Haruki Murakami is one of the most popular authors in Japan as well as one of the more familiar Japanese writers in the Western world. His novels are filled with references to Western culture, such as his protagonists' interest in jazz, which are not typical Japanese elements in the more traditional novel. Murakami's novels also often contain dream-like sequences or otherwise supernatural details. His novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997) is a perfect example of the author's tendencies to include both the supernatural and the Western influences.
The Wind-Up Chronicle takes place in Tokyo, Japan, during the 1980s. There are several flashbacks, however, to the war between Japan and Korea, a time when Japan took control of the Korean peninsula in the early part of the twentieth century.
Murakami weaves through these two time periods as he tells the story of how people either lose or gain personal power. This power is used both for the benefit and the detriment of other people. The protagonist, Toru Okada, is forced to develop an inner strength when his wife goes missing. She falls victim to her brother, a politician, who has mastered some sort of mind control over less mentally stable people. To bring his wife back, Toru must learn to outwit the brother and break the spell he has on Toru's wife. Much of the story takes place inside dreamscapes. Toru practices lucid dreaming, which consists of being consciously aware of one's dreams while sleeping. Another aspect of the story, the flashbacks to Japan's control of the Korean people, is graphic and arresting: details of torture are a major part of the historical material.
Themes of loss and isolation run through this novel. Every character is touched by a great loss, such as Toru's loss of his wife. However, there is also a strong discussion of how some people work at achieving a power over their emotions and subconscious thoughts.