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Translation of Murakami’s Lost Chapters

Here I’ve published my translations of the “lost chapters” from Murakami Haruki’s novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. They were “lost” in the sense that the translator removed them from the English edition of the novel. This is the subject of the research paper available on my academic works page. Please reach out if you have thoughts, questions or corrections regarding the translations.

From The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Murakami Haruki (1993)

Translated by Kieran Maynard in 2010 (Chapter 15) and 2012 (Chapters 17, 18, 26).

Academic advisors: Dr. Tim Cross of Kyushu University (2010) and Dr. Masaki Mori of the University of Georgia (2012).

Chapter 15, Book 2 Translation

Original chapter title: 正しい名前、夏の朝にサラダオイルをかけて焼かれたもの、不正確なメタファー

The right name, the things burned with salad oil on a summer morning, a faulty metaphor

Come morning, Creta Kano had lost her name. Just as the dawn broke Creta Kano quietly awakened me. Coming to and opening my eyes I caught the morning light streaming in through a slit in the curtains. Next, I saw the profile of the woman shifting her body in bed to look at me. In place of sleepwear she wore my old T-shirt, but this covered her entire body. Her pubic hair cast a faint gleam in the sunlight. 

“Mr. Okada. I no longer have a name,” said she. She had quit being a prostitute, quit being a medium, and quit being Creta Kano.

“Okay, you’re not Creta Kano anymore,” I said. I rubbed my eye with a fingertip. “Congratulations. You’re a new person. But without a name, what should I call you? Without a name it’ll be a pain if I have to call you from behind or something.”

She – the woman who up until last night was Creta Kano – shook her head.

“I don’t know. Perhaps I must search for a new name. Long ago I had a real name. Then, as a prostitute – though I never want to say it again – I had a fake name. When I quit prostitution, for the me who would act as a medium Malta Kano gave the name Creta Kano. But as I am no longer any of those people, for a new me I believe an entirely new name is necessary. Mr. Okada, haven’t you any suggestions? Something like a suitable name for me?”

I mulled it over but couldn’t conjure up a good name. 

“That’s probably something you need to come up with yourself. Because you’re starting a new life as an independent person and all. It might take a while, but I definitely think that’s best.” 

“But, this ‘finding the proper name for myself’ is difficult.”

“Of course it’s not easy. ‘Cause a name in some cases expresses everything,” I said. “It may be better for me too to completely get rid of my name. I’ve got that feeling.”

Malta Kano’s sister sat up in bed, reached out her hand and touched her fingertips to my right cheek. There I assumed was still a mark about the size of a baby’s palm.

If Mr. Okada were to lose his name here, what shall I call him?”

“Wind-Up Bird,” I said. In any case, at least I had a new name.

“Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” she said, then floated that name in the air and stared at it. “A wonderful name, I think, but just what kind of bird is that?”

“The Wind-Up Bird’s a bird that really exists. What it looks like, even I don’t know, ‘cause I’ve never seen it in real life. I’ve only heard its voice. The Wind-Up Bird stops in the branches of those trees and little by little winds the spring of the world. With the screech of twisting metal winds the spring. If the Wind-Up Bird doesn’t wind the spring, the world won’t move. But nobody knows that. All the people of the world think some big, fancy, complicated device moves the earth. But that’s not it. Really, the Wind-Up-Bird goes from place to place, winds the tiny springs a bit at a time, and moves the earth. They’re simple springs, like the kind you find in wind-up toys. All you have to do is wind the springs, but only the Wind-Up Bird can see them.

“Wind-Up Bird,” she repeated. “Mr. Wind-Up Bird, who winds the spring of the world.” I raised my head and looked around; I saw the same room as always. I’d been sleeping only in that room for the last four or five years, but it appeared perplexingly hollow and vast.

“But sad as it is I don’t know where to find the spring. And what form that spring takes, I don’t know.”

She put her finger on my shoulder. Then, with her fingertip drew a circle.

I lay face-up, and for a long time concentrated on a tiny stomach-shaped stain on the ceiling. The stain was precisely over my pillow. I’d never before noticed the existence of such a stain. Exactly when was that place stained? I wondered. It had probably been there since we moved in. So, the whole time Kumiko and I slept together in that bed, that stain was silent, holding its breath, stuck right over us. Then one morning I spotted it.

Beside me I felt the warmth of the breath of the woman formerly known as Creta Kano. I could smell that fragrant naked flesh. She was still busy drawing little circles on my shoulder. If I could I wanted to reach out and take her again, but whether or not that was right I couldn’t decide. My relationships vertical and horizontal were way too tangled. I abandoned the idea and went back to staring at the ceiling. Malta Kano’s sister then leaned over me and softly kissed my right cheek. Something like a deep paralysis struck me as her supple lips gentled the mark. 

I closed my eyes and tuned my ears to the sound of the world. Somewhere, I heard a pigeon cry. “Ho, ho, ho,” it persisted, filled with good will that celebrated the summer morning and announced the break of day. But that’s not enough, I thought. Someone’s got to wind the spring.

“Mr. Wind-up Bird,” said the woman formerly known as Creta Kano. “I believe that certainly, some day, you will find that spring.”

Eyes closed, I asked, “If so, and say someday I find the spring, and wind it, do you think a normal life will come back to me?”

She shook her head. A little something like sadness crept into her eyes, like a broken nimbus clouds the sky.

“I do not know,” she said.

“Nobody knows,” I said.

Some things in the world are better unknown, said Lt. Mamiya.

Malta Kano’s little sister said she wanted to go to a beauty salon. Since she had no money at all (having turned up stark naked), I lent her money. Wearing Kumiko’s blouse she slipped into a skirt and sandals and left for the salon near the train station. It was the one Kumiko used to use.

Once Malta Kano’s sister left I gave the floor an overdue cleaning and tossed the piled laundry into the wash. I pulled all drawers out of my desk and dumped them into a cardboard box. I planned to save the necessities and torch the rest, but in reality the “necessities” were pretty much nonexistent; everything in there was something useless: an old diary, age-old unfinished letters, a planner crammed with long-past engagements, an address book lined with names of people who’d passed through my life, discolored scraps of newspapers and magazines, an expired membership card for the pool, a tape recorder’s warranty and instructions, used pens and pencils, somebody’s phone number jotted on a memo (whose number I had no clue). I took the letters I’d kept in the closet and burned them. About half those letters were from Kumiko. We wrote each other a lot before we got married. Kumiko’s fine and careful handwriting lined the envelopes. Her handwriting hadn’t really changed in the last seven years. Even used the same ink.

I took the cardboard box into the garden, doused it with salad oil and struck a match. The box went up in a nice blaze, but it took longer than I was expecting to reduce everything to ash. On that windless day the white plume of smoke shot straight up into the sky, stretching through the clouds like a giant tree out of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” If I climbed all the way up, perhaps there’d be gathered all my past selves, living the good life in their own little world. I kept my gaze on that smoke, sitting on a stone in the garden. It was a hot summer morning that prophesized an afternoon hotter still. My T-shirt was sweat-plastered against my skin. In Russian novels, things like letters are best burned in the fireplace on a winter night. Things like burning them with salad oil in the garden on a summer morning just aren’t done. But in the wretched, Realistic world in which we live, people soaked in sweat burn letters on summer mornings. With some things we can’t do as we like. Some things can’t wait until winter.

Once everything was burned I scooped water in a bucket, extinguished the flames, and with the sole of my shoe ground the ash.

With all my things in order I went to Kumiko’s room and examined her desk. I hadn’t looked inside since she’d left home. I had felt like it wasn’t an upright thing to do. But as she herself had said she was never coming back she probably wouldn’t mind my pulling out her desk drawer. It seemed before leaving she’d seen to the desk: the drawer was almost empty. Left were new stationery and envelopes, a box of paper clips, a ruler, scissors, a half-dozen pens and pencils, like she’d cleared things so she might leave at any time. Nothing that suggested Kumiko’s existence remained. But what had she done with her letters from me? She should have had just as many, and she should have saved them somewhere, but they were nowhere to be found.

Next I entered the bathroom and boxed all the cosmetics. Lipstick, cleansing cream, perfume, hairspray, eyebrow pencils, cotton pads, lotion, and other things I didn’t know what they were I gathered and chucked into a candy box. There weren’t that many items. Kumiko wasn’t that into cosmetics. I threw away Kumiko’s toothbrush and dental floss. I threw out her shower cap.

