The protagonist, a 35-year-old male, takes a very slow elevator to his
business appointment in the middle of Tokyo.
He kills time by counting the change in his pocket,
a process for which he employs a technique that involves the two hemispheres
of the brain, a case of split personality.
He is welcomed by a young woman who is both beautiful and chubby.
She cannot speak but he can read lips. She takes him in a long corridor, then
opens a closet that leads him (properly dressed) into a river beyond which is
the secret laboratory of her grandfather. The old man explains that he is afraid
of INKlings and especially of Semiotecs. The latter are trying to get his data
and that's why he decided to hire a Calcutec (that's what the protagonist is)
to protect his data. The data are about sounds of bones. The scientist has
shelves full of skulls of every possible mammalian species and has a theory
about how to remove sound from the world. That's why his granddaughter cannot
speak: he was experimenting on her and forgot to restore her to normal
speaking conditions. The protagonist explains that the Calcutecs for the
System and the Semiotecs for the Factory. The Factory is basically the
equivalent of the Mafia in the world of information.
The grandfather brings the protagonist sandwiches made by the girl and
is pleased that the protagonist enjoys them. When he's done, the protagonist
is escorted by the girl back to the elevator and she starts asking him
questions about sex. She's still a virgin and she's only 17, whereas the
protagonist is 35. She asks him whether he'd have sex with her and he says no,
which she suspects is because she's fat, but he tells her that he simply
does not like to sleep with women he knows. He was married and is now divorced.
Her grandfather told her she should lose her virginity with a man over 30.
She also gives him a gift from the scientist.
This story alternates with a fairy tale about a land full of unicorns and
run by a Gatekeepr who
directs the protagonist, a dream reader, to a library of old dreams.
At the library of old dreams, his first task is to read a dream about the
skull of a unicorn. He tells the librarian that he doesn't remember where
he came from: his memory was erased when they separared him from from
The protagonist had to leave his shadown outside the town's wall, just like
every other person in that town, and was told
by the Gatekeeper that he would never be allowed to leave town again.
The two stories intersect when
the protagonist, now at home, opens the package and finds a skull, the skull
of a unicorn.
The skull must be valuable because the Semiotecs immediately try to steal it
from his house. The protagonist asks the librarian to bring him a book on
unicorns and explains that he cannot leave his house (he cannot leave the
skull unguarded). The librarian, a woman, accepts and soon they are in bed
together, except that he cannot get an erection. The librarian's book explains
that one unicorn skull was once found and the protagonist now believes that
he has that one precious specimen. He hides it to avoid that the Semiotecs
can steal it.
In parallel, the story of the Gatekeeper continues. The protagonist catches
his shadow working with the Gatekeeper. When he has a few seconds alone with
the protagonist, the shadow tells him to make a map of the town. The Gatekeeper
tells him that that town is the "End of the World".
He keeps reading dreams via skulls at the library while mapping the city.
He is told by an old colonel to stay away from the woods, where the Woodfolks
live. And, when he ventures there, he almost dies of a strong fever.
Back to the Tokyo story, the protagonist explains that he is licensed for
two tasks by the System: data laundering and shuffling. Shuffling was made
possible by reorganizing the core of his consciousness around a password,
"End of the World". When shuffling occurs, his consciousness is borrowed
to perform a task that he's unaware of.
The granddaughter of the scientist calls him because her father has been
kindapped by the INKlings. She believes that only the protagonist can open
the door of the laboratory. The protagonist rushes to the laboratory but
the girl has disappeared too. When he gets back home, two men break into
his apartment, the short Junior and the colossal Big Boy.
He fears they are Semiotecs but instead they tell him that
they are independents who have been spying on the scientist. They know that
the scientist used to work for the System (like the protagonist) where he
designed the very methods that the protagonist and many other Calcutecs employ.
Then the scientist opened his own laboratory in an area infested by the
"Infra-Nocturnal Kappa" (INKlings) who live in the subways and sewers,
basically using the INKlings are a natural protection against the Semiotecs.
The two intruders leave after demolishing his most valued possessions,
apparently for no reason, despite having sworn to him that they were there
to help him. Junior tells him that agents from the System will be coming
to investigate the skull and the protagonist is supposed to say that he
knows anothing about it. The System will assume that the destruction was caused
by Semiotecs interrogating the protagonist, and, in fact, Junior cuts the
protagonist with a knife to make it look like he was tortured.
