Book Two ended with Toru having a blue-black mark on his cheek, the size and shape of a baby’s palm. He does not know how he got it any more than he knows how to get rid of it, and like everything else in these strange series of events, he seems quite accepting. In fact, other than his pursuit for Kumiko, I find him to be a terribly passive person.
When his uncle told him to “stand on a street corner somewhere day after day and look at people who come by there,” (p. 328) Toru does just that, although he ends up at the Shinjuku city center. He looks for hours at people’s faces, and only one person connects with him. A woman comes to sit by him who is well dressed, meticulously, in fact, and at their second meeting she asks him to come with her. She purchases him new clothes, new shoes, a new watch, and gets him a haircut. She introduces herself as Nutmeg Akasaka, as Toru insists on having her name; her equally meticulous son she calls “Cinnamon.”
As a young boy, Cinnamon witnessed two men outside of his window, in the middle of the night, digging around a tree. And then one put something inside it, which Cinnamon discovered to be a heart. Since then, he does not speak. He moves his lips, and his fingers convey messages, but he has no voice.
And then one evening, a total stranger is sitting in Tori’s darkened living room. He introduces himself as Ushikawa, but “everybody calls me Ushi.” As he works for Noboru Wataya, he promises to find a way for Kumiko and Toru to be reunited, if Toru will “cut all connections with this ‘hanging house.’ Which means the house with the well that Toru sits within, thinking.
When Cinnamon comes to visit Toru, bringing groceries and cleaning his home, it becomes clear that Toru works for Cinnamon and his mother in some capacity. She has clients, who wish to remain anonymous, and for that purpose Cinnamon has set up an impenetrable wall of security, both digitally and in the physical world.
Nutmeg and her mother had escaped from Manchuria to Japan. On the way, an American submarine surfaced next to the transporter they were on, and it seemed that all the passengers would be killed. Much like what happened to the animals at the zoo, where Nutmeg’s father, who was the chief veterinarian with a blue-black mark on his cheek, worked.
The themes of war, in Asia, are clear and horrific. They are almost unbearable to read and write about. Yet, it is about Kumiko and Toru which I am most interested. When the cat comes back, unexpectedly, the reader senses that Kumiko, too, will come back. But, this is the quest which Toru is on: bringing his wife back no matter what. And to me, the mysterious characters sprinkled throughout the novel, serve to point him in the right direction towards accomplishing this feat.
By infiltrating the complex computer system which Cinnamon has set up, Toru and Kumiko are able to converse. Briefly. And then, while in the bottom of the well, Toru is able to get through the wall into Room 208, the one with the heavy scent of flowers and a woman in bed who will not let him shine the light on her face. (I believe this woman to be the one who called Toru on page one, asking him how well one knows anyone. I believe it is also Kumiko; they are one and the same.)
Eventually, Kumiko explains the hateful, evil person that is brother, Noboru. He ruins everything he comes in contact with, from their sister, to the “imaginary” Creta whom he violated. Kumiko will not rest until she kills him, then turns herself in. “I am calm with the thought that I will have to obliterate his life from this world. I have to do it for his sake too. And, to give my own life meaning.” (p. 603)
So, here are some thoughts I hold about each character:
- Toru’s purpose is to bring back Kumiko.
- Kumiko’s purpose is to vanquish her brother, Noboru.
- Noboru’s purpose is to destroy everything in his path, in order to gain power.
- Nutmeg’s purpose is to overcome the terrible poverty and sorrow in her life by becoming involved in fashion, and making those around her “heal” in her “fitting room.”
- Cinnamon’s purpose is to support his mother, while dealing with the image of the heart he found, buried in the ground, which I believe to be his father’s.
- May’s purpose is to challenge Toru in his search, sometimes deliberately blocking him so that he will persevere, sometimes standing by his side in friendship.
- Mr. Honda’s purpose is to tell Toru to think hard, and long, and maybe getting his wife back was a more important job than being a lawyer for right now.
- Lieutenant Mamiya’s purpose was to shed light on the atrocities of war.
What do you think? Do you agree with any of my suppositions? It seems to me that Murakami has written an incredible labyrinth of lives intertwined, perhaps encouraging us to go into some “well” of our own to consider what it is that has been done to us; what it is that we must overcome, or discover, or fight for.