Just completing those tasks had exhausted me. I sat in the kitchen and drank a glass of water. The only things left of Kumiko’s were a small shelf’s worth of books and her clothes. The books I’d sell. The clothes were a problem. Kumiko had written for me to “properly dispose of” her clothes. That she had no intention of wearing them again. But in practice how exactly I should “dispose of” them, she didn’t elaborate. Should I sell them? Or stuff them in vinyl bags and trash them? Give them away? Donate them to the Salvation Army? None of those things seemed to me like a “proper” sort of method. Whatever, there’s no hurry, I thought. For the time being I’d just leave them be. (The woman who was once) Creta Kano might wear them, or Kumiko might reconsider and come back for them. Unthinkable at the moment, but who could say for sure? Nobody knows what may happen tomorrow. The day after tomorrow is even more unknown. Or, if you’re going to say that, we have no idea what may happen this afternoon.

The woman who was once Creta Kano returned from the beauty parlor just before noon. Her new hairstyle was surprisingly short, the longest patches being only about three or four centimeters. She’d done the whole thing up in hair cream. Since she’d taken off her makeup at first I hardly recognized her. In any case she no longer looked liked Jacqueline Kennedy. I praised her new hairstyle.

“This way looks much younger and more natural, but it seems like you turned into someone else.”

“I have become someone else!” she said, and laughed. I suggested we have lunch together, but she shook her head. “Mr. Okada. Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” she said. “I believe I have taken the first step as a new human being. I’ll go home, have a long talk with my sister, and prepare for Crete. Getting my passport, buying the plane ticket, packing my bags: I’m not at all used to doing these things, so I am not sure how to go about it. I’ve never once traveled, or even been outside Tokyo.”

“Do you still think we ought to go to Crete together?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said. “For me, and for you, I believe that is best. So I hope you will please think it over. This is very important.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

The woman who was once Creta Kano left the house, and I put on a fresh Polo and long trousers. I wore sunglasses so the mark wouldn’t stand out, then walked through the glaring sun to the station and took the rattling afternoon train to Shinjuku. I bought two Greece travel guides from Kinokuniya and a medium-size suitcase from Isetan. I spotted a restaurant and decided to have lunch. The waitress was terribly surly and ill-tempered. I fancied myself well-versed in surly, ill-tempered waitresses, but a waitress of such ill-tempered surliness I’d never met. She seemed disgusted by my order and me as a human being. While I chose from the menu she glared at the mark on my face like she’d just drawn an unlucky o-mikuji. I could feel her gaze on the mark. I ordered a small bottle of beer but she brought over a large. I didn’t complain. When a cold, frothy beer comes along, be thankful. If it’s too big, drink half and leave.

Until the food arrived I drank and read the travel guide. Crete is the long and narrow Greek island closest to Africa. On the island are no trains; travelers move by bus. The biggest city is Iraklion, near the famed ruins of the maze at the palace of Knossos. Olive cultivation is the primary industry; wine is also highly prized. Wind is strong; windmills galore. For various political reasons the island was the last to achieve independence from Turkey, therefore the cultural atmosphere is different from the rest of Greece. The island is known for its “fighting spirit” and fierce resistance against the Germans during the Second World War. Nikos Kazantzakis used the island as the setting for his novel Zorba the Greek. The knowledge I gained from the Crete travel guide ended there. What real life was like there I couldn’t know. Well that’s how it is, right? A travel guide is a book for folks just passing through; it’s not like it’s written for people who want to settle down and live. 

I tried to imagine life on Crete with the woman who was once Creta Kano. Just what kind of life would we lead? What kind of house would we live in? What kind of food would we eat? What we would do upon waking? What kind of conversation would we have all day? And would we go on for months, years? Nothing I could call an “image” came to mind.

But, I thought, no matter what I’m in for I can beat it for Crete just as it is. I can go and live with the woman who was once Creta Kano. For a while I alternated stares between the two travel guides on the table and the brand-new suitcase at my feet. These were my “possibility” taken physical form. To visualize that concept called possibility I marched into town and bought the suitcase and guides. And the more I looked the more enticing a possibility it appeared. Suitcase in hand I ought to shuck off everything and flee from here. Simple.

Sitting at home awaiting Kumiko’s return was about all I could do staying in Japan. No, first of all, she’s not coming back. Don’t wait for me, don’t search, she’d insisted in her letter. Of course, no matter what I was told I had a right to keep waiting. Only doing so might grind me down. I might be even more alone, groping in a deeper darkness, my power on the wane. The problem: I am no one’s necessity.

Perhaps it’s necessary I go to Crete with Malta Kano’s sister.  Like she said, it would be for me, and for her, a good thing. I stared again at the suitcase at my feet. I imagined myself carrying this suitcase, alighting in Iraklion Airport with Creta Kano. I imagined a tranquil life in a village somewhere: eating fish, swimming in the deep blue sea. But while imagining those impossible picture-postcard dreams, a solid cloudlike something expanded in my breast. New suitcase in one hand, mobbed by shoppers crowding the Shinjuku street, like an air hole was plugged I struggled to breathe. I could hardly move my own hands and feet. 

That time, as I left the restaurant and walked the street, the suitcase I carried swiped the leg of an oncoming man. The young man of large build wore a gray T-shirt and baseball cap. He had Walkman earphones stuck in his ears. “I’m so sorry,” I apologized. The man only adjusted his baseball cap, and as if extending his arm straight out thrust it unhesitatingly into my chest. As it was totally unexpected I crumpled and cracked my head against the wall of a building. The man watched me fall, then without a single change in expression walked off and disappeared. For a moment I thought to chase him down, but reconsidered and gave it up. No point doing that. I got up, took a deep breath and brushed the dirt off my pants. Then I took up my suitcase again. Someone picked up the dropped books and handed them back to me. It was a little old lady wearing a nearly brimless hat. That was a really weirdly shaped hat. When she handed me the books she shook her head a bit, without saying a thing. Looking at that old woman’s hat and sympathetic face, I recalled for no reason the Wind-Up Bird. The Wind-Up Bird somewhere in the depths of the forest. My head hurt for a bit, but I had nothing you could call an injury, just a bump that appeared on the back of my head. Probably best if I go home early, I thought. Got to return to that silent alley.

To calm my nerves I bought a newspaper and lemon drops at a kiosk in the station. I took my wallet from my pocket and paid cash, then clutching that newspaper I turned and walked toward the ticket gate. I heard a woman’s voice from behind. 

“Hey, Mister!” she called. “Over there, Mister tall guy with a mark on his face!”

That was me. Calling was the girl from the counter. Not knowing what was going on, I turned around.

“You forgot your change,” she said, then gave me change in coins from 1,000 yen. I said thanks and took it. “Sorry I mentioned the mark,” she said. “I couldn’t think of another way to call you so it just slipped out.”

I managed to float an “I don’t mind” sort of smile on my face and shook my head. She looked at the mark. “You’re covered with sweat, though; you ok? Not feeling sick?”

“It’s hot so I started sweating while walking. Thanks,” I said. 

I rode the train and read the newspaper. Until that moment I hadn’t realized, but it had been a long time since I’d actually handled a newspaper. We didn’t take the newspaper. When commuting, if she felt like it Kumiko would buy a morning daily from the station and bring it back home for me. The next day I would read the previous day’s news. I read the newspaper for the classifieds. But with Kumiko’s disappearance, the paper-bestowing people in my life disappeared as well.  Nothing written in the paper caught my interest. I flipped every page from front to back, but there wasn’t a single thing in there I needed to know. I closed the paper and scanned the weekly ads hanging in the train one by one, when suddenly my eye landed on the name “Noboru Wataya.” There, in great big letters: “Mr. Noboru Wataya’s Political Debut Makes Waves.” For a long time I stared up at that “Noboru Wataya.” So that guy really means it. He really means to become a politician. I thought, in this alone there’s value in getting out of Japan.

I carried my empty suitcase to the station and rode the bus home. It was an empty husk of a house, but I was nonetheless relieved to be home. I took a short rest, then went to the bathroom to take a shower. Inside the bathroom not a shadow of Kumiko remained.  Toothbrush, shower cap, makeup and all had disappeared. No stockings or underwear were drying there; her special shampoo was gone.

I stepped out of the shower, and drying my body with a towel I realized I should have bought the weekly carrying the Noboru Wataya article. Wondering just what was written in there started to weigh on my mind. Then I shook my head. If Noboru Wataya wants to become a politician, let him. In this country anyone who wants to become a politician has got the right to. With Kumiko leaving me, the relationship between Noboru Wataya and I was essentially severed; where his life was headed from then on wasn’t a thing I would know. Just as where my life was headed was of no concern to him. That was fine. It should have been that way from the very beginning.

