Kafka on the shore is written by Haruki Murakami who is a Japanese writer. He has written many acclaimed books like Norwegian wood, Men without women, and A wild sheep Chaseand Kafka on the shore is one of them. The genre of this book is called magical realism. It might feel like fantasy fiction but it is way different than that. Because in fantasy fiction books everything happens in fantasy land. In magical realism, there would be normal characters and normal situations like we yet there would be some movement which won’t make sense at all.
So let’s start the summary of Kafka on the shore and let’s find out what actual magical realism is.
Note: The subtitles in the summary are not from the book. These are created for a better understanding of the readers.
There is a boy in Tokyo, Japan whose name is Kafka Tamura and he lives with his very cruel father. That’s why Kafka has decided to run away from his house on his fifteenth birthday. Also, there is a Crow (an imagined persona whom Kafka consults for advice when he finds himself in stressful situations) who advises Kafka to be strong and tough. He thinks that this journey will change him forever. He packs a knife, some money, and a photograph of him and his older sister. His mother and older sister left the family when he was 4 years old so that is the only memory he has of them.
He has spent years in physical and mental training so that can escape his cruel father and survive as a runaway. But he was worried that no matter how far he runs, he’ll never be able to escape the bad omen which follows him everywhere.
Kafka gets on a bus towards Shikoku in western Japan with only a backpack of his things. There Kafka meets a girl named Sakura at a rest stop of the journey. Sakura is a few years older than him and Kafka is attracted to her but he worries that she could be his long-lost sister. Sakura gives him his phone number when they arrive in the town of Takamatsu. After that Kafta thinks of what to do or where to go now. Then he visits a library named Komura memorial and there he meets Oshima, He is a well-dressed young librarian. He also meets with Miss Saeki; she is an extremely elegant middle-aged woman who runs that library. Now, he thought that she could be his mother. After spending some time Kafka and Oshima became friends.
Setsuko an Elementary School Teacher
Meanwhile, on the other side, some declassified documents of the U.S army from world war 2 tell the story of a mysterious incident. An elementary school teacher whose name is Setsoku Okamochi took some students to the countryside to look for mushrooms. Suddenly, all the children got unconscious but their eyes were moving back and forth rapidly. Setsoku runs to get help but he fails. After some time children begin to wake up on their own. They were fine but they didn’t remember the incident.
All the children were fine except one whose name is Saturo Nakata. He is a studious boy who has been evacuated from Tokyo. He remained in a coma for a few weeks and then he too woke up but unlike other children, he lost his entire memory. He had even lost his writing and reading skills. Though the official investigation ended there, After many years Setsoku wrote a letter and in that letter, she wrote that she believed she was responsible for the incident.
In the present day, Nakata lives in Tokyo and he became old. Although he lost his memory and ability to read and write because of that incident, he acquired a special skill and that is understanding the language of cats. With the help of his talking with cats skill, now he works as a part-time cat finder.
Right now, He is in search of a cat whose name is Goma. He asks a confused cat whose name is Kawamura about Gome and after that Mimi who is a siamese cat. They both told him that there is a grassy lot where Goma was last seen. They also warn him about an evil man who shows up there. Nakata started waiting there in the hope that the man would reappear again. After a long waiting time the dog shows up there and Nakata starts following him and that dog brings him to the house of a mysterious man.
That mysterious man was Johnnie Walker, he dresses like the logo of the Johnnie Walker whisky brand. That Mysterious man (Johnnie Walker) tells him that he can help Nakata to find Gona but only if Nakata helps him by killing him. Johnnie Walker tells him that he kills cats so that he can collect their souls, which he uses to make his mystical flute.
Johnnie Walker also tells him that unless Nakata kills Johnnie he will kill Gona and Mimi. At that time Johnnie finishes another three cats. After seeing that Nakata becomes uncontrollable and he stabs Johnnie with a kitchen knife. Nakata picks up Goma and Mimi and runs away from there. Nakata returns Goma to his family and he tries to pretend like the police. People think he is crazy and the next day Nakata leaves Tokyo.
Unrevealed things of Miss Saeki and Oshima
Back in Takamatsu where Kafka lives right now. He wakes up outside with blood in his shirt and he doesn’t even remember what happened in the past few hours. He gets panicked and calls Sakuro and goes to her apartment. He tells her about his family and his younger sister. They spend the whole night together and had sex.
The next day, Kafka went to the library and asked Oshima for a place where he could stay. Oshima says that he’ll ask Miss Saeki if Kafka can stay in the library. In the meantime, Oshima takes him to a remote cabin in the woods. While in a drive to the woods, Oshima reveals that he is suffering from hemophilia and because of that he often thinks about his death.
Kafka spends two days in the woods talking with the crow. After two days Oshima came to bring him back to the library. On the drive to the library, Oshima tells Kafka about Miss Saeki’s past story. Her childhood love died at the age of 20, that time they both were young and Miss Saeki never overcame the pain of losing him. At that time, She wrote a song to express her feelings towards her childhood sweetheart “Kafka on the Shore” but now that song gives her pain and a bad memory. The next day, two women visit the library and complain about Oshima that he is a sexist and it is not comfortable for females. Oshima reveals that he is gay (a transgender man).
Nakata in search of entrance stone
On the other side, Nakata is going west by taking lifts. He is taking a series of rides from different trucks. Eventually, Nakata meets a young man whose name is Hoshino. He is the kind of person who seeks short-term relationships and new Hawaiian shirts every few weeks.