It turns out that the Semiotecs never tried to steal his skull: it was Junior
who hired someone to steal his skull.
For mysterious reasons, the protagonist accepts to lie to the System (risking
his life) that he never had a skull and was tortured by Semiotecs, i.e.
he becomes in accomplice in whatever Junior and Big Boy are planning that
they did not even share with him.
The protagonist is still asleep when the scientist's chubby granddaughter
wakes him up: grandfather has disappeared and the world will end in 36 hours
if they can't find him. She knows nothing about the world because she's been
living with grandfather all her life, but she knows about him: the protagonist
is the only survivor of the 26 people who were surgically trained to shuffle
data. That's why grandfather selected him as the "key". When they reach the
old scientist's laboratory, they find that it has been devastated by someone,
and not by INKlings (they would live a nasty smell behind). The girl
is convinced that her father must have escaped in time. They follow a secret
passage that leads to a maze following clues left behind by the scientist
and reach a subterranean mountain, the holy sanctuary of the INKlings.
The girl and the protagonist barely escape the leeches and the rising waters
and reach the place where the grandfather is hiding.
Meanwhile, the story of the dreamreader continues. He learns that, when beasts
die, the Gatekeeper uses their skulls to hold old dreams, but he is not told
why. The Gatekeeper allows the protagonist to visit his shadow, who is still
hoping to find a way to escape from the "End of the World".
Back to Tokyo's underground, the protagonist demands an explanation from
the old scientist. The scientist explains that his neuroscience
experiments led to a technique to extract core consciousness from living
subjects like him. Those core consciousnesses are stored in the vaults of
the System. Each box has a title, and the protagonist's box is titled
"The End of the World". The scientist knows why the protagonist survived
the experiment and the other 25 people died: the protagonist is a case
of split personality, and somehow this helped him survive the experiment.
The System will probably use him as the model for the next generation of
experiments. The scientist too wanted to experiment on him. Unfortunately,
now that the Semiotecs have stolen all his notes he is unable to stop
the process he set in motion in the protagonist's mind, and the protagonist
will "die". What will actually die is the current consciousness. The
protagonist will survive in the other world that the scientist has created
inside his subconscious, the "End of the World", a town surrounded by a wall
in which unicorns exist.
The chapters about the mythical town and the chapters about the mad scientist
The protagonist in the End of the World obtains permission from the Gatekeeper
to visit the Power Station at the edge of the woods.
The librarian accompanies him because she suspects
that her mother is lost in the woods. The Power Station
is run by a solitary caretaker who collects musical instruments and donates
one to the protagonist, a tiny accordion.
The scientist apologizes to the protagonist for having failed him. Now the
protagonist is stuck with a choice between dying and "immortality" in the
End of the World world. The protagonist and the scientist's granddaughter
leave and, following a complex path, reach the city again. The girl asks
to sleep at the protagonist's (demolished) place. Along the way she explains
that the System and the Factory may be run by the same organization,
although one is supposed to protect information and one is out to steal it.
If they were run by the same organization, that organization would be able to
In the fairy tale world, the protagonist's shadow is getting weak but nonetheless
hopes to find a way to escape soon. The trouble is that the protagonist is
beginning to like this dream world and is falling in love with the librarian.
The shadow warns him that life in the town is not life: everything is
artificial, people don't have emotions, it is absolute boring perferction.
Peace reigns because the inhabitants don't have a mind. Their mind has been
extinguished precisely by the dreamreader. The protagonist decides that the
shadow is right: it is better to go back to his former, real self.
The scientist's very young granddaughter would like to have sex with the protagonist,
but the protagonist prefers to sleep with the librarian. She too is divorced.
However, the younger one installs herself in the protagonist's apartment,
while her grandfather has eloped to Finland. She even chases away
Junior and Bib Boy, who have retured to look for the protagonist.
One morning the protagonist and the librarian find the glowing unicorn skull.
In the dream world the protagonist carries his weak shadow all the way to
the place where they can escape but then he refuses to follow: he has been
reading the librarian's mind and is now unable to leave her.
