The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Wind-up Bird Chronicle.jpg
First US edition cover
Author Haruki Murakami
Original title ねじまき鳥クロニクル
Nejimakitori Kuronikuru
Translator Jay Rubin
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 607
ISBN 0-679-77543-9
OCLC 39915729

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル Nejimakitori Kuronikuru?) is a novel published in 1994–1995 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The first published translation was by Alfred Birnbaum. The American translation and its British adaptation, dubbed the "only official translations" (English) are by Jay Rubin and were first published in 1997. For this novel, Murakami received the Yomiuri Literary Award, which was awarded to him by one of his harshest former critics, Kenzaburō Ōe.

Publication history[edit]

The original Japanese edition was released in three parts, which make up the three "books" of the single volume English language version.

  1. Book of the Thieving Magpie (泥棒かささぎ編 Dorobō kasasagi hen?)
  2. Book of the Prophesying Bird (予言する鳥編 Yogen suru tori hen?)
  3. Book of the Bird-Catcher Man (鳥刺し男編 Torisashi otoko hen?)

In English translation, two chapters were originally published in The New Yorker under the titles "The Zoo Attack" on July 31, 1995, and "Another Way to Die" on January 20, 1997. A slightly different version of the first chapter translated by Alfred Birnbaum was published in the collection The Elephant Vanishes under the title "The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women". In addition, the character name Noboru Wataya appears in the short story "Family Affair" in The Elephant Vanishes. While having a similar personality and background, the character is not related to the one in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle of the same name. Noboru Wataya is also used in Jay Rubin's translation of the title short story in The Elephant Vanishes.

In May 2010, Harvill Secker published the Limited Centenary Edition of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to celebrate its one hundred years of publishing. It was limited to 2,500 copies.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The first part, "The Thieving Magpie," begins with Toru Okada, a low-key unemployed man, who is tasked by his wife, Kumiko, to find their missing cat. Kumiko suggests starting by looking in the alley, a closed-off strip of land existing behind their house. After hanging out there for a while with no luck, May Kasahara, who had been watching him camping out the alley for some time, questions him. She then invites him over to her house in order to sit on the patio and look over an abandoned house that she says is a popular hangout for stray cats. The abandoned house is revealed to possibly contain some strange omen, as it had brought bad luck to all of its prior tenants. It also contains an empty well, which Toru uses later on to crawl into and think.

With Toru having been unsuccessful in finding the cat, Kumiko asks her brother, Noboru Wataya, for help. Her side of the family (though her not so much) all believe in fortune-telling and other clairvoyant-like skills. Noboru recommends Malta Kano, and she and her assistant sister, Creta, help Toru in finding the cat using their vague insight of the future. Creta meets Toru and begins to tell him the story of her past, involving being raped by Noboru. Among other events that occur, Toru notices one day that Kumiko is wearing perfume that has been gifted to her by some unknown person. The cat remains missing, and the first section ends with Lieutenant Mamiya telling Toru about his wartime experiences.

Kumiko is revealed to be missing at the start of the second part, "Bird as Prophet." Shortly after, Toru finds out through a meeting with Noboru and Malta that Kumiko has apparently been spending time with another man and wants to end her relationship with Toru. Confused, Toru tries to several things to calm himself and think through the situation: talking and taking up work with May Kasahara, hiding at the bottom of the well, and loitering around the city looking at people. Work with May involves tallying up people with some degree of baldness at a subway line for a wig company. While at the bottom of the well (of the abandoned house), Toru reminisces about earlier times with Kumiko, including their first date to an aquarium where they looked at jellyfish. He also experiences a dreamlike sequence where he enters a hotel room and speaks with a woman, and notices a strange blue mark on his cheek after he leaves the well. While loitering in the city, he spends most of the day sitting outside a donut shop and people-watching. Through this activity Toru encounters a well-dressed woman and also a singer he recognizes from his past, whom he follows and beats with a bat after getting ambushed by.

"The Birdcatcher," the third, final, and lengthiest part, ties up most loose ends while introducing a few new characters. The well-dressed woman Toru met while people-watching is revealed to be Nutmeg, whom he sees again when he reverts to people-watching. She hires him to relieve clients, middle-aged or older women, of some kind of inner turmoil that develops inside of them. The blue mark is involved in this somehow, though it is never really explained. In return, Toru receives pay and partial possession of the abandoned house that had been purchased to resell by some property agency. Cinnamon, Nutmeg's son, maintains the house and refits the well with a ladder and pulley to open/close the well cap from the bottom. Toru periodically goes to the bottom of the well to think and attempt to revisit the hotel room. The cat, who has been hardly mentioned following Kumiko's disappearance, shows up at Toru's home after nearly a year of being missing. Toru discusses Kumiko's disappearance with Noboru directly and indirectly (through Ushikawa) and eventually arranges for a talk with her through the Internet, using her recollection of the jellyfish date as a means to verify her identity. Finally, Toru is able to travel to the hotel room from the well and confronts the woman, realizing that she is Kumiko and breaking the spell. It is revealed in this reality that Noboru has been beaten into a coma by a bat, with the assailant described to look just like Toru. An unknown man enters the hotel room and attacks Toru, the intruder, with a knife. Toru fights back with the bat and kills the man, before escaping back to the well. In the well, bruised and unable to move, Toru passes out after the well fills with water. Cinnamon saves him, and some days later Nutmeg notifies him that in this reality Noboru had a stroke and is now in a coma. Kumiko sends him a message on the computer to let him know she is alright but intends to kill Noboru by pulling the plug on the life support. It is revealed in a meeting between Toru and May that Kumiko has been successful and is now serving time after admitting to the deed. Toru says that he will wait for her, and bids May goodbye.

