In this paper I shall explore and interpret the work Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Vintage Books, 2005). I will do this by looking at the use of traditional Japanese mythology. For example; the interaction of the main characters in both books with the denizens of the Japanese spirit world. Finally, I intend to look at Murakami’s use of the Greek story of Oedipus to tell his readers the tale of Kafka Tamura. Japanese Dreams Introduction Kafka on the Shore (Vintage Paperbacks, 2005) is in reality two novels in one book.
The stories are interwoven so masterfully that it makes them seamless and inseparable in appearance. Kafka Tamura is a fifteen year old boy who runs away from home on a journey of discovery. The book begins with his story and his search for identity will intertwine with the efforts of another main character to find his own past. The second main character is Mr. Nakata a mildly retarded man with some very special gifts that allow him to speak with cats. His story begins when you see him searching for a young cat that has escaped from his home.
The beginning of his journey is when he finds that this young cat has been kidnapped by a serial killer whose primary victims are the local neighborhood cats. This book contains references to Japanese mythology as well as several riddles or mysteries such as who Kafka’s mother really is, and what really happened to Mr. Nakata on a fall day in 1944. Murakami explores the impact of World War II and the subsequent Westernization of Japanese culture on the people who lived through the war and the following generations in several of his books.
This can be clearly seen in Kafka on the Shore (Vintage Paperbacks, 2005) as Murakami brings in much of his own personal experience of growing up in post World War II Japan. Finally, this novel is a strong statement in regards to the power of dreams and one’s right to follow them. Japanese Dreams Part 1: Kafka’s Story Kafka on the Shore (Vintage Paperbacks, 2005) is the tale of the son of an artist who leaves home in order to discover himself. Abandoned by his mother and sister, and neglected by his father Kafka Tamura has lead an uneventful life of upper class privilege.
Without friends he relies upon an imaginary companion named Crow for support and advice. As he prepares to run away from home Crow tells Kafka that “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. ” (p 5, Kafka on the Shore: Vintage Paperbacks, 2005). Kafka quickly discovers this as events take him far beyond the confines of his typical adolescent life in a Tokyo suburb. Kafka’s journey is first and foremost the journey of discovery that all young people go through as they become more mature.
He is looking for a sense of where his place in the world is and the variety of characters he meets along the way help to guide him to a new sense of identity. The first person he meets is a girl on the bus to Takamatsu named Sakura who may, or may not be Kafka’s long lost sister. Symbolically I feel that Sakura represents a guide of sorts. She is the first person he meets on his journey, and as such her actions have a fairly serious impact on how Kafka completes the rest of his journey. This journey ends up becoming fairly mythic in it scope and I can only think that this would be somewhat deliberate on the part of Mr. Murakami.