The granddaughter of the scientist promises to freeze the protagonist once
he loses consciousness, hoping that some day her grandfather will find a way
to resuscitate him. The protagonist drives to the waterfront and lets himself
In the last chapter the protagonist admits to his shadow that he created the
dreamworld and now he wants to remain in it forever.
In 1984 (the year of Orwell's famous book)
a young woman, Aomame, is stuck in traffic. She has an important appointment.
The taxi driver suggests she gets out of the car and climbs down the emergency
stairway to a subway station, which she does. The taxi driver warns her
ominously that "things are not what they seem" and begs her to remember that
"there is only one reality".
Tengo is an aspiring writer whose mind does not work quite well: he can
remember something that happened to him at an early age
when most people's memory is not formed yet, but he also spaces out suddenly
as if he is having a fit.
His literary agent Komatsu called him to offer him a strange assignment:
rewrite the awful story submitted by
a 17-years old high-school student, Eriko Fukada,
using the pen name "Fuka-Eri". Her style
is terrible, but the editor believes that the idea is good and that Tengo can
turn it into a masterpiece.
Komatsu plans to submit the novel to a major literary prize claiming that it
revealed a new genius. Tengo is reluctant to accept a scheme that is almost
illegal: invent an author out of two authors.
Aomame, instead, is a woman with a very poor memory: she vaguely remembers the
date (april 1984) and that she is 30-years old. She takes the subway, changes
into a business dress, travels to a hotel, knocks at a room where an oil
business man, Miyama, is trying to concentrate. She then coldly murders him
with a technique that only her can practice and that leave no traces. The doctor
will think it was a heart attack. Her motive seems to be to avenge what he did
to her wife.
Tengo meets Fuka-Eri. It turns out she has seen him before because he lectures
on math at her high school. Fuka-eri is mysterious: she doesn't care if the
novel gets rewritten, she says she's not even the one who sent it in (but
doesn't say who did), she says she didn't pick the title
("Air Chrysalis"), and she says that the "little people" of her novel really
exist. She also wants him to meet someone else.
Tengo dislikes young girls and prefers to date mature women. His current
girlfriend, Kyoko, is a married woman with two children.
Aomame meets a middle-aged businessman in a bar and invites him to have sex with her.
She learns that policemen changed uniforms and now carry more powerful guns,
although she could swear she just saw one in the old uniform with the old kind
of gun. She also learns that the USA and the Soviet Union are establishing
a permanent Moon station, another news that eluded her.
Tengo feels that Fuka-Eri did not write a novel: she simply recorded something
that truly happened, which turns out to be a good plot for a novel.
"Air Chrysalis" is about a little girl in a rural community
who fails to protect a blind goal and is punished by being locked in a building
with the rotting corpse from which "little people" come and go.
Aomame visits a rich widow who lives in a mansion nicknamed the "Willow House",
protected by a loyal body guard named Tamaru, who is gay. The widow praises Aomame for
killing the oil businessman and shows her photographs of the injuries he
inflicted on his poor wife. This derelict woman is one of six who live in
the Willow House. Apparently, the widow contracts Aomame to kill abusive
husbands and save their wives. While there, Aomame learns about
a famous shootout, another news that she completely missed.
Tengo remembers that his mother cheated on his father when Tengo was just
a baby. His memory can go that far back. His father was a fee collector
for the national broadcasting corporation.
Tengo meets Fuka-Eri and realizes that she is congenitally dyslexic
who can neither speak nor write.
She admits that the novel was typed, titled and submitted by a friend,
an even younger girl, Azami, the daughter of the professor in whose house
Fuka-Eri lives. She wants Tengo to meet the professor. She is also somewhat
deranged because she hints at mysterious creatures who check what she does
and don't want her to write the novel, and Tengo guesses she's referring to
the "little people".
Aomame checks the newspapers in the library to find out if the shootout
truly occurred. She is familiar with all the news of that time, except the
shootout (that made headlines all over Japan, involving terrorists armed to
their teeth) and the case of a fee collector who lost his temper and stabbed
a college student (this being Tengo's father, the two threads finally meet).
