Haruki Murakami is a celebrated Japanese writer most known for his magical realist fiction. He has written such books as Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, among others where his heroes regularly venture into a metaphysical realm- the unconscious, the dreamscape, the land of the dead, to examine their memories of people and objects they have lost.
But today we’re going to talk about some locations featured in his novels. Haruki Murakami’s characters are often going out to fancy French restaurants in Aoyama, hotel bars in Shinjuku, and coffee shops in Ginza. Throughout the author’s work, however, surprisingly few specific restaurants or bars are actually named. Fortunately, some of the establishments that have been named in the books are still around in modern-day Tokyo. Here’s a list of ten bars and restaurants in Murakami novels that you can visit today.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO
“We caught a bus to Shinjuku and went to an underground bar called DUG behind the Kinokuniya bookstore. We each started with two vodka and tonics.
‘I come here once in a while,’ she said. ‘They don’t make you feel embarrassed to be drinking in the afternoon.'”Norwegian Wood
Fans of Norwegian Wood can visit the same jazz bar where Watanabe and Midori often go for drinks in the novel. Dug, originally established in 1961 still remains today, although it’s changed locations a few times since its original incarnation.
The jazz club no longer features live jazz performances but it’s a great place for jazz fans to grab a drink while hearing some classic records played through an excellent sound system. And even if you don’t enjoy or know much about jazz you are invited by staff to visit, acknowledging that many foreign visitors travel to Dug specifically because of Murakami and Norwegian Wood.
See Also: English Bookstores in Tokyo
Dug has two sides, operating as a café in the afternoon and a bar in the evening. It is free to enter during the coffee time (12-18:30) but has a cover later in the night. The café might feel intimidating to enter, as you descend a staircase into the unknown, but the underground space is inviting with cozy brick walls covered in photos of great jazz musicians, and antique furniture that transport you back to the setting of Norwegian Wood.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 12:00- 23:30, Fridays and Saturdays 12:00 – 2(AM)
Cover: 550 yen after 18:30
“Good. I want you to go to the Nakamuraya Café in Shinjuku at six o’clock. I’ll reserve a table for you in the back where it’s quiet. It’ll be in my name and on the company’s tab, so eat and drink as much as you like. The two of you can have a nice, long talk.”1Q84
Nakamuraya Cafe, the place where Tengo and Fuka-Eri meet for the first time in 1Q84, is just across the street from Shinjuku’s Kinokuniya bookstore.
There are actually a few cafes of this name, all located in the Nakamuraya Building. It’s unclear on which floor the scenes from the novel take place, but Nakamuraya is best known for its Indian-style curry which can be ordered in the basement floor restaurant.
According to Wonderland Japan Nakamuraya Café is what started the curry tradition in Japan. A bakery named Nakamuraya in Shinjuku gave shelter to an Indian revolutionist who fled to Japan during WWI in 1915. This led to authentic Indian curry being introduced to the Japanese public, marking the beginning of what would become a favorite of Japanese cuisine.
Dishes at Nakamuraya come with Japanese white rice and pickled cucumbers and leeks. The curry is a Japanese style, but the authentic Indian spices let the dish sit somewhere between the both traditional curries.
Expect to pay more than what you would for a similar portion size elsewhere, but the quiet atmosphere and attentive service are all part of the package.
Hours: Every day 11:00- 22:00
“ ‘It’s not bad. Chicken salad and crispy toast. That’s all I ever eat at Denny’s’
‘So why do you even bother looking at the menu?’
He pulls at the wrinkles in the corner of one eye with his pinky finger.
‘Just think about it. Wouldn’t it be too sad to walk into Denny’s and order chicken salad without looking at the menu? It’s like telling the world “I come to Denny’s all the time because I love chicken salad.” So I always go through the motion of opening the menu and pretending I picked the chicken salad after considering other things.’ ”After Dark
The first scenes of Murakami’s 2004 novel After Dark take place in a Denny’s somewhere in Shibuya, most likely the Jinnan district, about a ten-minute walk from Love Hotel Hill.
Visitors from abroad may be surprised to see that Denny’s in Japan at all, let alone restaurants that specialize in steaks and other Japanese foods rather than breakfast combo meals. Denny’s restaurants are great for quick, cheap, and satisfying dishes.