But I couldn’t chase that weekly’s headline out of my head. I spent that whole afternoon organizing the closet and the kitchen, but no matter what other things I thought about or busied my body with, that big “Noboru Wataya” printed on the hanging advertisement’s vivid afterimage floated out and hovered in front of my eyes.  It was just like a distant telephone bell, heard through the wall in the next room. While that phone rang unanswered it rang on and on and on. I tried to believe it didn’t exist. I tried to pretend I couldn’t hear. But it was no use. I gave up, walked as far as the nearest convenience store, bought the weekly and returned. 

Sitting in a chair in the kitchen drinking tea, I read the article. Famous economist and critic Noboru Wataya is definitely considering the candidacy for Niigata XX Ward in the House of Representatives for the next election, it was written. A detailed personal history followed: academic, literary and mass media activities of the last few years.  His uncle Yoshitaka Wataya, Representative for Niigata XX Ward, citing health concerns announced his withdrawal from the next race; for lack of another suitably well-known and influential successor, if talks continue smoothly he will likely attempt to have his nephew Noboru Wataya succeed him in that candidacy. If that happens, considering the strength of the current Representative Wataya’s constituency and his nephew’s youth and public presence, is not Noboru Wataya a shoo-in for election? they wrote. “The probability Mr. Noboru will file candidacy is, say, 95 percent. The particulars will be negotiated, but ultimately since he himself seems motivated it seems things will turn out the way they should,” said a local “influential person.”

A talk with Noboru Wataya was also included. It was a pretty long talk. He said at this time he had not yet decided to file a formal candidacy. 

Certainly such talk is circulating. But I have my own ideas; it’s not a problem where I’m offered, “Come out and run,” and can simply answer, “Yes. Got it. Let’s go.” Between what I am seeking in the world of politics and what it is seeking from me there may be considerable discrepancy. So from now on if little by little discussion is maintained, perhaps modulation will take place. However, if both sides agree and I actually come forward as a candidate, by all means I certainly intend to be elected, and after my election I have no intention of serving as a coolie-hatted backbencher. I’m only 37; if from here I choose the path of a politician the road ahead is long. I’ve got a clear “vision” and the power to present it to the people. My long-range vision and strategy will serve as fundaments in my endeavors. My current aim is the next 15 years. Within the 20th Century, as a politician I definitely intend to place this nation of Japan in a position where its particular identity may be established. That is the objective for the time being. What I am aiming to do is free Japan from its current place in the political hinterlands and thrust it upwards as a unified political and cultural model. In other words, to reshape the framework of the state we call Japan, to forgo hypocrisy and establish logic and ethics. What are important are not opaque phrases and endless rhetoric, but a clear image one can grasp. We are coming to a time where we must grasp that sort of clear image, and construct that sort of state and popular consensus now sought by the people. Now, the kind of senseless politics we are engaged in will ultimately leave our country tossed on the ebbing tide, swept along like a giant jellyfish. We have no interest in ideals or dreams. What I am talking about is simply what must be done, and that which must be done, no matter what, must not remain undone. I have a concrete policy plan tailored to that purpose that will be elucidated following the progress of our situation.

The weekly’s article seemed mostly slanted in favor of Noboru Wataya. Mr. Noboru Wataya: a sharp-witted, brilliant political and economic critic whose eloquence was noted early on. Young, of good breeding: a promising future as a politician. His “long-range strategy” probably not a pipe dream but actually feasible. Most voters welcome his political debut. For his conservative constituency his divorcee and single status may pose a bit of a problem, but his youth and mental aptitude will more than compensate for those “minus points.” He’s certain to rake in the female vote. “Even so,” the article tied up the end in a bit of a dry tone, “Noboru Wataya’s inheritance of his uncle’s constituency doesn’t necessarily escape the view that it is enabled by the ‘senseless politics’ he criticizes. His lofty political views have a convincing ring to them, but how far they will carry practical political efficacy, we can only wait and see.”

When I finished reading the article about Noboru Wataya I tossed the weekly into the kitchen trashcan. Then I tried to fill my suitcase with the clothes and things I would need to go to Crete. How cold the winter gets in Crete I had no idea. Looking at the map it was close to Africa. Even so, in Africa depending on the place the winter can get pretty cold. I pulled out a leather jumper and stuck it in the suitcase. Then two sweaters, two pairs of slacks. Two long-sleeved shirts and three short-sleeved. Tweed jacket. T-shirts and shorts. Socks and underwear. Hat and sunglasses. Swimwear. Towel. Travel toiletries case. Even with that stuff the suitcase was only about halfway full. But in terms of “essentials” I couldn’t really think of anything else.

For the time being I closed the lid of the suitcase and managed to feel like I was really going to get out of Japan. I am leaving this house, and going to leave this country. While sucking a lemon drop I concentrated for a moment on my brand-new suitcase. That when Kumiko left the house she didn’t even carry a suitcase suddenly popped into my mind. Carrying only a small shoulder bag and the skirt and blouse she’d picked up from the cleaner’s by the station, in the sunny summer morning she went away from here. The luggage she’d carried was even smaller than mine.

I thought about the jellyfish. This kind of senseless politics will ultimately leave our country tossed on the ebbing tide, swept along like a giant jellyfish, Noboru Wataya had said. Had Noboru Wataya ever seen a real jellyfish up close? I had. Though hating it the whole time, while I went on a date with Kumiko at the aquarium I saw with my own eyes the shapes of jellyfish from all around the world. Kumiko stood before each tank, hardly saying anything, intent on the calm and graceful movements of the jellyfish. Though it was our first date she seemed to completely forget I was beside her. There really were various kinds of jellyfish of various size and shape. Comb jellies, Beroe jellies, Venus’s girdle jellies, lion’s mane jellies… Kumiko was immersed in those jellyfish, so much so that I bought her an illustrated book about jellyfish as a present. Noboru Wataya probably doesn’t know it, but some jellyfish actually have bones, even muscles. Some breathe oxygen, even defecate. Some have sperm and eggs. And, they use their feelers and umbrella to make beautiful movements. It’s not like they’re just getting tossed around in the tide. It’s not like I’m trying to defend jellyfish or anything, but they have their own will to live. 

Hey, Noboru Wataya-kun, I said. I don’t care if you become a politician. That’s up to you. It’s not a problem I’ll open my mouth about. But, at least let me say this: it’s a mistake using a faulty metaphor to insult jellyfish.

After nine that night the phone rang. But for a while I didn’t take the receiver. Staring at the ringing phone on the table, I wondered who it could be. What could anyone want from me?

But then I realized who it was. It was that phone woman. How I could tell I didn’t know, but I was sure. She was seeking me from that strange, dark room. In there even now drifted the heady scent of flowers. Even now she was there nursing her fierce sexual desire. “I’ll do anything, you know. Even things your wife won’t.” In the end I didn’t pick up the receiver. The bell rang ten times, cut, and rang for another twelve. From then it was silent. A silence more profound than before.  My heartbeat sounded out loud. I stared for a long time at my fingertips. I imagined the blood sent from my heart taking time to make its way to my fingertips. Then I quietly covered my face with my hands, and took a deep breath.

In the silence only the dry tock-tock of the clock echoed in the room. I went to the bedroom, sat on the floor and for a while again stared at my new suitcase. Crete, huh? I thought. Sorry, but I’ve decided to go to Crete. I’m a little tired of living here under the name Tōru Okada. “As the man who was once Tōru Okada, I’ve decided to go to Crete with the woman who was once Creta Kano,” I tried saying out loud. But to whom I was saying it, even I didn’t know. Someone.

Tock-tock-tock-tock-tock-tock, the clock struck time, as if that sound was interlocked with the beat of my heart. 

Book 2, Chapter 17 Partial Translation

Original Title: いちばん簡単なこと、洗練されたかたちでの復讐、ギターケースの中にあったもの

The simplest thing, the most sophisticated form of revenge, the thing in the guitar case

The next morning I went to take a passport photo. As I sat down in the studio the photographer gave my face a professional look and without saying anything slipped into the back and returned carrying some kind of face powder that he applied to the mark on my right cheek. Then so the mark would not stand out he got behind the camera and carefully adjusted the strength and angle of the light. I faced the camera, and as I was told managed somehow to float out a faint smile around my mouth. The photographer said processing would be completed by mid-day the day after tomorrow so please come back then. After that I went home, called my uncle and said thought I’d probably be moving out of this house in the next few weeks. 

“I know this is sudden, but the truth is Kumiko just left me,” I opened up to my uncle. “According to the letter she sent me later, she will probably never come back. As for me, for a little while—I don’t yet know how long that will be—I want to get away from this place.” 

When I’d finished my basic explanation, for a moment my uncle was silent on the other side, like he was thinking deeply.

