fated oedipal coming of age journey of sorts and work out his very heavy parental baggage. With the stone presumably opening the door into that sort of afterlife, the murder standing in for Kafka in some way, etc. I think what most interests me about that, is working out what Johnnie Walker and Col. Sanders’ role in all that business would then be, as it seems like they at the very least facilitate it, and potentially instigate the whole thing. Are the plane from the very beginning + Walker + Sanders all in cahoots so to speak, representing the same type of fate? If so it might be interesting that the stone is taken from a Shinto temple, suggesting maybe some kind of opposition, or at least a different flavor of supernatural/fate powers or whatever than you would associate with those signifiers. The white thingy in Nakata would also be interesting to look into along these lines.

Another topic I might be interested to look into if I had an essay due about the book, would be Saeki, since my initial impression is it seems like she gets the shortest shrift from the book in terms of like, being written as her own person, since she’s only portrayed as a complicated vector of love and obsession between the male characters, and her willingness/acceptance to just die, and seeming lack of any personal life outside of the library is off-putting to me. So I would be curious to check back in on passages describing her and her backstory that I only half-remember, to see if I come away with that opinion strengthened or find depth I didn’t appreciate in looking back at the book again centering her perspective.

… But it’s not like I’m actually going to pursue any of those threads. I’m glad to be done with the book and didn’t read it quickly enough to be able to construct any kind of argument from memory and don’t have the energy to even read other peoples’ readings of the book, much less look back over it to form my own.

Fortunately I think the structure is meaningfully laid out enough, with enough tangible surface character moments (like Nakata and Hoshino’s relationship is very likeable and the former’s death affecting), to feel like a meaningful journey was taken even without doing a deeper reading and connecting all the dots.

I think I liked the book best early on, when the reports about the incident during the war were still happening, since they provided a nice change of pace and a tangible hook to wonder about. I think I liked the book least when it was spending so much time on Kafka’s obsession with Saeki and her youthful ghost or whatever – it got a bit too like, Murakami soup, so to speak, in that it didn’t feel like there were as many standout ups and downs to stay grounded with (like early on there was the Johnnie Walker scene, the shock of the memory gap and the blood on his hands, etc.). I’m glad I read it and I think in the end I did like it, and I would read another Murakami in the future, but it definitely wasn’t an unconflicted discovery of something new I love, or anything like that.