Main characters[edit]

While this book has many major and minor characters, these are among the most important:

  • Toru Okada: The narrator and protagonist, Toru is a passive and often apathetic young man living in suburban Japan. He is Kumiko's husband and continually follows the orders or wishes of others. He had a job in a law firm, but currently unemployed, and he is the embodiment of passivity.
  • Kumiko Okada: Kumiko is Toru's wife and, as the breadwinner of the couple, is the more autonomous of the two. She works in the publishing business.
  • Noboru Wataya: Noboru is Kumiko's brother. He is presented as a mediagenic figure; the public loves him, but Toru cannot stand him. Noboru appears as an academic in the beginning, becomes a politician in the story, and has no apparent personal life. He is said to be hidden behind a façade — all style, and no substance. ("Noboru Wataya" is also the name Toru and Kumiko gave to their pet cat, whom Toru later renames Mackerel, like the fish; the character name also appeared in Family Affair, translated by Jay Rubin, of The Elephant Vanishes collection.)
  • May Kasahara: May is a teenage girl who should be in school, but, by choice, is not. Toru and May carry on a fairly constant exchange throughout a good deal of the novel; when May is not present, she writes letters to him. Their conversations in person are often bizarre and revolve around death and the deterioration of human life. Even more bizarre is the cheerful and decidedly non-serious air with which these conversations take place.
  • Lieutenant Mamiya: Mamiya was an officer during the Japanese occupation of Manchukuo, and meets Toru while carrying out the particulars of Mr. Honda's will. He has been emotionally scarred by witnessing the flaying of a superior officer and several nights spent in a dried-up well. He tells Toru his story both in person and in letters.
  • Malta Kano: Malta Kano is a medium of sorts who changed her name to "Malta" after performing some kind of "austerities" on the island of Malta for some time. She is enlisted by Kumiko to help the Okadas find their missing cat.
  • Creta Kano: Malta's younger sister and apprentice of sorts, she describes herself as a "prostitute of the mind." Disturbingly, for Toru, Creta bears a near-identical resemblance to Kumiko.
  • Nutmeg Akasaka: Nutmeg first meets Toru as he sits on a bench watching people's faces every day in Shinjuku. The second time they meet she is attracted to the blue-black mark on his right cheek. She and Toru share a few strange coincidences: the wind-up bird in Toru's yard and the blue-black cheek mark appear in Nutmeg's World War II-related stories, and also Nutmeg's father and Lieutenant Mamiya (an acquaintance of Toru's) are linked by World War II. "Nutmeg Akasaka" is a pseudonym she chose for herself after insisting to Toru that her "real" name is irrelevant. Her real name is never mentioned in the novel.
  • Cinnamon Akasaka: Cinnamon is Nutmeg's adult son who has not spoken since age 6. He communicates through a system of hand movements and mouthed words. Somehow, people who've just met him (who presumably have never lipread or used sign language) find him perfectly comprehensible. "Cinnamon," too, is a pseudonym created by Nutmeg.

Missing chapters and parts[edit]

Some chapters and paragraphs of the Japanese paperback edition were not included in the English translation. Combining the original three-volumes (Japanese) would have been too long, and so the publisher requested that ~25,000 words be cut for the English translation.[2]

For example, the two missing chapters from the second volume of the original three-volume elaborate on the relationship between Toru Okada and Creta Kano, and a "hearing" of the wind-up bird as Toru burns a box of Kumiko's belongings. In the third volume, the computer conversation between Toru and Noboru Wataya and Toru's encounter with Ushikawa at the train station are also omitted.

In addition to reducing the word count, some chapters were moved ahead of others, taking them out of the context of the original order.


The English translation of the novel was carried out by Jay Rubin. In addition to notable differences between the Japanese and English versions, there are also differences between the original Japanese hardcover and paperback editions.[2]

Further differences exist between the American and British editions, but these are much more superficial.[2]

The German translation by Giovanni and Ditte Bandini is based on the English translation, not on the Japanese original.[3]

There is also an Italian translation from the original Japanese version by Antonietta Pastore, published by Einaudi, known as "L'uccello che girava le viti del mondo".

The Swedish edition, "Fågeln som vrider upp världen", was translated from the Japanese original by Eiko and Yukiko Duke and published in 2007.

The Danish version "Trækopfuglens Krønike" was translated from the Japanese original by Mette Holm and published in 2001.

The Russian edition "Хроники Заводной Птицы" was translated by Sergei and Ivan Logachev and published in 2002.[4]

The Hungarian edition "A kurblimadár krónikája" was translated by György Erdős from the original Japanese hardcover version, and published in 2009.

The Greek edition "Το κουρδιστό πουλί" was translated by Leonidas Karatzas, based on the English Translation by Jay Rubin.

The Polish edition "Kronika ptaka nakręcacza" was translated by Anna Zielińska-Elliot, based on original Japanese version.

The Czech edition Kronika ptáčka na klíček was translated by Klára Macúchová, based on original Japanese version and published in 2014.

Book information[edit]


  1. ^ The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Limited Centenary edition
  2. ^ a b c Translating Murakami, an email roundtable, with Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel (translators of Murakami), and Gary Fisketjon (Murakami's editor at Knopf).
  3. ^ Haruki Murakami, Mister Aufziehvogel, Cologne 1998, p. 3
  4. ^ Журнальный зал | Новый Мир, 2002 N10 | - Книги (составитель Сергей Костырко)

External links[edit]