“But up until now it seemed like you and Kumiko were getting along great,” my uncle said after sighing lightly.

“To tell the truth, I thought the same thing,” I said honestly.

“If you don’t really want to talk about it you don’t have to, but was there some solid reason Kumiko left?”

“I think she is probably having an affair.”

“You have that feeling, huh?”

“No, I’ve got almost no feeling like that, but she herself wrote that in a letter.”

“I see,” said my uncle. “If that’s what it’s like, well, what can you do?”


He sighed again.

“I’m fine,” I said in a bright voice to reassure my uncle. “I think I just want to get away from here for a bit. I want to change places and change my mood, and think over what comes next.”

“Is there some specific place you want to go?”

“I think I’ll end up going to Greece, because my friend is living there and a while back invited me to come visit,” I lied, and again felt a little bad. However, no matter how I thought about it, it was explain to my uncle what was really going on here totally, accurately and in a way easy to understand. A total lie was still better.

“Ok,” he said. “That’s all right with me. Anyway, I’m not planning to rent that house out to anybody else, so you can leave your stuff as it is. You’re still young; you can still bounce back.  It will be good if you go far away and relax for a while. Greece, huh? Greece sounds great.”

“I’m sorry about all of this,” I said. “But if something comes up, and while I’m gone you need to rent the house to someone else or something, I don’t mind if you just dispose of everything in there. Anyway there’s nothing important.”

“It’s ok, I’ll decide how to handle things later. But does what you said on the phone the other day about “the flow getting blocked” and all have something to do with Kumiko?”

“Right, it does somewhat. Now that you mention it, that also bothered me a little.”

My uncle seemed to be thinking for a moment. 

“One of these days, is it ok if I come over there? I also want to see the situation with my own eyes. I haven’t been over there for a while, either.”

“Any time at all is all right. I’ve got nothing I have to do.”

When I hung up the phone, a sudden unbearable feeling came over me. Over these last months, some strange flow carried me here. Between the world I was in, and the world my uncle was in, was something like an invisible, thick and high wall. That was the wall separating one world from another. My uncle was in that world, and I was in this world.

[NB: The following passage is translated in Rubin. The words below are my translation.]

Two days later he came over to the house. He saw the mark on my face but didn’t really say anything. Maybe he didn’t know how to say it. He just narrowed his eyes and gave it a curious look. He brought a bottle of top-grade Scotch whisky and fish sausages from Odawara as gifts. My uncle and I sat on the back porch eating fish sausage and drinking whisky.

“But a porch is really a great thing,” my uncle said, nodding several times. “Of course there are no porches on apartment buildings, so sometimes I miss them. All in all, a porch has its own kind of feeling, right?”

For a moment my uncle stared at the moon floating in the sky. The crescent moon was white like someone had just finished honing it. I found it somehow strange that that kind of thing could actually continue floating in the air.

“By the way, when and how did you get that mark?” my uncle inquired offhandedly.

“I don’t really know,” I said, and took a sip of whisky. “All of a sudden I realized it was there. About a week ago, I guess. I wish I could explain more clearly, but the problem is that there’s no way to explain.”

“You see a doctor?”

I shook my head.

[The following passage is not in Rubin’s translation.]

“There’s one other thing I don’t get. Is there some connection between that and Kumiko leaving?”

I shook my head.

“Certainly this mark appeared after Kumiko left. If you look at the order of events, that’s how it happened. As far as a cause-and-effect relationship, I don’t know.”

“I’ve never heard of a mark like that suddenly appearing on somebody’s face.”

“I’ve never heard of it myself,” I said. “I can’t explain well, but I think I’ve gradually gotten used to this mark’s existence. Of course I was surprised when this thing first appeared—it was a total shock. I was disgusted looking at my own face. I thought, if this thing is going to be stuck here for the rest of my life, what should I do? But as days progressed—I don’t know why—it stopped bothering me. I even came to think, ‘It’s not even that bad, right?’ Why, I don’t understand.”

“Hmm,” said my uncle, and then with a somehow suspicious look stared for a while at the mark on my right cheek. “Well, in that case, I guess that’s all right. It’s your problem, after all. But if you need it I know a doctor I can introduce you to.”

“Thank you, but right now I don’t intend to go to a doctor. Even if I have a doctor look at it, I think it will be useless.”

My uncle folded his arms and for a moment looked up at the sky. As always, we couldn’t see the stars. There was only one distinct crescent moon.

“It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve had a face-to-face talk with you like this. Because even if I left you alone, I thought you and Kumiko were getting along well together. And in the first place, I don’t much like meddling with other people’s affairs.”

I said I understood that well.

My uncle rattled the ice in his glass for a moment, took a sip and set it down.

“I don’t understand what on earth’s been happening around you lately. The flow getting blocked ; the house’s physiognomy; losing Kumiko; suddenly one day a mark appearing on your face; going to Greece for a while… Well, that’s what it is. Your wife left, and you got a mark on your face. It doesn’t sound great to say it like this, it’s not like my wife left, or there’s a mark on my face. Right? So if you don’t want to give an in-depth explanation, you don’t have to explain. I don’t want to interfere. It’s just, I think you ought to try one more time to think hard about what is most important to you.”

I nodded and said, “I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. But various things have become incredibly, complicatedly, tightly tangled, and it’s impossible to free and isolate them one by one. I don’t know how to free them.”

My uncle smiled.

“There’s definitely something of an trick to doing that well. Because they don’t know the trick, most people in the world end up making faulty decisions. Then, after they fail, they make all kinds of complaints, or blame it on someone else. I’ve seen far too many cases like that, and honestly I don’t really like to see it. That’s why I’m going to go ahead and give this highfalutin speech. The art, you see, is to first take care of the not-so-important things. That is, if you prioritize things from A to Z, you don’t start from A, you start from around XYZ. You say things are too complicated and tangled and you can’t get a hold on things. But isn’t that because you’re trying to solve things from the very top? When you want to decide something important, the right way to start is from those things that don’t really matter. Start from the absurdly simple things anybody could look at and understand, that anybody could think about and understand. Then spend a lot of time on those stupidly simple things.

“What I’m doing is of course not much of a business. In Ginza I’ve got just four or five stores.  By today’s standards it’s trifling, and not much to brag about. But if we limit the discussion to the question of success or failure, I’ve never once failed. That’s because I’ve applied that trick. Everybody else simply skips right over those stupidly simple things anybody could look at and understand and tries to move ahead as fast as possible. But I’m not like that. I spend the most time on those stupidly simple things. I know that the more time I spend on those things, the better things will go later.”

My uncle took another sip of whisky.

“Let’s say you’re going to set up a shop somewhere. A restaurant, a bar—something like that. So, imagine where you’re going to set up that shop. There are several places to choose from. But, you have to choose one somewhere. What should you do?”

I thought about it for a moment.

“Well, you have to make estimates in different cases. Like, in this place, how much is the rent, how much is the debt, how much do you have to repay each month, how many seats do you have, how often do customers come in and out, how much does the average customer buy, what’s the labor cost, what’s the break-even point… stuff like that?”

“Because they do that, most people fail,” said my uncle, laughing. “I’ll teach you what I do. When you think one place looks good, stand in front of it, and for three or four hours in a day, and then another day and another and another and another, just look carefully at the faces of people walking on the street. You don’t need to think about anything. You don’t need to calculate anything. You need to see what kind of people with what kind of faces are walking by there. At the least it’ll take about one week. In that time you probably have to see three or four thousand people’s faces. Or sometimes it will take an even longer time. But you know, at some point you’ll suddenly get it. Like the mist suddenly disappears, you’ll get it: just what kind of place that spot is, and just what it’s seeking. If what that place is seeking and what you are seeking are wholly different, it’s over right there. Go someplace else and repeat the same thing. But, if you find out that what that place is seeking and what you are seeking have some common element or common ground, that means you’ve caught the tail of success. Then you should snatch it and not let go. But to catch it, like an idiot you have to stand there in the rain or snow and look carefully at people’s faces with your own eyes. You can do any number of calculations later. I’m a rather practical person. I only trust things I’ve seen with my own two eyes long enough to be convinced. Logic and promotion and calculations, or this that and the other -ism or theory, are in most cases things for people who can’t see things with their own eyes. And, most of the people in the world can’t see things with their own eyes. Why that is, I don’t know. If they set their mind to it anybody should be able to do it.”

“It’s not just a ‘magic touch’, is it?”

“That, too,” said my uncle, beaming as he laughed, “But it’s not only that. What I think you need to do is think about things from the simplest parts. Like, stand on the street corner and day after day watch people’s faces. You don’t have to rush and decide anything. It might be rough, but you will need to stay put and spend some time.”

