As 1Q84 begins, Aomame is stuck in traffic in a taxi on the Metropolitan Expressway Number 3 in Tokyo. The radio is playing a classical music piece, Janáček’s Sinfonietta. Aomame reflects that when this music was written, nobody knew that World War II was coming. In her mind, she broadens this point to express what she thinks is the central lesson of history: “At the time, nobody knew what was coming.”
Next, Aomame’s thoughts turn to her name, which means “green peas.” It is an odd name that often makes people laugh when they hear it. Privately, she thinks that she might be a better person if she had a more normal name that did not make her feel ridiculed.
As the Sinfonietta continues playing, Aomoame wonders why she knows the name of this particular piece. She is not a particularly avid music fan, and she normally only recognizes music that is more well-known. As she listens, she gets “an odd, wrenching kind of feeling,” as if her body is being “physically wrung out.”
The driver asks if Aomame has urgent business at her destination, and she says that she does. He explains that the traffic jam is very bad and that the taxi will be stuck on the expressway for several hours. She finds it odd that he is telling her this, since she knows for a fact that he has not been listening to the traffic report. He tells her that those reports are mostly lies:
If you really want to know what’s happening here and now, you’ve got to use your own eyes and your own judgment.
As the conversation continues, the driver says that Aomame is certainly going to be late—unless she tries an unconventional method of getting where she is going. He points out an emergency staircase that leads down to the street below. If Aomame gets out of the car and goes down those stairs, she will be able to walk to a...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Tengo Kawana has a vivid memory from when he was a baby. In the memory, he is in his crib, and he sees a man who is not his father sucking on his mother’s breasts. All his life, this memory has returned to Tengo at odd times. When he least expects it, it overtakes his consciousness like a sort of seizure.
Today Tengo’s memory comes to him when he is sitting at a café with his friend Komatsu. After the spell passes, Tengo feels drained. Komatsu asks if it was some kind of fit, but Tengo claims it was only a dizzy spell. Privately, he reflects that he has never told anyone about the image he sees.
Tengo and Komatsu discuss the recent submissions to a literary contest for new writers. In particular, they discuss a novella called Air Chrysalis, which was written by a seventeen-year-old girl named Fuka-Eri. They agree that this story has a germ of real beauty in it, but that its style and grammar are terrible.
During this conversation, Tengo reflects that Komatsu is a widely disliked but highly successful editor. He works for a prestigious literary journal and has a way of getting his hands on the best new work. Because of this, people treat him with respect. However, he is brusque and rude to nearly everyone around him.
Tengo is a writer. He met Komatsu five years ago when he submitted a story to the new writers contest. The story did not win, but it caught Komatsu's attention. Ever since, Tengo has occasionally submitted stories to Komatsu for criticism and discussion. None of this fiction has yet been published, but Tengo knows that he is improving. Meanwhile, he does occasional freelance writing work and helps to screen contest submissions. For a living, Tengo teaches math at a cram school in Tokyo.
As the conversation about Air Chrysalis continues, Komatsu says that the novella could be a literary sensation. However, it needs drastic revisions that Fuka-Eri cannot make herself. Komatsu asks Tengo to re-write the story as a ghostwriter. If Tengo does a good job, Komatsu will put the story on the short list for the contest. Fuka-Eri will still be listed as the sole author, but all three of them—Tengo, Komatsu, and Fuka-Eri—will share the royalties if the book is eventually published.
This plan seems risky to Tengo, who thinks this plan is sure to result in scandal. However, he is so moved by the story that he does feel tempted to work on it. At Komatsu's urging, Tengo agrees to think the matter over.
As Aomame descends the emergency stairwell, she continues hearing Janáček’s Sinfonietta in her mind. Her thoughts become disordered during the long climb down. She thinks for a while about a lesbian experience she had with her friend Tamaki in high school. When she tries to force her thoughts back to the present reality, she has an odd sensation that her memories are all jumbling together. This bothers her because she is normally a very precise person and because she needs her wits today.
When Aomame reaches the street level, she is relieved not to find any security guards waiting for her. However, she soon realizes that she is in an enclosed storage yard with a locked gate. The fence is topped with barbed wire, and she doubts that she can climb it. Annoyed, she looks around for a way out. After a careful search, she finds a cut spot in the chain link fence that is just big enough for her to slip through.
Aomame dusts herself off and makes her way to the subway. At her destination, she rents a storage locker and stows her jacket so that she can appear at her appointment looking professional and put-together in her nice suit. As a final measure, she unbuttons the top button of her blouse so that she can flash her cleavage if necessary.
On her way to the appointment, Aomame passes a police officer on the street and notices that he is wearing a new kind of uniform. He is also carrying a heavy semi-automatic pistol rather than the normal six-shooter police officers usually carry. This bothers Aomame because she would normally notice if a major change happened to police uniforms and weaponry.
Aomame puts these thoughts out of her mind and makes her way to a hotel. She finds room 426 and knocks on the door. The man in the room, Miyama, grumbles that he is busy working and does not want to be disturbed. She talks her way inside, pretending that she needs to examine the...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
In the middle of the night on Thursday, Tengo is awakened by a phone call. Even before answering, he knows who is on the other end of the line. Komatsu always calls whenever he feels the urge, regardless of the time of day. Tengo has often begged his friend to look at the time before dialing the phone, but Komatsu does what he wants.
When Tengo picks up the phone, Komatsu announces that he has scheduled a meeting with Fuka-Eri for the following evening. Tengo protests that he has not yet agreed to rewrite Air Chrysalis, but Komatsu brushes this off. He encourages Tengo to meet the girl before deciding.
On Friday evening, Tengo goes to the meeting. Fuka-Eri, a strikingly pretty high school girl, arrives late. She has a strange, direct way of looking at people, and she speaks only in short phrases that mimic her strangely spare writing style. When she asks questions, she does so without inflection or elaboration, often leaving Tengo to guess exactly what she means. She is not easy to talk to, but Tengo is nonetheless impressed by the force of her personality.
During the meeting, Tengo explains Komatsu’s plan for rewriting Air Chrysalis. Fuka-Eri just shrugs and says that Tengo can “fix” the story if he wants to. He asks why she feels this way, but she has no explanation. All she says is that she never had any intention of publishing the story. Someone else gave it its title and sent it to the competition.