She refuses to believe that she missed those news. Her logical conclusion is
that, instead, she is now living in a different world, one that shares most
events with the old one. She decides to call it 1Q84, where "Q" stands for
"question mark". She assumes that it started when she left the taxi. She also
realizes now that she could tell the music played in the taxi, Janacek's
Sinfonietta, even though she knows nothing of classical music.
Fuka-Eri takes Tengo to meet the professor, a retired anthropologist whose name
is Ebisuno. Tengo tells him the truth about the fraud devised by Komatsu, but
the professor does not object trusting that Tengo will protect the girl.
The old man then tells the story of her father:
Fukada was a communist who started a utopian commune in the mountains for
Sakigake, and a violent splinter faction of that commune,
Akebono, caused the famous gun battle with the police (the one that puzzles
Aomame in the parallel story, and this is the second point of contact
between the two). Hearing about the shootout, Tengo feels that he's about to
have one of his seizures and decides to leave (as we know from Aomame's
research, the shootout happened at about
the same time of his father's incident).
At another singles bar Aomame meets another girl who is looking for casual
sex. This other girl,
is a cop and likes younger men, whereas Aomame
is a criminal and likes middle-aged men.
Aomame does not want a permanent boyfriend because it's too much trouble,
whereas the cop would like a boyfriend but her work makes it difficult to be
in a relationship.
The professor tells Tengo that he has not heard from Eri's parents in seven
years. When he tried to reach the compound, he was turned back. The compound
is now completely isolated from the rest of the world. The villagers nearby
only know that a lot more people live there now and that there is construction
all the time. The professor doubts that the revenues from organic farming
alone can pay for all of this. The commune, however, has been granted
religious status by the government.
Eri fled the commune for unknown reasons when she was ten.
On the way home Tengo remembers a little girl whose parents belonged to a
Aomame wakes up in her bed, remembering vaguely that she and Ayumi engaged in
a sex orgy with two men. It is the first hangover of her life, as she usually
doesn't drink hard liquors. Ayumi calls to check on her and tells her that
they even did lesbian love. We then learn that
Aomame was still a virgin until her mid 20s. When her best friend Tamaki
committed suicide, she learned that she had been sadistically
abused by her husband.
That induced Aomame to learn the technique to murder people without leaving
any trace, a technique that she first practiced on Tamaki's husband.
After that murder Aomame started craving sex.
Tengo finishes rewriting Eri's story in a record ten days. Kumatsu is very
happy with the result but asks Tengo to extend the passage about the two moons.
We learn that Tengo has doubts about his biological father. He wonders if his
mother's lover could be his real father.
Aomame is reluctant to accept money from the rich widow as rewards for killing
men. She already makes enough money teaching martial classes at a gym.
Ayumi is rapidly becoming her best friend, the first real friend since Aomame
lost Tamaki. Aomame tells Ayumi that she has never had a boyfriend. She is
still faithful to a boy she loved when she was ten years old. She is waiting
for destiny to bring them together. Aomame notices that something else is
wrong with the world: there are two moons in the sky. She wonders if the end
of the world is coming and a voice replies "I can hardly wait".
Tengo's rewrite of "Air Chrysalis" wins the literary award.
Komatsu now wants to set up a company specifically to exploit the success of
Eri's novel. The professor,
who is now a stock broker, has agreed. Only Tengo
is reluctant to continue the fraud.
Aomame visits the rich widow and remembers how they became partners in crime:
Aomame told her about killing Tamaki's husband, and the widow told Aomame
how she destroyed financially her daughter's husband after he caused her to
commit suicide just like Tamaki. In both cases the police could not have done
much because there was no evidence against the men. There is now a new guest
in the safe house for women: a ten-years old, Tsubasa. Her uterus has been
destroyed for unknown reasons. The little girl blames "the little people".
(The connection with Eri's novel is still vague but one seems to create reality
in the other one).
Tengo meets the professor again and he admits that he is using the whole
business to find Eri's parents. He thinks that they are kept prisoners by
the new rulers of Sakigake. By turning Eri's story into a bestseller, he
hopes that the media will do what he and the police could not do: lay siege
to the commune and find out what is going on inside. The professor senses
that something bad happened when the commune transformed an agricultural entity
to a religious entity. Eri can only say that this had to do with the Little
People, but refuses to elaborate. Eri seems to like that now she is one with
Tengo (they are one person as far as the authorship of the book goes) and
asks to sleep at his place.