“Are you telling me to stay here for a while?”

“No, I’m not telling you to go anywhere or stay here. That’s not what I’m saying. If you want to go to Greece, I think you should go. If you want to stay here, I think you should stay. You have to prioritize and decide that. It’s just, I always thought it was a good thing that you married Kumiko. I thought it was a good thing for Kumiko, too. Why that suddenly went bad like this, I can’t well understand. You don’t understand it well yourself, right?”

“I don’t.”

“In that case, until you know something clearly, I think you should practice seeing things with your own eyes. You can’t be afraid of spending time. Spending a good deal of time on something is in a way the most sophisticated form of revenge.”

Revenge?” I said, a little surprised. “What do you mean by revenge? Revenge against what, exactly?”

“Well, you too will understand the meaning someday,” my uncle said, laughing.

[The rest of Chapter 17 is found unabridged in Rubin’s translation, except for the last lines, translated below.]

I cannot run away, and should not run away. That was the conclusion I reached. No matter where I might go, that would always chase me down. No matter how far. [End Chapter 17]

Book 2, Chapter 18 Partial Translation

Original Title: クレタ島からの便り、世界の縁から落としてしまったもの、良いニュースは小さい声で語られる

Tidings from Crete, the thing that fell off the edge of the world, good news is spoken by small voices

I thought hard about it until the last minute, but in the end, I didn’t go to Crete. Exactly one week before her departure for Greece, the woman who was once Crete Kano came over to my house with paper a bag full of groceries  and made dinner for me. We didn’t really talk during dinner. After cleaning up, I told her I felt there was no way I could go to Crete with her. That didn’t seem to surprise her much. In fact, she took it as if that were the only natural course. 

While holding her shortened bangs between her fingers, she said, “While that Mr. Okada cannot accompany me to Crete is very unfortunate, that cannot be helped. I can go to Crete alone all right. Please do not worry about me.”

  “Have you made your travel preparations?”

“I believe the necessary things are all in order. My passport, airline reservation, travelers checks, and bag. But I don’t pack much anyway.”

“What did you sister say?”

“We are very close sisters, so it’s very hard for us to be far apart. But Malta Kano is a strong and smart person. She knows well what is best for me.” With a quiet smile on her face, she looked at me. “Has Mr. Okada decided that it is best to remain here alone?”

“Yeah,” I said, then stood up and boiled some water in a pot to make coffee. “I have that feeling.  Recently it came to me. I can go away from here, but I can’t run away from here. The fact is, no matter how far I go, I can’t escape. I think it’s a good thing for you to go to Crete. Because for a lot of reasons you’re going to clear the past and start a new life. But that’s not me.”

“Because of Ms. Kumiko?”


“Will Mr. Okada stay here and wait for Kumiko’s return?” I leaned against the sink and waited for the water to boil, but it just wouldn’t boil. 

“What I should do, honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue. But, I’ve gradually figured out, I have to do something. Just sitting here waiting for Kumiko’s return is no good. If I want here to come back, I have to clarify various things on my own.”

“But what to do, you still don’t know, do you?”

I nodded. “I can feel that something around me is taking shape little by little. Various things are still vague, but there should be some relation among them. But you can’t just catch it or drag it out. I think I can only wait for things to become a little clearer.” 

Malta Kano’s sister placed both hands on the table and thought for a moment about what I had said.

“But it won’t be easy to wait.”

“I guess so,” I said. “It’s probably far harder than I expect. Staying here alone, stuck half-finished with various problems, just waiting intently for things that may or may not ever come. To tell you how I feel honestly, if possible I want to throw out everything and go to Crete with you. Then, I want to forget everything and start a new life. That’s why I bought a suitcase, and even took a passport photo. I packed my bags. I really intended to leave Japan. But, I just can’t shake the feeling, or the sensation, that here something needs me. That’s what I mean by ‘I can’t run away.’.”

Malta Kano’s sister nodded in silence.

“Superficially, this is a stupidly simple situation. My wife found a man somewhere and left home. She says she wants a divorce. Like Noboru Wataya says, this is something you often hear about in society. It might be good for me to quit overthinking this and that, go with you to Crete, forget everything and start a new life. But actually, the situation is not as simple as it seems. I understand that. You understand that, too. Right? Malta Kano understands that, too. Probably, Noboru Wataya understands that, too. Something I don’t know is hidden there. Somehow, I want to drag that out into the open.”

I gave up making coffee, turned off the stove, went over to the table and looked at Creta Kano’s face.

[The following paragraph is saved on pp. 338 as end of Book 2 in Rubin.] 

“And, if it’s possible, I want to get Kumiko back. With my hands, I want to pull her back into this world. Otherwise, I will continue to lose who I am. I’ve gradually come to see that, though it’s still pretty vague.”

  Malta Kano’s sister stared at her own hands on the table, then looked up at me. Her unpainted lips were tightly drawn. Finally, she opened her mouth.

“For that very reason, I tried to take Mr. Okada to Crete.”

“To keep me from going through that?”

She nodded slightly.

“Why didn’t you want me to go through that?”

“Because it is dangerous,” she said in a quiet voice. “Because that is a dangerous place. Now you can still come back. We should go to Crete together. There, we are safe.”

While I stared at the face of the entirely new Creta Kano, sans eye shadow and fake eyelashes, for a second I lost hold of where I was. Something like a clump of deep fog without any warning enveloped my consciousness. I lost sight of myself. Myself lost sight of me. Where is this place? I thought. Just what am I doing here? Who is this woman? But soon reality returned. I was sitting at the table in my kitchen. I wiped my sweat with a kitchen towel. I felt a little dizzy.

“Are you all right, Mr. Okada?”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Mr. Okada, I do not know if you will ever be able to retrieve Kumiko.

 Even supposing Mr. Okada manages to retrieve her, there is no guarantee Mr. Okada or his wife will be happy as before. Everything just as it was before—I do not think it will happen. Have you considered that?”

I laced my fingers in front of my face, and untangled them. There was not a sound to be heard. Once again, I accomodated myself into the existence called me.

“I thought about that, too. Things are already so damaged, no matter how I struggle, it may be impossible for me to return things to how they were before. The possibility or probability of that might be greater. But you know, some things don’t move on possibility or probability alone.”

Malta Kano’s sister reached out and very lightly touched my hand on the table.

“Even knowing various things, should you desire to remain here, it may be right that you do. That, of course, is a thing Mr. Okada shall decide. While I am disappointed you cannot go to Crete, I truly understand how you feel. Now, I think many things will happen to Mr. Okada, but please do not forget me. All right? If anything happens, please think of me. Because I will think of you.”

“I’ll think of you, too,” I said.

The woman formerly known as Creta Kano once again sealed her lips and for a long while searched for words in the air. 

Then, she said to me in a very quiet voice, “Listen, Mr. Okada. As you know, this is a bloody and violent world. Those who don’t become strong cannot go on living. But at the same time, it is also very important that you strain your ears so as not to miss even the smallest sound. Do you understand? Good news in most cases is spoken by small voices. Please remember that.”

I nodded.

“I hope you find your springs, Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” said the woman who was once Creta Kano. “Goodbye.”

Near the end of August, I received a postcard from Crete. It had a Greek postal stamp and was stamped in Greek letters. The woman who was once Creta Kano must have sent it, because I couldn’t think of a single other person who might send me a postcard from Crete. But the sender’s name wasn’t written. I figured she probably hadn’t yet decided on a new name. A person without a name cannot write their name. However, there wasn’t only no name, but not even a line of text. It was only my name and address written with a blue ballpoint pen and the stamp of Cretan post office. The backside was a color photograph of the seaside. There was a sparkling white narrow beach surrounded by rocky hills with a topless young woman sunbathing alone. The sea was deep and blue and in the sky floated fake-looking white clouds.  The clouds looked solid enough to walk on.

It seemed the woman who was once Creta Kano had made her way to Crete without a hitch. I was happy for her. At last she could find a new name there. With a new name, perhaps a new self and a new lifestyle. But she had not forgotten me. The blank picture postcard from Crete told me that.

To kill time, I wrote her back. I didn’t know her address, or even her name, so it was a letter I never intended to send. I just wanted to write a letter to somebody.