Tengo does not really understand Air Chrysalis, which is a fantastical story involving magical creatures called Little People. As he struggles to explain why he likes it, he says, “Your imagination has a special kind of power.” She tells him that the Little People are real. Tengo does not know what to make of this, but he thinks that something is "out of the ordinary" about her. He says later to Komatsu:
[Fuka-Eri] may be seeing things that you and I don’t see. She might have something special.
At the end of the meeting, Fuka-Eri asks Tengo to meet someone with her. Under the circumstances, Tengo does not feel it would be right to deny her any reasonable request. He agrees to meet this other person on Sunday.
When Komatsu hears that Fuka-Eri has granted permission for the rewrite, he is very pleased. He encourages Tengo to start working on the story right away, even before the Sunday meeting. He wants the rewrite completed in ten days, in time to submit the story with the other short-listed contenders for the new writers competition.
Aomame needs to calm herself after her job, so she goes to a bar at a high-class hotel and orders a gin and tonic. As she sips her drink, she reads a book and surreptitiously watches the men who come and go. Privately, she reflects that she enjoys one-night stands with the sorts of men who stay in hotels like this one.
A balding man enters the bar and orders a Scotch highball. Aomame is attracted to bald men with nicely shaped heads, so she strikes up a conversation. The man is undisguisedly surprised that a young, beautiful woman is showing interest in him, but he chats amiably anyway. He tells her about his boring job, and she describes her own work as a “specialized profession”...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Komatsu calls Tengo at five o’clock in the morning to ask if he owns a word processor. Tengo replies that he cannot afford one on his teacher salary. Komatsu says that he wants to buy Tengo a word processor for use in the revision of Air Chrysalis. The original story was printed with a word processor, and the rewrite must look the same.
Tengo has a girlfriend, an older married woman with two kids who comes to his house once a week for sex. She is supposed to come today, but she cancels at the last minute. Tengo does not mind. Although he enjoys his low-stress, going-nowhere relationship, he is eager to get started on the Air Chrysalis project. He still has...
(The entire section is 417 words.)
On Saturday, Aomame goes to the home of her wealthy employer. On the lawn, she speaks with Tamaru, an enormous bodyguard with a gentle demeanor. As they chat, he says mildly that a man has turned up dead of a heart attack in a nearby hotel. From this, Aomame understands that the authorities have not attributed Miyama’s death to murder.
Tamaru escorts Aomoame into a greenhouse full of plants and butterflies. There she meets with her employer, an elderly dowager who inherited a great deal of money from her aristocratic husband. When he died just after World War II, the dowager went into business. She compounded her fortune through the stock market and real estate investments. Now she...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
On Sunday morning, Tengo goes to meet Fuka-Eri. On the way he reflects that, as a child, he hated Sundays. His father collected fees for NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation. His job required him to go from door to door collecting fees from anyone who used radios or televisions. On Tengo’s one day off from school, he was required to accompany his father. Reluctant customers were more likely to pay fees when Tengo was with his father, a fact which Tengo understood implicitly from a young age. He hated being used in this way, and he hated the fact that he did not have the freedom to enjoy himself as his friends did.
Tengo’s father was extremely poor. In the 1930s, along with...
(The entire section is 489 words.)
Aomame spends most of the day on Sunday at a library, where she carefully reads through a series of old newspapers from the final months of 1981. She remembers many of the news stories she reads, but she finds two which she does not recall. One describes an NHK fee collector who murdered a college student after the student refused to pay his NHK fees. The other describes a shootout between police and residents of a commune at a place called Lake Motosu. Reading the details, she learns that the residents of the commune, a group of radical revolutionaries, killed several officers with automatic rifles. The story is clearly the same one Tamaru described.
Flipping through the newspapers,...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Fuka-Eri leads Tengo by the hand out of their train and into another train. He does not know exactly what she means by holding his hand, but he guesses that she is not trying to be romantic. Inwardly he considers the possibility that she may be able to read his thoughts or emotions through touch. Whether or not this is the case, the human contact makes him feel better. His panic subsides.
They disembark at a rural train station, and Fuka-Eri finds a taxi. The driver takes them to a house out in the hills, well away from any other buildings. Tengo admires the view but thinks that whoever lives in this place must not care much for other people’s company.
Tengo and Fuka-Eri...
(The entire section is 569 words.)
One of Aomame’s talents is her ability to kick a man in the testicles. She believes wholeheartedly that a skilled, unflinching attack of this kind is the only way that a woman can fend off a physical attack by a man. She has discussed this with male acquaintances, one of whom once told her that being kicked in the testicles
hurts so much you think the end of the world is coming right now. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s different from ordinary pain.
Aomame is fascinated by this description and by her observation of men’s vulnerability after a kick to the testicles. She watches the movie On the Beach, a dark...
(The entire section is 425 words.)
In the middle of his description of Fuka-Eri’s history, the Professor asks her to go and make some tea. As soon as she is gone, he leans forward and rapidly explains a few important details that might upset her.
The Professor says that Fuka-Eri showed up on his doorstep seven years ago, several years before the Lake Motosu incident. He knew her well from her early childhood, and she was no longer the same happy, talkative little girl he used to know. She could not speak, and she had clearly been badly frightened. Even now, she refuses to talk about her experiences at the time.
The Professor called, wrote, and tried to visit the Sakigake compound many times, but he never...
(The entire section is 609 words.)
The morning after meeting Ayumi, Aomame awakes at home in her own bed with no memory of how she got there. She has a terrible hangover, which is unusual for her, and she cannot remember much from last night. She has a fuzzy memory of having sex with one man and then, after meeting back up with Ayumi, trading partners and having sex with the other man as well.
In the afternoon, Aomame goes to Willow House to give the dowager a deep tissue massage. The dowager accepts the painful treatment and says that it does her good. She suggests that Aomame consider having a committed relationship. At this, Aomame admits that she is already in love. However, the man does not know she exists, and...
(The entire section is 535 words.)
Shortly after he finishes the rewrite of Air Chrysalis, Tengo meets Komatsu in a café. Tengo admits that he enjoyed doing the rewrite and feels good about the product, but he is still worried about a possible scandal. He suggests withdrawing the piece from the new writers competition. Komatsu refuses. He says that the rewrite is too brilliant to suppress. At this point, it would be “a crime” to keep such a great piece of literature out of the public eye.