Hoshino takes a few days off work so that he can help him to get to Takamatsu. Although he feels drawn to Takamatsu. Nakata says to Hoshino that they must have to find the “entrance stone”, a mysterious white stone with magical properties that only Nakata knows about. They searched in library books and tourist sites but after days of searching, they got no clue. Then Hoshino is approached by a man who dresses like the founder of KFC (Kentucky fried Chicken) Colonel Sanders and he also calls himself the same.
Colonel Sanders takes him to a place called the Shinto shrine, where he finds the entrance stone. He takes the stone to Nakata. After that, they spend some time trying to determine how to open the entrance. Then Nakata thinks that they should flip the stone to open the entrance to another world. After several efforts, the stone eventually became too heavy. Meanwhile, Hoshino thought he had to get back to work but then soon he decided that the friendship between Hoshino and Nakata is more important than his work.
Kafka’s father prediction
At the library, Oshima comes to Kafka and shows him an article that says a famous sculptor (Kafka’s father) has been killed. Although Kafka was far away at the time of his father’s murder, he feels he was responsible.
Kafka tells Oshima about the omen which drove him away from the home. He also shouts about his father’s prediction that Kafka will kill his father and will sleep with his mother and sister. Over the next few nights, Kafka sees a ghost resembling a teenage version of Miss Saeki in his room.
He listens to the “Kafka on the Shore” song which Miss Saeki has written in her past and eventually he thinks that Kafka and Miss Saeki are being drawn together. He also feels more strongly that Miss Saeki is his mother although she denies it.
Soon, Kafka and the real Miss Saeki begin to have sex. Miss and Saeki feel that she is lost with her lost childhood love and while on the other hand, Kafka was trying to make up for her ruined childhood.
On this side, the police boost up their search for Kafka’s father’s killer. Nakata and Hoshino relocated to the other apartment provided by Colonel Sanders. They started roaming around the city as they were trying to find out what to do next. Oshima was also worried about the intensifying search and the relationship between Kafka and Miss Saeki brings Kafka back to the same cabin. Their Kafka had a dream about raping Sakura and these things make him feel very guilty. He also feels very lonely because of his father’s prophecy.
With the thought of escape or death, he went out to the dark woods. Eventually, he meets soldiers who were wearing World War II uniforms and they tell Kafka that they will take him to the Mysterious entrance. After believing them Kafka started following them and they were going through the collection of small cabins, much like Oshima’s cabin. In the end, the soldiers leave him in one of the houses.
Towards the ending of the story
After many days of endless driving, Nakata and Hoshino stopped at the Komura memorial library, and Nakata went inside. There, he meets Miss Saeki and starts talking. Nakata and Miss Saeki feel an immediate connection with each other. Miss Saeki shares her feeling that she feels trapped with her past memories while Nakata also shares that he feels trapped because of the lack of memory.
Miss Saeki entrusts Nakata and hands over a pile of files in which she has written the story of her life. At her request, Nakata and Hoshino burn all the files without reading them. At the end of the day, when Oshima went to Miss Saeki’s office he found her dead facing down on her desk.
When Nakata and Hoshino went back to the apartment, Nakata also died while sleeping. Nakata leaves Hoshino along with the mystery, what to do with the entrance stone. After a couple of days, a black cat appears and tells Oshima that he has to kill something that will try to go through the entrance. After that, the snake-like creature and pale in color comes out from Nakata’s body and begins to make its way to the stone. Hoshino tried to kill it but couldn’t, so he thought he had to flip the stone over to stop that creature. He tried with his full strength and he successfully flipped that stone. Then he was easily able to kill that creature. vowed to hold into Nakata’s memory and Hoshino heads out of the apartment.
After a brief interval, The Crow, in the form of a real crow, roams around the forest. Suddenly, he spots a man who is wearing a red tracksuit and black silk hat. The man tells Crow that he makes flute out of the cat’s souls, and he is traveling to a place where he can make the biggest flute of all time. The man also tells him that the forest where they are standing right now is like limbo and the Crow can’t harm the man because he has already died.
The man knows it’s impossible to hurt him but the Crow tries. Crow peaks out his eyes but the man laughs. Then the Crow rips out his and nothing happens to the man, and he continues to laugh.
In the cabin, where Kafka leaves, young Miss Saeki appears in front of him and starts preparing food for Kafka. Kafka gets extremely happy to see her. After that, he realizes that she has no memory of the past and if he doesn’t leave soon he will also lose his memory. The middle-aged Miss Saeki appears in the afternoon and tells Kafka that he must leave the valley.
Kafka asks Miss Saeki again if she is his mother. Miss Saeki responds to him that only once she left someone whom she shouldn’t leave and she asks Kafka to forgive her for that. Kafka forgives her. Then Miss Saeki pricks her hand with a hairpin and lets Kafka taste her blood and then She leaves the cabin. Oshima’s brother bring back Kafka to the library and Kafka tells Oshima that he has decided to return back to his school in Tokyo. Then Kafka and Oshima promised each other that they’ll meet again someday. Kafka also says goodbye to Sakura on the phone call. Thinking about all the incidents that happened with him Kafka gets on the train to Tokyo toward his home.
That’s how the story ends there, If you liked and then don’t forget to this on your social media handle, and if you have any suggestions then please feel free to comment down below.
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Sourabh Sharma is a hobbyist book reader, Entrepreneur, and a literature student at Delhi University. A blog writer by day and a book reader by night, he is oathed to discuss himself in a third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.