“I haven’t heard from Malta Kano in a long time,” I wrote. “It seems she too has vanished from my world. I feel that one after another, people quietly drop off the edge of the world I am in. Everyone walks on and on that way and suddenly disappears. Perhaps somewhere over there is the edge of the world. I continue passing unremarkable days. They are so unremarkable that I am gradually becoming unable to distinguish one day from another. I don’t read the newspaper, I don’t watch television, and I hardly go outside. Occasionally I go to swim in the pool. The unemployment insurance ran out long ago, so I am eating into my savings,  but I don’t require many living expenses (though compared to Crete the living expenses might be a bit higher), and due to the small inheritance left by my mother it seems for the time being I will be able to eke out a living. That mark on my face has not changed much. But truly, as days pass the mark bothers me less and less. If I must live the rest of my life with this mark, I will live with it. I think this may be something I must live with. I don’t understand the reason myself, but somehow I have come to think that way. In either case, I am here quietly keeping my ears open.”

[The following lines are my translation, but are also translated on pp. 343-344 (Book 3, Chapter 1) in Rubin.]

Sometimes I remembered the night I slept with Creta Kano. However, that memory was strangely obscure. That night we held one another and I had her many times. That was an unmistakable fact. But some weeks passed and the certainty dropped away. I couldn’t visualize her body. Nor could I well remember in what ways I had her. Rather than my memory of the reality of that night, the memory of having her before in my consciousness—in unreality—was far more vivid. In that strange room in the hotel, the image of her riding astride my body wearing Kumiko’s blue dress again and again arose clearly before my eyes

[The following is not found in Rubin’s translation.] 

She wore two bracelets on her left arm that made a dry clatter.  I could remember the feeling of my hardened penis. I had never before experienced it become so hard and so big. She took it in her hand, slipped it inside herself and rotated as if leisurely drawing a circle. I could still clearly recall the feeling of the hem of Kumiko’s dress she wore brushing my skin. But finally, at some point Creta Kano was replaced with the unknown mystery woman. Wearing Kumiko’s dress and straddling me was that mystery woman who called so many times. Those were no longer Creta Kano’s genitalia, but that woman’s. I recognized the change in temperature and atmosphere. Like I had entered a different room.

“Forget absolutely everything,” she whispered to me. “Like sleeping, like dreaming, like rolling in warm mud.” Then, I ejaculated.

That clearly meant something. Maybe because it meant something, that memory transcended reality and remained vividly inside me. But what that meant, I still couldn’t understand. During that memory’s unlimited replay I closed my eyes and sighed.

In early September a call came from the cleaners by the station. They said my laundry was ready, so I should come get it.

“Laundry?” I said. “But I don’t think I left anything.”

“Well, it’s certainly here. Please come and get it. The fee has already been paid, so you only need to come get it. It’s ‘Okada’ isn’t it?”

I said yes. The phone number was definitely mine, too. Dubious, I went to the cleaners to check it out. As always, the owner of the shop was ironing shirts while easy listening played on a big boom box. In the tiny world of the cleaners by the station, there is never any change. There are no trends, and no transitions. No vanguard, and no rear guard. No advance, and no retreat. No praise, and no condemnation. Nothing comes in, and nothing goes out. Playing that day was Burt Bacharach’s familiar oldie “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”

When I entered the shop, the proprietor, iron in hand, stared at my face for a minute, perplexed. I didn’t get why he was staring so hard at my face. Finally I realized it was because of the mark. Well, that’s all right. If marks suddenly appeared on a familiar face, that would surprise anybody.

“I had a little accident,” I explained.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the proprietor said. It was a voice of heartfelt sympathy. He stared at the iron in his hand for a moment and gently set it upright on the ironing board.  Like he was really afraid it was his iron’s fault. “Will it heal?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

The proprietor then handed me Kumiko’s blouse and skirt wrapped in plastic. Those were the clothes I gave Creta Kano. 

“A short haired girl left these, right? Hair about this long,” I said, and held my fingers about three centimeters apart.

“Not exactly. It was about this long,” he said, and pointed to his shoulder. “And she was wearing a brown suit and a red plastic hat. She paid the fee and asked me to call your house when the clothes were ready.” I thanked him, took the blouse and skirt and went home. I thought I had given those clothes to Creta Kano. They were the “payment” with which I bought her body, and even given back I didn’t have a use for them. I couldn’t well understand why Malta Kano would bother to take those clothes to the cleaners. Anyway, I folded them neatly in a drawer with the rest of Kumiko’s clothes.

[Lt. Mamiya’s letter (Book 2 Chapter 18 pp. 344-6) is translated in Rubin p. 345. I have omitted it here.]

May Kasahara hadn’t shown up in a long time. She came to my house around the end of August. As usual she climbed over the wall and came into the back yard. Then she called my name. We sat together on the back porch and talked.

“Hey, Mr. Wind-Up Bird, do you know? Starting yesterday that empty house is getting torn down. The Miyawaki house.”

“Does that mean somebody bought that place?”

“Hmm, I dunno.”

May Kasahara and I went through the alley to the back of the empty house. Indeed the demolition work had already begun. Six helmeted workers were removing the storm shutters and windowpanes and carrying out the sink and electric appliances. For a while she and I watched them work. They seemed accustomed to that sort of work, and saying hardly anything they moved silently and systematically. High up in the sky, lines of white clouds trailed on, suggesting the arrival of fall. I wondered what the fall is like in Crete. Are the same kind of clouds are floating over there?

“Are those guys gonna tear up the well, too?” May Kasahara asked.

“Probably,” I said. “There’s no use leaving something like that there. First of all, it’s dangerous.”

“There might be people who go inside,” she said with a rather earnest face. Looking at her sun-tanned face, I could vividly remember the feeling when she licked my mark in that scorching hot garden.

“Mr. Wind-Up Bird, in the end you didn’t go to Crete.”

“I decided to say here and wait it out.”

“One time Kumiko said she wouldn’t come back, didn’t she?”

“That’s a separate problem,” I said.

May Kasahara narrowed her eyes a little and looked at my face. When she narrowed her eyes, the scar by her eye deepened.

“Mr. Wind-Up Bird,  why did you sleep with Creta Kano?”

“Because it was necessary.”

“That’s a separate problem, too?”

“That’s right.”

She sighed.

“Goodbye, Mr. Wind-Up Bird. See you again some time.”

“Goodbye,” I said.

“Hey, Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” she added after hesitating a little. “I’ve decided to go back to school.”

[May Kasahara’s talk on pp. 349-351 is translated in Rubin pp. 324-5 (Chapter 15, Book 2). This conversation from J349 is inserted into the conversation between Tōru and May on J303/E324, after May says 「クレタ島に行ったら手紙を書いてくれる?」, replacing a few cut lines. Minor changes are also made to that conversation to eliminate Tōru’s hesitation over going to Crete.]

“Will you shake my hand?” said May Kasahara. 

I held her small, sun-tanned hand, and was reminded just how small a hand it was. Just a child, I thought.

“Goodbye, Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” said May Kasahara once again. “Why didn’t you go to Crete? Why didn’t you run away from here?

“Because I can’t pick a side to bet on.”

May Kasahara let go of my hand and stared at my face as if seeing some awfully rare thing.

“Goodbye, Mr. Wind-Up Bird. See you again sometime.”

About ten days later, the empty house was completely demolished, leaving nothing but a leveled empty lot. The house was simply gone and the well was buried without a trace. The trees and flowering plants in the garden had been removed, and the statue of the bird taken away, and probably thrown away somewhere. Perhaps that was better for the bird. The simple hedge that separated the alley and the garden had been replaced by a sturdy wooden fence so tall no one could peer inside.

One afternoon in the middle of October, as I was swimming alone in the municipal pool, I had a kind of vision. Background music was always playing at that pool; that time it was Frank Sinatra—old songs like “Dream” and “Little Girl Blue.” Half listening, I swam many leisurely laps around the 25-meter pool. And then I had a vision. Or, a kind of revelation.

Before I knew it, I was inside a huge well. I wasn’t swimming in the local pool, but at the bottom of the well. The water surrounding my body was thickly heavy and warm. I was absolutely alone there, and the surrounding water had an odd and unusual echo. I quit swimming, floated quietly and gazed around, then lay on my back to look up above. Because of the buoyancy of the water, I could float there without any effort. My surroundings were shrouded deep in darkness; all I could see was a cleanly cut circle of sky right overhead. But strangely, I wasn’t afraid. There is a well here, and now I am floating like this at the bottom—I found this very natural. Rather it was surprising that I had only now realized it. That was one among all the wells of the world, and I was one among all the “myselves” of the world.

In the cut-out circle of sky, as if the universe itself had burst into fine fragments, innumerable stars were shining brightly. In the ceiling layered in darkness, the silent stars plunged their gimlets of sharp light. I could hear the sound of wind blowing over the well. And in that wind, I could hear the voice of someone calling someone. I had heard that voice somewhere long ago. I wanted to respond to that voice, but my voice wouldn’t come out. Probably, my voice couldn’t vibrate the air of that world. 