Komatsu offers only one critique of Tengo’s rewrite. At the end of the story, the narrator sees two moons in the sky. Komatsu says that the description of these two moons has to be more detailed so that the reader can...
(The entire section is 473 words.)
As Aomame makes dinner, she reflects on the fact that she invests in few luxuries for herself. In childhood, such a life was forced on her by her parents, who strictly followed the doctrines of the Society of Witnesses. At the time, she only wanted to get away and live a normal life. But now that she is an adult, she realizes that she actually prefers a lifestyle of “self-denial and moderation.” Her needs are simple, and she prefers to avoid excess and clutter.
Whenever Aomame kills a man, the dowager gives her a lump sum of money. This payment is delivered in cash, in wrapped paper inside a post office box. She does not want the money, but the dowager insists on paying. She says...
(The entire section is 704 words.)
Now that Tengo is finished with the rewrite of Air Chrysalis, he returns to his own writing and his normal, quiet life. He soon realizes that the experience with Fuka-Eri’s book has changed him. He starts work on a new novel, drawing on “a new wellspring” of words that has come to life inside him.
In May, Komatsu calls and says that Air Chrysalis won the new writers prize. The judges were unanimous, and they made the choice in just a few minutes. They will hold a press conference to announce the choice, and it will be Tengo’s job to prepare Fuka-Eri for this experience. Tengo protests that he was only supposed to rewrite the book, not coach Fuka-Eri in public...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
For several nights, Aomame observes the two moons closely. It is alarming to witness such a huge change in the sky—far more alarming than noticing a couple of new stories in two-year-old newspapers. The change overhead makes no difference to everyday life, but it is still hard to handle. She begins talking to the moons when she is alone, asking them questions she should probably be asking herself:
Have you gone to bed with someone in your arms lately?...Do you have any friends?...Don’t you get tired of always playing it cool?
One evening Aomame has dinner with the dowager at Willow House. As the two of them share a simple meal, Aomame...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
After Fuka-Eri holds her press conference, Komatsu calls Tengo in a jubilant mood to say that the girl did a “brilliant” job in front of the cameras. Tengo buys some newspapers and reads the report. He, too, is pleased. Fuka-Eri answered the questions well and refrained from lying.
Air Chrysalis is published in a literary magazine, which sells out in a single day. A hardcover book version soon follows. Tengo finds it difficult to feel happy about this. He spends most of his time worrying about the scandal that will surely result if anyone finds out about his involvement with the book.
A few days before the book version of Air Chrysalis is released,...
(The entire section is 463 words.)
The dowager says that she does not know who the Little People are. What she does know is that ten-year-old Tsubasa has been raped repeatedly by an adult man. Her uterus is damaged so badly that she is unlikely ever to have children. It is difficult to say at this point whether she will ever want to be close to a man again.
The dowager says that, regardless of whether Tsubasa would have chosen to bear children in adulthood, it was nobody’s right to “rob” her of her ability to do so. The dowager has personally resolved to adopt Tsubasa and see the rapist punished.
As the conversation progresses, Aomame gradually gets an impression of Tsubasa's situation. Her parents...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Tengo gives Fuka-Eri his bed and tries to sleep on the couch, but his worries keep him awake. His girlfriend will be furious if she finds out that Fuka-Eri slept in the apartment. Tengo's girlfriend always insists that he be faithful, even though she sometimes has sex with her husband. She says that sex between married people involves a different set of feelings that has nothing to do with their relationship. Tengo thinks this is ridiculous, but thus far he has never cheated. He does not have much interest in chasing women. He likes the stress-free nature of a relationship that makes no emotional demands on him.
Tengo decides to write instead of sleep, and he works in silence for...
(The entire section is 587 words.)
On another trip to the library, Aomame looks up the old newspaper stories about the commune shooting that caught her attention before. She notices that Akebono, the site of the Lake Motosu shootout, is relatively close to the site of Sakigake. She digs into the newspaper stories about the history of both communes and soon learns that Akebono is an offshoot of Sakigake. However, neither the police nor reporters found any reason to implicate the leaders of Sakigake in connection with the Akebono tragedy. According to the articles, Sakigake is a clean and orderly place full of people living happy but ascetic lives—hardly the sort of commune where one would expect to find members brainwashed into...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Once again, Tengo returns to his normal routine of teaching, writing, and weekly sex with his girlfriend. His writing skills continue to improve, as do his skills at explaining mathematical processes. At the cram school, he delivers a series of captivating lectures. Perhaps as a result of this, several of his female students suddenly seem attracted to him. He notices this but feels totally uninterested in them. No other teenage girl can compare to Fuka-Eri.
Tengo tries to put Fuka-Eri out of his mind, but his thoughts often return to the night she slept at his house. Once while his girlfriend gives him fellatio, he thinks about the pajamas Fuka-Eri wore in his bed, and he experiences...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Aomame and Ayumi repeatedly team up for “all-night sex feasts.” The two of them go out together and troll bars for the right sort of men. When they find a likely pair, Ayumi approaches them and charms them with her cheerful friendliness. Then, at the right moment, Aomame joins the table and lends her standoffish but irresistibly sexy atmosphere to the proceedings. Eventually they all retire to a hotel room and have sex "like mad.”
One evening Aomame and Ayumi go out looking for such an adventure, but they find all the bars dead, devoid of men who suit their tastes. At ten-thirty, they give up, and Ayumi suggests buying a late dinner with some “extra” money she has in her...
(The entire section is 553 words.)
One rainy Thursday, Tengo finds a package in the mailbox with his name on it. From the handwriting, he knows right away that it comes from Fuka-Eri. He opens it and finds a cassette tape, which he immediately plays.
On the cassette is a verbal letter from Fuka-Eri. Her flat, expressionless speech sounds even stranger on tape than in real life. Her ideas have no organization that he can discern, and she does not seem to know about the pause button. On several occasions, she falls silent and thinks. These moments are recorded as silence with a bit of background noise.
In her letter, Fuka-Eri explains that she is in hiding in a safe place far away from home and that she feels...
(The entire section is 620 words.)
As Book Two of 1Q84 begins, Aomame is visiting Willow House. There she learns that Tsubasa has run away. It appears that the girl just walked out of the house in her pajamas in the middle of the night, perhaps because the horrible death of the dog frightened her. As the dowager explains this, she seems older and more tired than ever before. Both she and Aomame find it difficult to imagine making one’s way alone in Tokyo, wearing only pajamas, at the age of ten. However, they agree that Tsubasa has already proven herself to be more independent than the average child.