Some of the most popular dishes at Denny’s are the Cheese Omurice, Herb Tonkatsu Zen, Vegetable Curry, and Chicken Karaage.
Most Denny’s locations in Japan have an English menu on the table or else they will bring one for you. Plus, most locations are open 24 hours so if you find yourself out in the middle of the night after a visit to an izakaya you’ll be able to find something quick.
Another great thing about Denny’s (and Skylark restaurants like Gusto below) is for a set price or included with a meal deal, you can get unlimited refills of coffee, tea, sodas, and more at the drink bar which is not always something you see in traditional restaurants.
Hours: 24 hours
Cafe Gusto (Skylark)
“The Skylark. Big neon sign. Bright seating area visible through the window. Equally bright laughter from the youthful group of men and women—college students, likely—seated at a large table. This place is far livelier than the Denny’s. The deepest darkness of the nighttime streets is unable to penetrate here.”After Dark
While less iconic than the Denny’s from the beginning of After Dark, Mari also goes to sit in a Skylark restaurant later in the novel. Skylark restaurants are now known as Gusto and the restaurant Murakami references is just down the street from the Denny’s on Koen-dori.
However, as of writing (June 2022) this location is closed (1-15-3 Jinnan, Shibuya), but if you just want to experience a Gusto restaurant, you’re in luck. Café Gusto’s are located all over Japan and every few blocks in Tokyo. You can visit another location in Shibuya to get the same feel Murakami talks about in the book.
Gusto focuses on Western-style meals but with an obvious Japanese twist. They are good locations for the less adventurous eaters or those that want a little bit of taste from home. There are various Gusto restaurants like Steak Gusto or S Gusto that offer similar meals but with a slightly more upscale feel (Steak Gusto) or at a quicker pace (S Gusto).
Most Gusto restaurants are great for foreigners because they use tablets to order your meals. You can switch the language to English, tap a few buttons, and it will send your order to the kitchen and tell you your total for check out. Some Gustos even have robots bring your food to the table which is honestly one reason we go to Café Gusto because my kids absolutely love it.
Hours: 7:00- 3:00
“ ‘Feel like pizza? Let’s go to Shakey’s.’
‘I don’t mind. I’m not against pizza. But wouldn’t they spot you, going to a place like that?”
Gotanda smiled weakly, like the last glow of a summer sun between the leaves. ‘When was the last time you some anyone famous in Shakey’s, my friend?’
Shakey’s was packed with weekend shoppers. Crowded and noisy. A Dixieland quartet in suspenders and re-and-white striped shirts were pumping out The Tiger Rag to a raucous college group loud on beer. The smell of pizza was everywhere. No one paid attention to anyone else.
We placed our order, got a couple drafts, then found a table under a gaudy imitation Tiffany lamp in the back of the restaurant.
‘What did I tell you? Isn’t this more like it?’ said Gotanda.
I’d never craved pizza before, but the first bite had me thinking it was the best thing I’d ever tasted.”Dance, Dance, Dance
At the end of Dance, Dance, Dance, the narrator and his famous actor friend Gotanda meet in a Shakey’s Pizza. Which specific location they meet in is not specified but there happens to be one in Shibuya, a couple minute walk from Tokyu Hands. As the protagonist also lives in Shibuya, this is likely the same restaurant where Gotanda confesses his crime in the book.
Today, Shakey’s is an all-you-can-eat buffet style pizza and pasta spot. They offer 30 pizza choices like the Crispy American Pizza, as well as month-specific ones, and seasonal pizzas.
With the buffet, you get the salad bar, rice and curry, pizza, pasta, potatoes, and drinks. You can stay for up to 90 minutes and eat as much as you want.
If there’s a pizza on the menu that isn’t on the buffet you can order it and it will be ready to order in about 20 minutes.
At Shakey’s you’ll get a great mix of familiar favorites but also Japanese options to try to be a little more adventurous like tuna pizza and corn pizza. But don’t worry they still have traditional pepperoni.
Hours: Every day 11:00- 23:00
“I pictured the world above ground. We were directly under those two landmark ramen shops — Hope-ken and Copain.”Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World
Many of the notable scenes of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of The World take place deep underground beneath Tokyo but Murakami gives descriptions of which landmarks the characters are passing beneath. Much of the action happens between Sendagaya and Aoyama-Itchome stations. Murakami mentions many places that are special to him such as the Jingu Baseball stadium and the Gaien park. It’s also worth noting that while Murakami doesn’t mention it, the jazz bar he owned, Peter Cat, was located in Sendagaya.