The well was frighteningly deep. When I stared up at the opening, the vertical positions would soon reverse in my head and I would feel just as if looking from the top of a smokestack straight down at the bottom. But it had been really a long time since I had had such a quiet and peaceful feeling. I slowly spread my arms and legs in the water and took several big  breaths. My body warmed from the inside and lightened as if gently supported from below. I was surrounded, supported and protected.

I don’t know how much time passed then, but finally dawn came without a sound. The line of faint purple light that appeared around the rim slowly expanded its domain while changing hues, and the stars gradually lost their brilliance. For a while, several bright stars remained in one spot, but finally they too faded and were erased. Floating on my back in heavy water, I stared at the figure of the sun. It wasn’t glaring. Just as if I were wearing dark sunglasses, some power protected my eyes from the intense light of the sun.

A little later, as the sun came nearly directly over the well, a slight but evident change came over that gigantic sphere. Just before that came a strange moment, as if the axis of time had shuddered. I held my breath, focused my sight, and tried to ascertain what was in the making. Before long, a black stain just like a mark appeared at the right corner of the sun. In the same way that the new sun had eroded the dark of night, that little mark steadily whittled away the light of the sun. A solar eclipse, I thought. A solar eclipse was happening before my eyes.

But it wasn’t exactly a solar eclipse. Because when the black mark 

 covered about half of the sun, it abruptly halted the erosion, and lacked the clearly defined outline seen during a normal solar eclipse. Though feigning the form of one, it was clearly not something that could actually be called an eclipse, but I had no idea what else I should call this phenomenon. Like taking a Rorschach test, I narrowed my eyes and tried to read some kind of meaning out of the shape of the mark. But it was a shape but not a shape shape, something but nothing. Gazing at that shape, I gradually lost confidence in my own existence. I took several deep breaths, settled the beating of my heart, and then moved my fingers slowly in the heavy water and once again verified myself in the darkness. All right, no problem. I am definitely here. This is at once the municipal pool, and the bottom of a well; I am witnessing an eclipse that is not an eclipse.

Eyes closed, far off I could hear a muffled noise. At first it was barely audible, like the unintelligible voices of people heard through a wall. But before long, just as when tuning a radio, little by little it took on a distinct outline. Good news is spoken by small voices, said the woman who was once Creta Kano.  I focused my nerves, strained my ears, and tried to make out those words. However, that wasn’t a human voice. It was the mingled cry of several horses.  At some place in the darkness, as if excited by something, those horses neighed, snorted, and stamped the earth. It was as if, with various sounds and motions and a pressing urgency, they were sending me some message. But I didn’t understand. Why would there be horses in a place like this? And what would they try to communicate to me?

I had no idea. Eyes closed, I tried to picture those horses. The horses I managed to picture were all inside a barn, lying sideways in the hay, foaming at the mouth and panting in anguish. Something was afflicting them terribly. 

Suddenly, I remembered the story of horses dying in the eclipse. A solar eclipse kills horses. I read that story in the newspaper, and told it to Kumiko. It was the night she came home late and I threw out her dinner. Horses underneath the disappearing sun are confused and afraid. Probably, some of them actually die.

I opened my eyes, and the sun had disappeared. Nothing existed there. A neatly delimited circle of empty space was all that floated overhead. Now, silence covered the bottom of the well. That silence was deep and powerful enough to swallow anything around it. It became hard to breathe, and I sucked in a big breath. Inside it, I sensed some odor: the scent of flowers. It was the enticing scent released by a mass of flowers in the darkness. That scent was as fleeting as the remains of a torn dream. But in the next moment, inside my lungs, as if aided by a potent catalyst, the scent intensified and grew with furious vigor. The fine needles of pollen pierced my throat, nostrils and the inside of my body.

It’s the same smell that was floating in Room 208, I thought. The large vase set on the table: the flowers inside it, faintly mixed with the smell of scotch poured in the glass. And that strange phone woman—“There’s some fatal blind spot inside you.” I reflexively surveyed my surroundings. I couldn’t make out the shape of anything in the dark. But I could feel clearly the presence of one who had just been there, but was gone. For a brief time she shared the darkness with me, and as a sign of her existence left behind the scent of flowers and disappeared. 

I held my breath and floated quietly in the water. The water kept supporting my weight, almost as if tacitly encouraging my existence. I silently laced the fingers of both hands on top of my chest. I closed my eyes once again and focused my consciousness. My raw heartbeat sounded in my ears. It sounded like the heartbeat of someone else. But that was my heart. It was only the sound of my heart heard coming from some other place. There’s some fatal blind spot inside you, she said.

That’s right; I have some fatal blind spot.

I am overlooking something.

She must be someone I know very well.

As if something suddenly flipped, I understood everything. In a flash, every single thing was exposed in broad daylight. Under that light, things were utterly distinct and concise. I took a short breath and exhaled slowly.  My exhaled breath was as hot and hard as a burnt stone. Make no mistake. That woman was Kumiko. Why hadn’t I realized it before? I shook my head furiously in the water. It should have been easy to figure out, right? Absolutely easy. From that strange room, Kumiko was , frantically sending me that single message: “Please find my name.”

Kumiko was shut away in that dark room, seeking to be set free. And the person who could free her was none other than me. In this wide world, only I was qualified, because I loved Kumiko, and she loved me. If at that point I had only found her name, using some kind of method hidden there I probably would have been able to save Kumiko from that world of darkness. But I couldn’t find it. On top of that, I even ignored her calls. Even though from here on that chance might not come a second time. 

After a while, the trembling excitement quietly withdrew and in its place surged a soundless terror. The surrounding water rapidly lost its warmth, and a slimy, grotesque something like a swarm of jellyfish wrapped itself around me. My heart pounded in my ears. I could clearly recall what I’d seen in that room.  The hard, dry noise of someone rapping on the door was still branded into my ear, and the moment’s flash of a white knife under the light of the corridor even now made my flesh crawl. Perhaps those were scenes lurking somewhere within Kumiko. And perhaps, that pitch-black room was the domain of darkness Kumiko held herself. I swallowed my saliva, and heard a great hollow sound like someone had struck a void from the outside. I feared that void, and at the same time feared what was trying to fill it. 

Eventually, the terror withdrew as rapidly as it had come. I slowly exhaled the frozen breath from my lungs and sucked in new air. The water around me little by little regained its warmth, and I felt a raw emotion resembling joy arise from the inmost depths of my body. I’ll probably never see you again, Kumiko said to me. I don’t know why, but Kumiko left me abruptly and decisively. But she certainly didn’t discard me. On the contrary, she actually needed me urgently and sought me vehemently. Only for some reason she couldn’t put that into words, so with various methods and different shapes, she desperately tried to communicate to me something like a big secret.

Thinking that, my chest grew hot. Inside me, I felt several things that until then had been frozen shatter and melt. All kinds of memories, thoughts, and feelings became one, surged up and swept away something like a clump of emotions.

What was melted and swept away mixed quietly into the water and gently wrapped my body with a thin film in the darkness. It’s there, I thought. It’s there, waiting for my hand to reach out. I don’t know how much time it will take. I don’t know how much effort will be required. But I have to stand firm. And I have to find some way to reach into that world. That is what I must do. “When you must wait, wait.” That was what Mr. Honda said.

I could hear a dull sound of water. Someone came gliding through the water like a fish and wrapped my body in strong arms. It was the pool lifeguard. I had spoken to him a few times before.

“Are you all right?” he asked me.

“I’m all right,” I replied.

It was no longer the bottom of that great well, but the usual 25-meter municipal pool. The smell of disinfectant and the sound of water reverberating off the ceiling returned to my consciousness in a flash. Several people were standing poolside and watching me, wondering what had happened.  I explained to the lifeguard that I got a sudden cramp in my leg. That’s why I was just floating in place there. The lifeguard lifted me out of the pool and told me I had better stay out of the water and rest for a while. “Thank you,” I said to him.

I sat down against the wall by the pool and quietly closed my eyes. Inside me, the sensation of happiness brought by the vision remained like a spot of sunshine, and in that spot of  sunshine, I thought: It is there. It is not that everything has spilled out of my hands. It is not that everything was driven away into the dark. There is still something—something warm, beautiful, and precious—left there. It is there. I know. 

I may lose. I may be lost. I may not make it anywhere. No matter what desperate efforts I make, it may be that things are already irretrievably damaged. I may be only scooping in vain the ashes of ruins, and the only one unaware of it is me.  There may be no one here who will bet on my side. “I don’t mind,” I say in a small, determined voice to someone there. “I can say this. At least there are things I must wait for, and things I must seek.”