The conversation turns to Sakigake and Leader, the man responsible for hurting Tsubasa in the first place....
(The entire section is 405 words.)
During his writing session one morning, Tengo listens to Janáček’s Sinfonietta, a piece he has remembered fondly ever since he played the percussion part of it in high school. After he finishes writing for the day, he buys breakfast and a newspaper. The paper contains an article about Fuka-Eri, a brief piece stating that she is missing. Tengo reflects that the news writers are hedging their bets. They do not want to ignore the story in case it turns big, but they do not want to make a big deal of it in case it turns out to be nothing.
At the cram school that day, Tengo has a strange visitor named Toshiharu Ushikawa. Ushikawa is an unusually ugly man. His whole head is...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Aomame cannot get used to the fact that there are two moons in the sky. She stares at them every time they come out. Their presence makes her feel heavy, as if her period is coming. But she cannot bring herself to talk to anyone about what she sees in the sky.
On her next visit to the dowager, Aomame reports that her affairs are in order. She has rid herself of all extraneous possessions and packed an overnight bag containing the few things she cannot leave behind. The dowager promises to pay Aomame handsomely and to handle her physical effects after her disappearance.
Leader’s murder is tentatively planned. It turns out that he has some odd physical problems for which...
(The entire section is 657 words.)
Tengo thinks about Aomame, the girl who held his hand once in fifth grade. He hopes that she does not belong to the Society of Witnesses anymore. He never had the sense that she held any particular connection to the faith, and he doubts that she would be happy living under its strict rules.
Holding Aomame’s hand was a formative moment in Tengo’s life. The night after it happened, he experienced his first ejaculation in a dream. He did not yet know what ejaculation was, and the experience worried him. As time passed, he began to fantasize about being friends with Aomame. At ten, he had no concept of what they might do together except hold hands and share secrets, but he burned to...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
After learning of Ayumi’s death, Aomame cries for days. Looking back, she feels guilty that she held herself distant. It seemed necessary at the time, but acting otherwise might have saved Ayumi’s life. Ayumi went out man hunting alone, perhaps because she was unwilling to bother the aloof Aomame, and ended up getting strangled in a hotel room with the belt of a robe.
After a few days, Aomame’s grief subsides a bit. She comes to terms with the death and accepts that it was not her own fault. Ayumi had dangerous sexual habits, more dangerous even than Aomame’s, and always faced the risk that something like this would occur. It was probably an accident and not a murder—but...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
For a long time, Tengo hears no word from anyone about Air Chrysalis or Fuka-Eri. He sees references to her story on the covers of glossy magazines, but he does not have the money to buy them. He tells himself that, if the stories concerned him, Komatsu would have called by now. Tengo continues to worry more for Fuka-Eri’s sake than his own, but he knows of no way to find out about her whereabouts or about the Professor’s search for information about Sakigake.
One day, Tengo receives a letter from Komatsu along with a stack of reviews of Air Chrysalis. The letter says that the organization called New Japan Foundation for the Advancement of Scholarship and the Arts...
(The entire section is 561 words.)
Aomame goes early to the hotel where she is supposed to kill Leader. She is wearing light exercise clothes, and this makes her feel out of place among the posh hotel guests. As she waits in the lobby, she has a premonition that her attack will go wrong. Nevertheless, fleeing is out of the question. “That’s not the Aomame way to live,” she thinks to herself. Still, she cannot quell her panic, and so she closes her eyes and recites the prayer she was always forced to say as a child among the Society of Witnesses.
Leader’s two bodyguards, an older man with a buzzcut and a younger man with a ponytail, approach Aomame and introduce themselves. As they lead her upstairs to...
(The entire section is 425 words.)
For a week after receiving those two scary nighttime phone calls, Tengo speaks with almost no one. He feels more removed from his life than he ever has before. He does not know what is happening with Air Chrysalis. He does not know what has happened to his girlfriend. Overcome with worries, he stops writing. He spends his free time worrying and feeling annoyed that nobody is telling him anything.
One morning, Tengo abruptly decides to go see his father, who lives in a sanatorium for elderly people with dementia. Tengo, who has not seen his father for two years, does not know why he wants to go now. He simply buys a ticket to the rural town where the sanatorium is located and...
(The entire section is 720 words.)
Buzzcut leads Aomame into a dark room, where an enormous man is lying face-down, totally still, on a bed. The guard says, “It is time.” The big man does not respond. When the guard repeats himself, the big man sits up and performs what Aomame thinks must be a strange breathing exercise. Buzzcut repeats himself a third time. The breathing exercise ends, and Buzzcut leaves.
In the darkness, Aomame stands facing Leader. She is aware that he is looking at her and that he can somehow see in the darkness, although she cannot. She has the impression that he has the ability to see not only how she looks but who she is inside. This scrutiny makes her feel intensely uncomfortable....
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Tengo sits with his father into the evening. Before saying good-bye, Tengo thanks the old man for what he revealed. It may have been hard to understand, but at least it seemed honest. Tengo explains what he thinks: his father is not his biological father, and his mother left both of them when Tengo was a baby. Her absence left behind a “vacuum,” and Tengo’s father tried to lure her back by raising Tengo as a son. This story may be wrong, but that is okay as long as Tengo can use it to make sense of his own life. Before leaving, he promises to come back again soon. He is shocked to see a tear fall down his father’s cheek.
When Tengo awakes the next morning, he feels like a new...
(The entire section is 542 words.)
Aomame performs a deep tissue massage on Leader’s body. His muscles are all very strong, but their “flow” is “blocked.” Aomame places pressure on the joints to unblock the muscles and restore balance to Leader’s body. She knows that this process is extremely painful, and she is amazed at how much pain he endures without complaint. He has a higher pain tolerance than anyone she has ever met. By the end of an hour’s massage, both he and she are sweating, and she has developed a grudging respect for him.
Leader is impressed by Aomame, too. In the past he has sought the help of many doctors and therapists, and Aomame has given him more relief than any of them. When he asks...
(The entire section is 722 words.)