While Copain apparently no longer exists, Hope-ken can still be visited 24 hours a day. It’s a standing-only shop which means customers come and go quickly so this isn’t a spot to come for a leisurely dinner but rather a quick in and out before you head on your way, but definitely a place to visit for those foreigners that think the idea of standing and eating at a restaurant is strange.
The broth at Hope-ken is Tonkotsu (pork bone) and looks very fatty but is actually light and sweet. You can get the basic ramen that comes with thick noodles, crisp bean sporuts and chunky chashu pork slices for 750 yen. Or get the chashumen for even more meat for 1000 yen. You can also follow the regular customer’s example and add garlic and black pepper to your bowl.
Hours: 24 hours
“ ‘Where are we?’ asked Naoko as if noticing our surroundings for the first time.
‘Komagome,’ I said. ‘Didn’t you know? We made this big arc.’
‘Why did we come here?”
‘You brought us here. I was just following you.’
We went to a shop by the station for a bowl of noodles. Thirsty, I had a whole beer to myself. From the time we gave our order until the time we finished eating, neither of us said a word.”Norwegian Wood
In Norwegian Wood, after Toru and Naoko reconnect and walk around Tokyo, they wind up in Komagome. They stop in a soba noodle restaurant so Toru can rest after a surprisingly long walk. The restaurant is not named in the English translation but in the original Japanese version it’s revealed to be Komatsuan.
Located just next to the entrance of Rikugien Gardens, Komatsuan is known for its peaceful atmosphere in addition to its delicious soba. If you don’t know about soba, it’s a thin noodle made of buckwheat flour that gives it a unique flavor and smell. There are different ways to eat soba depending on the region but in Tokyo it’s usually cold noodles served with a cold dipping sauce as well as other side dishes like tempura.
According to Komatsuan, the best way to eat soba is to eat it quickly, and don’t forget to slurp your noodles.
Just be aware before you go that Komatsuan is especially pricey for a noodle shop, with the cheapest dish here going for around ¥1,000. Meanwhile, set meals cost around ¥3,000 or more.
Hours: Every day 11:00- 22:00
Keikyu Ex Inn Shinagawa (Pacific Hotel)
“ ‘Would you by any chance be aquainted with the Pacific Hotel, across from Shinagawa Station?”
‘There is a tearoom on the first floor. I shall be waiting there for you at four o’clock if that would be all right with you, sir.’ ”The WInd Up Bird Chronicle
In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Toru first meets Malta Kano in person in a tearoom in the Pacific Hotel near Shinagawa Station. The Pacific Hotel was closed in 2010 but the Keikyu Ex Inn Shinagawa currently operates in the same building.
Today you can still visit the first-floor tearoom known as “Garden Tea Shinagawa,” although it’s not suitable for those traveling on a budget.
Hours: Every day 9:00-21:00
Bundan Coffee and Beer
“I put some water on to boil, took tomatoes from the refrigerator and blanched them to remove the skin. I chopped up a few vegetables and garlic, added the tomatoes, then stirred in some sausage to simmer. While that cooked down, I slivered some cabbage and peppers for a salad, dripped coffee. I sprinkled water on to a length of French bread, wrapped it in foil, and slid it into the toaster-oven. Once the meal was ready, I cleared away the empty bottles and glasses from the living room and woke her up.”Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Bundan is the in-house café of The Museum of Modern Japanese Literature. While it might not be part of Murakami’s literary world, fans flock to this book-lined outlet for dishes and drinks taken from classics of Japanese literature: including the ‘sausage in tomato sauce with salad and brioche’ which the narrator of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World has for breakfast 24 hours before doomsday.
Hours: 9:30- 16:30. Closed Sunday and Monday
This list of places from bars and restaurants from Murakami novels is great for the serious literary fan, or anyone interested in places mentioned in famous novels. You can also see our list of places from Murakami novels Here. And our list of what else to do in Tokyo Here. If you know of any other bars or restaurants and in Tokyo from Murakami novels make sure to let us know in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for new places to visit.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO
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