So I hold my breath, and strain my ears. I try to make out the small voice that should be there. Beyond the splashing water, the music, and the people’s laughing voices, my ears hear that faint, soundless echo. Over there, someone is calling someone. Someone is seeking someone. In a voiceless voice. In wordless words. 

[End Book 2]

Book 3, Chapter 26 Translation

Original Title: 損なうもの、熟れた果実 

Damaging things, ripe fruit

At 9:50 at night I sat in front of Cinnamon’s computer and flipped the switch. Using the passwords, I disabled the locks one after another and accessed the message program. I waited for 10:00, entered the line number on the screen and requested a collect call. After a few minutes the screen indicated that the other party had consented to the fee. Then, across a computer screen I came face to face with Noboru Wataya. The last time he and I had exchanged spoken was the summer one year prior, when we met with Malta Kano at the hotel in Shinagawa and talked about Kumiko. We parted with deep mutual hatred. Since then, we hadn’t spoken at all. Back then he hadn’t yet become a politician, and I didn’t have a mark. It even seemed like something out of a past life.

I chose to send first. Like making a serve in tennis, I quietly settled my breathing and placed both hands on the keyboard. 

 >I have heard that you want to make me pull out of this “residence”—that you can buy the land and building, and on that condition discuss returning Kumiko to me. Is that true? ←

I pressed the enter key to complete the message. 

Eventually the reply came. At a quick pace the letters lined up on the screen.

>First I want to clear up a misunderstanding: whether Kumiko returns to you or not isn’t up to me. To the end, that is solely up to her judgment. You must have confirmed this yourself during the exchange with Kumiko the other day, but she is not being confined. As family I am only providing a place of refuge and keeping her temporarily under my protection. All I can do is persuade her to talk to you. I have actually set up the computer line so that you two can talk. That is about all that I can do. ←

I switched the mode to “send.”

 >The condition on my side is very clear. If Kumiko will return, I will pull out completely from what I am doing in that “residence.” If she won’t come back, I will go on indefinitely. That is the only condition.

Noboru Wataya’s response to that was plain and clear.

>I will repeat myself, but this is not a trade. You’re not in a position to lay conditions on me. Basically, we’re only talking about possibilities. If you will pull out of the “residence,” I will certainly persuade Kumiko, but even then I can’t give my word that Kumiko will go back to you. That’s because Kumiko is an adult with an independent personality and I cannot compel her to do anything. But at any rate, if you continue to frequent that place, you may as well think that Kumiko will never return to you. That is very clear. I guarantee it. ←

I hit the keyboard.

 >Listen. You need not guarantee anything. I understand well what you are thinking. You want me to pull out of that “residence.” You really want me out. But no matter what I do, you have no intention of persuading Kumiko. From the beginning you’ve had no intention of letting her go. Am I wrong? ←

A reply came quickly.

>Of course what you think about in your own head is 100% up to you. I can’t stop that.

Right, what I think about in my own head is up to me.

I typed.

> It isn’t that I am entirely outside a position in which I can set conditions. You must be pretty concerned about what I am actually doing here. Since you can’t well grasp what on earth it is, isn’t it irritating you? ←

As if to tantalize me, Noboru Wataya left a long pause, like he was 

 intentionally showing that he had the advantage.

>I think you rather misunderstand your position. Or more accurately, you overestimate yourself. I don’t have any idea what you’re doing over there, and I don’t particularly want to know. It’s simply, at my social position, if possible I don’t want to get embroiled in petty troubles, thus when it came to Kumiko I thought it best to make what efforts I could. But, if you reject my proposal outright, that’s fine by me. After this I will have no relationship with you, and I will manage my own affairs. This may be the last time we talk, and probably you will never speak to Kumiko again. If you have nothing new to talk about, I’d like to hang up. I have to meet someone after this. ←

No, the talk isn’t over yet.

>The talk is not yet over. As I said to Kumiko the other day, I am little by little coming closer to the core of things. Over the last year and a half, I have kept thinking about why Kumiko had to leave home. While you became a politician and became increasingly famous,  I made conjectures in a dark and quiet place. I explored various possibilities and piled up hypotheses. As you are aware, I am not terribly quick-thinking. But anyway, I had nothing but time, and thought about really various things. Then, at some point I reached this conclusion. Behind Kumiko suddenly leaving home must be lurking some huge secret I don’t know about, and unless I bring to light the true cause, Kumiko may never really return to me. And, I think you are holding fast the key to that secret. When we met last summer, I said the same thing. I know well what’s under your mask, and if I feel like it, I can expose you. Honestly, what I said that time was mostly a bluff. It was baseless. I was only trying to shake you up. But I wasn’t mistaken. I’m coming closer to the truth of what you’re holding, and you too should be sensing that. That’s why what I’m doing here is worrying you, and you’re even thinking to put up a great deal of money to buy the land outright. How about it? Am I wrong? ←

It was Noboru Wataya’s turn to talk. I laced my fingers and followed the words lining on the screen.

>I can’t well understand what you’re trying to say. It seems we’re somehow speaking in  different languages. As I said it before, but Kumiko got sick of you, found another man, and thus left home. She’s seeking divorce. The circumstances are unfortunate, but this happens often. Even so, you are pulling out all kinds of strange theories one after another and throwing the affair into disorder by yourself. No matter how one thinks about it, it’s a mutual waste of time. 

At any rate, there is no talk about me buying the land from you. Unfortunately, that proposition has completely disappeared. As you must be aware, the second article about that “residence” came out today in that weekly. Now that place seems to be starting to attract public attention, I can’t have any dealings in it. And according to my sources, what you are doing there is nearing an end. It seems there you are meeting with multiple followers or clients, giving them something, and taking money as compensation. But they will never come again. Coming near there is a little too dangerous. And if people don’t come, money won’t either. If that happens, you won’t be able to make monthly payments, and sooner or later you won’t be able to maintain that place. Like waiting for a ripe fruit to drop from a branch, I only have to sit and wait. Isn’t that right? ←

Now it was my turn to leave a pause. I drank the water I’d prepared and reread what Noboru Wataya had written several times. Then, I moved my fingers calmly.

>I certainly don’t know how long I can maintain that house. It’s as you said. But, you see, I have several months of grace until the capital runs out. With that much time, there are still various things I can do. Even things you can’t really imagine. This isn’t a bluff. Let me give you an example. For instance, haven’t you had bad dreams lately? ←

I felt Noboru Wataya’s silence transmitted like magnetism from the screen. I honed my senses and glared at the screen. I tried to read even a little of Noburu Wataya’s quivering emotion beyond it. But that was impossible. Eventually, words appeared on the screen.

>I’m afraid that sort of empty threat won’t work on me. You should write down roundabout, meaningless babble in a journal or something and save it for your generous clients. I bet they’ll run a cold sweat and pay you big money. That is, if they ever come back. It’s useless talking with you any further. I want to hang up. As I said before, I am busy. ←

I spoke.

>Please wait a moment. Please listen well to what I am about to say. It’s not a bad story, so there’s certainly no harm in listening. You see, I can free you from those dreams. Wasn’t it basically for that reason that you brought up a trade? Right? All I want is for Kumiko to come back to me. That is the trade I propose. A good deal, don’t you think?

I understand that you want to ignore me completely. I also understand that you don’t want to have anything to do with me. What you think about in your own head is 100% up to you. I can’t stop that. In your eyes, I must be an existence close to zero. But unfortunately for you, it’s not truly zero. You must possess far greater power than me. I too recognize that. But when the night comes, even you have to sleep, and when you sleep, you will certainly dream. I guarantee it. And you cannot choose your dreams. Right? I have a question. Just how many times do you change your pajamas each night? So many you can barely keep up with the laundry?

I rested my hands, took a breath and let it out slowly. Then I once again checked the words lined up there. I searched for the words to follow. In the dark depths of the screen, I could feel the presence of something wriggling soundlessly inside a cloth bag. Through the computer line I was nearing there

Now, I have figured out what you did to Kumiko’s older sister who died. This isn’t a lie. Until now, you’ve kept on damaging people, and from here you’ll probably keep damaging others. But you can’t escape dreams. You’d better give up and return Kumiko to me. Because that’s all I’m seeking. Besides, you’d better not make any more pretense with me. It’s useless. Because I am steadily nearing the secret under your mask. You must be fearing that from the bottom of your heart. You’d better not falsify your own feelings.

At about the same time as I pressed the enter key to complete sending the message, Noboru Wataya cut the transmission. 

[end of translation]

Please reach out if you have thoughts, questions or corrections regarding the translations.

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