When Tengo arrives home, the sky is still free of clouds. He stops to check his mail and finds a notice of his first royalty payment for Air Chrysalis. The amount he has received, 1.6 million yen, represents more than he has ever received at once in his life. He does not really need the money, but he cannot help thinking that it is not enough, given the problems that have entered his life because of his work on the book. On reflection, he wonders if accepting the money will compound his problems. He resolves to think seriously about returning the money.
Inside, Tengo and Fuka-Eri discuss the disappearance of his girlfriend. Tengo repeats the words he heard from her husband,...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Aomame is staggered by the discovery that Leader knows both the name of the man she loves and the name 1Q84, her private nickname for the strange new world where she now lives. She asks how she came to be in 1Q84 instead of “the real 1984.” He laughs at this question and tells her that the world she is in now is the real world. It just “switched tracks” at some point. Most people are not aware that this has happened at all. Those few who are aware of it can see two moons in the sky.
After thinking this over, Aomame asks who caused this change to happen in the world. Leader cannot answer this question with any certainty, but he knows that Aomame was “carried” here...
(The entire section is 691 words.)
Fuka-Eri tells Tengo that they have to “go to the town of cats together” and that he has to change into pajamas and get into bed with her. He tries to get her to explain what she has in mind, but she just repeats her instructions in her odd, flat voice and waits for him to obey. He gets into bed and puts his arms around her. Then the two of them sit in silence, listening to the storm.
As they sit like this, Tengo’s thoughts churn. He hopes that he will not get an erection. He thinks it would be hard to explain to a seventeen-year-old girl that a man’s penis just does that sometimes. As if she can hear his thoughts, Fuka-Eri says, “I don’t mind if it gets hard.”
(The entire section is 536 words.)
After killing Leader, Aomame sticks her gun in the waistband of her pants. She steps out to the sitting room, where the two bodyguards are waiting. She tells them that Leader is asleep. Buzzcut looks into the room suspiciously. Aomame says that Leader should not be disturbed for at least two hours because his muscles need time to recover from the massage.
Aomame steps into the powder room to change out of her workout clothes. She wishes she could just leave instead, but she knows she might arouse suspicions if she does not follow a normal routine. After changing, she studies herself in the mirror. She looks like “the usual cool Aomame.” She orders herself to keep this air of...
(The entire section is 580 words.)
In the morning, Tengo gets out of bed early. In his mind, he grapples with his memories of what happened last night. He finds it hard to believe that his strange sexual encounter with Fuka-Eri was real, and yet he knows that it must have been. He wonders whether he has now entered a new world.
When Fuka-Eri gets up, Tengo says that he wants to schedule a meeting between her, himself, and Komatsu. She asks why, and he explains that he wants to give back the money he has thus far received for Air Chrysalis. She doubts that this will make a difference and says, somewhat ominously, that they may not be able to meet with Komatsu anyway. However, she agrees that she will go to a...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
Alone in the sterile apartment in the Koenji district, Aomame struggles with her feelings about the murder she has just committed. All of her murders have been difficult, but the other men she killed inspired no feelings in her. Leader was different. He was “an extraordinary human being.” Because of this, the emotional effects of killing him also feel extraordinary.
In the morning, Tamaru calls and says that the Sakigake people appear to have decided to keep Leader’s death a secret. However, they will certainly want to speak to Aomame about it. When they find that she has disappeared, they will conclude that the death was no accident. They will surely try to find her and take...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Fuka-Eri tells Tengo that Aomame is in a place he can walk to, but that she is “hiding...like a wounded cat.” After a moment, Fuka-Eri adds that Tengo should look for Aomame by examining his memories. This may give him a clue that could lead him to the right place.
Tengo thinks about this advice throughout the afternoon. After dinner, he goes out walking alone. He sits down in a bar and sips a drink, wondering why his one vivid encounter with Aomame has made such a deep impression on his life. He realizes that he has always led a lonely life. On that day when she held his hand in elementary school, she convinced him that he was not alone.
Next, Tengo tries to guess why...
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Alone in the sterile apartment, Aomame reads Air Chrysalis carefully. From the beginning, she can tell that the person who crafted this story—Tengo Kawana, if Leader is to be believed—has excellent control of language and emotion. It is a simple story told from the perspective of a little girl who describes what happens without stopping to analyze what it all means. Readers simply go along with her until suddenly, the girl’s world is “not this world,” but rather a fantastical place filled with Little People and air chrysalises.
Air Chrysalis takes place in a commune called the Gathering. The adults of the commune have left the outside world, and...
(The entire section is 777 words.)
Tengo stares up at the sky for a long time, trying to convince himself that the new moon is just an optical illusion. But it is there. It is real, and he cannot change it. This terrifies him, largely because it looks exactly like the moon he described when he wrote Air Chrysalis. Fuka-Eri did not describe the second moon in her original text. Komatsu made Tengo elaborate on that aspect in the final version. The visual language Tengo used in his description was invented in his imagination—but the extra moon hanging above his head right now matches it exactly. It is smaller than the original moon, slightly wrinkled and greenish. “This can’t be,” he thinks. “What kind...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
That night, Aomame stands on the balcony of the sterile apartment, wondering what happened to the rubber plant she left behind at home. She does not know why she is so worried about this, but she is. She bought the plant a couple of months ago. At the time, she went to a pet store to buy goldfish, and then she decided she did not like the idea of paying money for a captive, living animal. She grabbed the rubber plant instead and bought it at a discount. It was unhealthy and rather ugly, but it was the only living thing Aomame ever owned. In her mind, it becomes a symbol for what she has lost. As she thinks about it, she starts to cry.
In this frame of mind, Aomame looks down at the...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
When Tengo arrives home, Fuka-Eri says that she took a call from the sanatorium where his father lives. He calls back and speaks with a doctor, who says that Tengo’s father is in a coma. There are no obvious symptoms of disease, but the old man’s “natural life-sustaining force is visibly weakening.” Tengo asks how long his father will last, and the doctor says that, in the worst case, all may be over in a week.
After hanging up the phone, Tengo explains to Fuka-Eri that he has to “go to the town of cats” again. They both know that he is referring to his father’s sanatorium and not to the purification ritual they performed last night. Tengo still does not understand...
(The entire section is 439 words.)
Early in the morning, Aomame puts on the exact same business suit and shoes she wore on the occasion of her entry into 1Q84. She thinks about Tengo’s appearance last night and realizes that his presence “stirred” her whole being, “the way a spoon stirs a cup of cocoa.”
Aomame goes outside and finds a taxi. She gets in and instructs the driver to get on the Metropolitan Expressway Number 3 at the Yohga exit and then drive toward the Ikejiri exit. The driver protests that it would be much faster to go straight to the Ikejiri area on surface streets, especially in the traffic at this time of day. Aomame hands him ten thousand yen, a sum far larger than a normal taxi fare, and...
(The entire section is 569 words.)
Tengo goes to visit his father. Upon arrival, he is told that the old man’s desire to recover might improve if he hears his son’s voice. Tengo thinks his father looks like he has already decided to die. Tengo is not sure if he has the right to try to change this, but he feels that it is a “courtesy” to try speaking.
Since Tengo went to high school, he has rarely spoken to his father. Now Tengo decides to talk about his life. He explains how he chose his high school because the judo scholarship he received there allowed for a full scholarship and three meals per day. From the time he entered the school, he was busy all the time supporting himself. He did well in school and in...
(The entire section is 778 words.)
As Book Three of 1Q84 begins, Ushikawa sits in his office talking with Buzzcut and Ponytail, the two bodyguards who were responsible for protecting Leader before he died. Ponytail leans silently against the door as Buzzcut asks Ushikawa for information about the woman named Aomame. This request is vaguely threatening, and Ushikawa thinks that the two guards must be under great pressure to find answers. Leader was killed on their watch, so they are probably quite scared that Sakigake’s lust for revenge will fall on them. Ushikawa was responsible for investigating Aomame's background before she met Leader, so he is at least as scared as they are.
Ushikawa summarizes the...
(The entire section is 533 words.)
Every night, Aomame sits on the balcony of her apartment watching the playground below, hoping that Tengo will return and look up at the moon again. This has been her routine for weeks, ever since the day she nearly committed suicide on the Metropolitan Expressway Number 3. She put the barrel of her revolver in her mouth, thinking that she might as well end her life since she was doomed to die anyway. However, just as she began to pull the trigger, she heard a voice calling to her from far away. It seemed to be saying her name, and it gave her a feeling of warmth and hope. She took the gun out of her mouth, put on the safety, and went back to her taxi to catch a ride back to the city. She still...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Tengo is staying in the small town of Chikura, the place he thinks of as “the cat town,” where his father’s sanatorium is located. He has arranged to take two weeks off from work so that he can make daily visits to his father, partly for his father’s sake and partly because he hopes to see the air chrysalis again. Fuka-Eri is back in Tengo's apartment in Tokyo, where he left her with two weeks’ worth of food and instructions not to open the front door to any visitor.
Chikura is a sleepy little town, and Tengo rather enjoys the quiet routine he has developed there. He spends his nights in a little inn by the ocean. Every morning he gets up and takes a long walk, returning home...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
It is hard to believe that an old, wealthy widow would plot a murder, but Ushikawa investigates the theory thoroughly. He does so partly because he has no other leads and partly because he has a strong gut feeling. Over the years, he has learned to trust such feelings, even if they seem implausible on the surface.
First, Ushikawa investigates the dowager, whose name is Mrs. Ogata. She has a listed phone number, but her male secretary refuses to let Ushikawa speak to her without sufficient reason. Further attempts to investigate her background all come up against “a wall” that prevents Ushikawa from finding anything of interest.
Ushikawa thoroughly searches the...
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Aomame spends her days exercising, cleaning, cooking, eating, reading, and listening to classical music. Her time alone is not terribly bothersome to her. She has never been a highly social person, so it is not a major change for her to be alone. In many ways, staying out of sight in an apartment is considerably less painful than being a social outcast among others.
Although she continues to contemplate suicide, Aomame also continues thinking about seeing Tengo on the slide. She cannot quite give up on life as long as she has hope that he may return to the place where she last saw him. In the evenings, she always looks for him. This quickly becomes the most important part of her...
(The entire section is 433 words.)
Tengo sticks to his routine, writing in the mornings and visiting his father in the afternoons, for nearly two weeks. All the while, he hopes to see the air chrysalis again. He wonders if he is making the right choices or if his whole approach to this goal is “meaningless.” But every time he thinks of that little Aomame in the chrysalis, he renews his resolve to keep trying.
Tengo’s quest puts him in an odd position regarding the three nurses who care for his father. They think he is “a kind person” for showing so much concern for the old man. This makes Tengo uncomfortable, largely because his presence at his father’s bedside is really for his own sake. Tengo makes a few...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Although he remains convinced that the dowager, Mrs. Ogata, has something to do with Leader’s murder, Ushikawa eventually resolves to back away from his research on her. He knows that if he keeps poking around Mrs. Ogata's property, he will be noticed by the people who protect her. If this happens, it will make his job yet harder. For the time being, he shifts the focus of his investigation back to Aomame herself.
Unable to find enough information through legal means, Ushikawa seeks illegal information instead. He hires a criminal to get him Aomame’s records from her health club and from the Society of Witnesses. This costs a great deal of money, but Ushikawa pays out of his own...
(The entire section is 443 words.)
As Aomame continues her life of isolation in her apartment, she adheres strictly to her daily schedule. She soon realizes that her mouth muscles are getting too little use, so she asks Tamaru to send a set of Spanish language tapes, and she adds daily language study to her routine. As she practices pronouncing the strange sounds, she daydreams about moving to Costa Rica with Tengo.
In the past, Aomame never had trouble sleeping, and she rarely dreamed. Now her patterns change. She often awakes from vivid dreams in the middle of the night. When this happens, she usually spends a few minutes struggling to determine what is real and what is not. This is highly disconcerting to her....
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Tengo’s night on the town with the three nurses reaches its end. The two older nurses, both of whom are married, leave on the bus. This appears to be a deliberate attempt at matchmaking between Tengo and the only unmarried nurse, Nurse Adachi. He feels obligated to walk her home. On the way, she invites him to smoke hashish. She explains that she has tried this drug just once before, and she wants to do it again.
Tengo has never used any illegal drugs, and he has little interest in doing so. He is about to say no and leave when Nurse Adachi says offhand that smoking hashish makes her feel like a dohta in an air chrysalis. Tengo is so intrigued by this comment that he decides...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
In the train on the way to Tengo and Aomame’s old elementary school, Ushikawa thinks about his own childhood. As a boy, he was was just as ugly as he is now, and he was a terrible athlete besides. Because of this, he never had any friends. He was always intelligent and a good listener, but he formed no connections with other people. Even his family disliked him, and he returned the feeling.
The vice principal of Tengo and Aomame’s old school greets Ushikawa politely. He tells her his usual lie about Tengo being short-listed for a special arts grant. Ushikawa claims that he needs background information on both Tengo and Aomame, who is supposedly featured in one of Tengo's...
(The entire section is 443 words.)
The next time Aomame's resupply team visits the apartment, she receives several pregnancy tests and a book on women’s anatomy. She promptly takes one of the pregnancy tests. It is positive, which means she is pregnant. She tries another test and gets another positive result.
When she learns that she is going to have a baby, Aomame’s first reaction is to say the prayer she was taught to say in childhood. She reflects that she no longer believes in the words of this prayer, but that they are “chiseled” into her “like a secret tattoo.” They come out of her mouth at difficult moments in her life, and they probably always will.
It is hard for Aomame to accept that...
(The entire section is 537 words.)
After breakfast, Tengo packs up and goes to the sanatorium. He does not see any of the three nurses who remind him vaguely of the three witches from Macbeth. He goes to his father’s room and opens a window. He hesitates for a moment, then marches to the bedside and accuses his unconscious father of giving up on life.
Sitting next to the bed, Tengo explains that he once saw an air chrysalis in this room. He confesses that he came back to the sanatorium not to visit his father, but to see that air chrysalis again:
It would take too long to explain the whole thing, but an air chrysalis is a product of the imagination, a fictitious object. But it’s...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Since he was a child, Ushikawa’s ugliness has made him stand out in a crowd. Even in his family, he failed to fit in. He was rarely called on to speak, so he listened instead. He soon learned that most people are shallow. He grew up and somehow managed to get married and father two children, but that did not last. It fell apart, and now his ex-wife and children make no effort to see him anymore.
Ushikawa’s distinctive appearance makes it hard for him to spy on people. He is just too noticeable. When he needs to tail someone, he usually hires a private detective, but he does not want to do that now. He searches for a private, unnoticeable way to watch Tengo’s apartment, but he...
(The entire section is 476 words.)
No matter how hard she tries, Aomame finds it impossible to get used to 1Q84. Bits and pieces of the new world’s rules become clear to her, but generally she feels confused. The one idea that seems rock-solid is that Tengo is the father of her child. There is no logical reason for her to believe this is true, but she is sure of it anyway.
Now that she knows she is pregnant, Aomame understands why she is not lonely. She has “this little one” with her at all times. She cannot yet see a bulge at her belly, but she gains a few pounds and notices a certain plumpness around her face. This, she reasons, is the little one’s doing.
As Aomame watches the...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Once again Tengo goes to the playground and climbs the slide. Once again he sits looking up at the moons. He has not spoken to anyone except Fuka-Eri about the change in the sky. Somehow he feels that “the two moons are a special message” for him alone and that he is “not permitted” to speak of them. He recognizes that this is a strange point of view. After all, he does not know who could use celestial bodies as personal messages or make rules against discussing them. For a long time, Tengo sits on the slide and waits for a new message about what to do next. Nothing comes to him. Eventually he gives up and walks back home.
The next day, Tengo goes to work at the cram school. He...
(The entire section is 409 words.)
For two days, Ushikawa watches people entering and leaving Tengo Kawana’s building. Ushikawa photographs everyone and gets his film developed regularly. He compares the morning and evening photographs to get a sense of who comes and goes at what times. He collates the pictures and makes up nicknames for each resident of the building. He does not, however, see Tengo at all.
Eventually Ushikawa calls the cram school where Tengo works. A secretary says that Tengo is out of town visiting a family member who is ill. This surprises Ushikawa, who knows that Tengo is estranged from his only living family member, his father. For a while, Ushikawa considers giving up his surveillance and...
(The entire section is 484 words.)
One evening while Aomame is supposed to be watching the playground, she leaves her post to take a phone call from Tamaru. He asks about Proust, and she explains that the world of In Search of Lost Time feels different from her own world. She finds herself reading and re-reading bits and pieces of the text. When she tries to read in just one direction, she gets “a sense of time wavering irregularly.” She feels that she can read the story in various orders and still generally understand what she is meant to understand.
The conversation shifts to an ugly, misshapen man who was recently seen lingering outside Willow House and the safe house for battered women. Tamaru checked...
(The entire section is 414 words.)
In the bar with Komatsu, Tengo listens to the story of the kidnapping. Komatsu explains that his attackers drugged him, putting him to sleep. He awoke in a cube-shaped room furnished only with a bed, a desk, and a toilet. There were no windows, so Komatsu is not certain how much time passed. However, his captors brought meals at regular intervals and turned out the light periodically, so he thinks that they were following the ordinary patterns of day and night. Komatsu ate everything he was given and slept well at night, two facts which perplex him because he does not normally eat much or sleep soundly.
After what Komatsu believes was three days, two men in black suits came to speak...
(The entire section is 564 words.)
By the Thursday after his arrival at Tengo’s apartment building, Ushikawa knows the faces of the people who come and go. He no longer takes photographs unless something unusual catches his eye. Today that happens in mid-afternoon, when Fuka-Eri appears again, this time with a bulky bag. He realizes that she is leaving, and he guesses it is because she is aware of his presence.
As before, Fuka-Eri turns and looks straight at Ushikawa. Again he gets the sense that she sees straight into him, even though he should not be visible at all. There is something so honest in her gaze that he feels shaken by it. He knows he should follow her, but he cannot make himself do it.
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Alone in her apartment, Aomame suddenly realizes that she has not experienced any sexual desire in months. She thinks this maybe a side effect of her pregnancy. Her appearance is changing as well. Her hair is lengthening, and her skin has taken on a beautiful glow. For the first time in her life, she rather likes her own facial features.
On Sunday evening, Aomame sees a man on top of the slide. When she looks closely, she realizes that it is Bobblehead, the man Tamaru warned her about. She watches him fearfully, but he just sits and stares up at the sky. It cannot be a coincidence that he is sitting in the exact same place and in the exact same position that Tengo did before. He must...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
At 2:04 a.m. on Monday, a phone call awakens Tengo. When he answers, he is surprised to hear the voice of Kumi Adachi, the nurse who smoked hashish with him the night before his return to Tokyo. She informs him that his father has just died, and she asks him to come back to the sanatorium right away. Tengo promises to come on the earliest train.
Upon his arrival at the sanatorium a few hours later, Tengo learns that the doctors are mystified about the cause of his father’s death. Tengo is the only surviving family member, so all of his father’s business falls to him. This business turns out to be time-consuming but almost disappointingly easy. Tengo soon has a cremation permit, a...
(The entire section is 542 words.)
When Tengo goes out to meet Komatsu on Sunday evening, Ushikawa does not try to follow. Tonight he has his own plans. Hurriedly, he rushes back to the playground and climbs the slide. He stares at the two moons and wills himself to get used to their presence. It does not matter that their presence does not make sense. Logic comes from reality, and the reality in this case is clear: there are two moons.
After looking at the sky for a while, Ushikawa walks back to Tengo’s apartment building. He does not notice Aomame tailing him. In his apartment, he eats a bit and resumes his watch just in time to notice the departure of a small, slender woman. She has a hat pulled down over her...
(The entire section is 596 words.)
Aomame stays up late on Sunday night, too worried to sleep. She knows that right now, Tamaru is out there gathering information and making choices that affect both her safety and Tengo’s. She knows perfectly well that Tamaru’s ultimate loyalty is not to her, but to the dowager. This means that he will not necessarily do what Aomame has asked him to do. However, he is “meticulous, capable, and experienced.” Under the circumstances, he is far better suited to the task of dealing with Bobblehead and protecting Tengo than she is. This knowledge helps, but it does not eliminate her anxiety.
By now, Aomame has read Air Chrysalis about ten times. However, she gets it out to...
(The entire section is 409 words.)
Tengo allows his father’s body to be cremated in the NHK uniform. The clothes look right on the body, but the casket does not look as good. It is flimsy and obviously cheap, but Tengo feels he should accept his father's choice in the matter. Such details are probably unimportant anyway.
What was more important was that a person had vanished from the face of the earth, and those left behind had to grasp what that entailed.
Kumi Adachi accompanies Tengo to his father’s cremation. There is no funeral service. The two of them simply sit and wait while the funeral home takes care of the body. After a long silence, Tengo thanks Kumi for...
(The entire section is 531 words.)
Ushikawa is tied up and blindfolded. He refuses to speak and gets punched hard in the kidney. Then he admits that he has been tailing Tengo Kawana in hopes of finding Aomame, who killed Leader. However, Ushikawa lies and claims that Sakigake’s leaders know exactly where he is.
The attacker, whom the reader can already recognize as Tamaru, does not believe the lie. One person cannot conduct full-time surveillance alone, and no organization as powerful as Sakigake would entrust such an important task to a single person. He says that he is sending Ushikawa “to the bottom of the sea.” He puts a bag over Ushikawa’s head and fastens it in place with a rubber band.
(The entire section is 571 words.)
On Tuesday afternoon, Aomame receives a call from Tamaru. He says that Bobblehead has been “persuaded” to stop looking for her. As his cryptic explanation progresses, she realizes that the strange, misshapen investigator is dead.
Tamaru also confirms that Tengo Kawana, the man Aomame has been looking for, has been found. Tengo is out of town at his father’s funeral, and it is not clear when he will return. Tamaru has been inside the apartment, and he reports that Tengo is a neat young man who likes writing and knows how to cook and iron.
Aomame decides to tell Tamaru about the deal she made with Leader to exchange her own life for Tengo’s safety. She explains that,...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
Early Wednesday morning, Tengo receives a strange phone call from a man who refuses to identify himself. This mysterious caller, whom the reader knows as Tamaru, tells Tengo that Aomame wants to meet him. After giving instructions about where to meet and what to bring, Tamaru adds that time is short because of a “tense situation.” He insists that Tengo must not be be followed; otherwise he may not see Aomame ever again.
After promising to go to the slide at seven o’clock, Tengo hangs up and begins making preparations. He cleans his apartment and packs a small shoulder bag. He brings the novel he is writing, several notebooks, some floppy disks, and some cash and...
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Ushikawa’s dead body lies on a table in a cold room. Sakigake’s two guards, Buzzcut and Ponytail, watch over him. Buzzcut reflects on the odd phone call that brought the news of this death, and on the frenetic hours that followed as he and a small security team smuggled the body out of the apartment complex and into the Sakigake compound. Since their arrival, they have had the body examined by a doctor, who explained that Ushikawa was strangled to death by a professional, the kind of person who knew how to leave as little evidence behind as possible.
Earlier today, Buzzcut met with Sakigake’s upper leadership. He explained that he had little idea of what Ushikawa was doing in...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Aomame tells Tengo to open his eyes and look at the moon. He looks up and sees both of the moons floating up there, “maza and dohta.” Then he gathers his courage and looks at Aomame. He feels none of the disappointment he was afraid he might feel at their reunion. She has grown up since he last saw her, but she is the same girl he has been longing for. She looks beautiful, but her eyes have the same pure desire to be with him that they did on the day she held his hand in elementary school.
Tengo tries to speak, but he is too overcome with emotion to get any words out. “We’re seeing the same thing,” Aomame says, and Tengo nods in agreement. They both know...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
When they leave the playground, Aomame hails a cab and gives the driver directions to the place where she hopes to find the bottom of an emergency stairwell that leads up to the Metropolitan Expressway Number 3. In the backseat, Tengo looks at her clothing and sees that she is wearing a nice business suit and a thin coat. He does not know it, but this is the exact same outfit she wore on the day she entered 1Q84.
Aomame never lets go of Tengo’s hand during the ride. She says that she needs to explain a great deal to him but does not have time. She seems worried about this, but Tengo is willing to go along without understanding:
They could fill in all the...
(The entire section is 604 words.)
Tengo and Aomame
Aomame leads Tengo to the fenced-in storage area under the expressway. “Is this it?” he asks as she walks around pressing on the fence, trying to find the spot where they can get through. When she finds it, she slips inside. Tengo has trouble squeezing his larger body through the same opening, but he manages to follow.
Privately, Aomame is terrified that the stairway will not exist. However, she forces herself to believe in it. When she does eventually find it, it is different than she remembers, like a rickety ladder. She shoves her high-heeled shoes into her bag and takes off her coat. After making sure that Tengo is behind her, she begins to climb. On the way up, she...
(The entire section is 647 words.)