The rich widow tells Aomame that Tsubasa has been repeatedly brutally raped by
the leader of a religious cult to which her parents belong.
Even the name corresponds to Tengo's parallel story: Sakigake.
It is the cult's ritual that the leader rapes girls before their puberty:
he is probably raping little girls all the time. The parents accepted it
and the girl had to run away. The man is very powerful and there is no evidence
against him that could be used in a court of law. Therefore the rich widow
prefers to take care of the matter herself instead of informing the police.
The only problem is that the politician never leaves the commune and even his
name is unknown. For now she'll adopt the girl. After all, her daughter was
pregnant when she committed suicide and that baby would now be of Tsubasa's
age. On the way home Aomame is shocked to realize that the story made her
crave sex. Meanwhile, little people emerge from Tsubasa's mouth while she
is asleep and perform some strange ritual.
Tengo is happy with the older married woman because he wants to avoid the
problems that come with dating a young woman who wants to get married;
he also likes the fact that his older girlfriend was in control of sex,
instead of expecting him to be in control.
The effect of Eri on him has been that now he wants to write his own novel.
Eri is a mysterious girl also in that she can memorize long passages (for
example, of her favorite novel, "The Tale of Heike") even though it sounds
like her IQ is very low. She asks him about 1984 but he doesn't have the book.
Instead he reads her Chekhov's "Sakhalin Island", a tale in which Chekhov
describes people who are disappearing, the Gilyaks, displaced by the Ainu,
who, in turn, have been displaced by the Japanese themselves.
At the library Aomame reads again about the gunfight that occurred three years
earlier and realizes the connection with Sakigake. Only one of the terrorists
escaped. She needs help from someone who can access police records. She tells
Ayumi that she suspects the commune of systematic child abuse and rape. Ayumi
digs up records about the commune: they have lots of money and are busying land
and properties everywhere. We learn that Aomame has an elder brother whom
she has never seen after leaving her parents.
While the book becomes a bestseller and Eri becomes a celebrity,
Tengo resumes his usual routine: teach math and have wild sex with his
older girlfriend. He is disturbed by the fact that he keeps thinking of
Eri and somehow he relates her to his mother. That routine is interrupted
when Komatsu calls to inform him that Eri has disappeared. Tengo suspects
that she has been kidnapped by the Sakigake sect. Eri always claimed that
the Little People truly exist: she met them when she failed to take care of
the goat and she made an air chrysalis with them, and the book was simply
about what happened. If some of this was true, then it would explain that
the sect would kidnap her to make sure she doesn't reveal any other secret.
Aomame and Ayumi keep throwing sex orgies with random men met at bars. One
time the men even pay them as if they were prostitutes.
Aomame tells Ayumi that she was raised in a very religious family, and then
the family stopped talking to her when she decided to go away and abandon
the cult. Ayumi, instead, was molested by both her brother and her uncle
as a child, forced to perform oral sex on them. Then Aomame is called urgently
at the Willow House: someone has killed the guard dog in the most horrific way.
Tengo receives a tape from Eri in which she explains that she went into hiding
of her own. Komatsu calls, alarmed that the media are beginning to get on the
story of her disappearance. Tengo comments that this was precisely
the professor's plan from the outset: he hijacked Komatsu's fraud to get
the media on the job of digging up her past. Meanwhile, Tengo has started
a novel set in Eri's world, a world with two moons.
Tsubasa has run away, perhaps fearing that the killing of the dog was a warning.
The rich widow has a plan to kill the Sakigake leader but tells Aomame that
she might die and, if she survives, she'll have to undergo cosmetic surgery
and completely change life. The rich widow has found out that the first little
girl to be raped by the leader was his own daughter when she was ten, and
that was about seven years earlier (the same timeframe as Eri's in the
parallel story). The rich widow promises Aomame a lot of money, although Aomame
does not seem to care: Aomame is as materialistic about sex as she is
idealistic about killing bad men at all costs.
On the way out Aomame asks Tamaru if he can get her a gun: she plans to kill
herself if she is captured by the evil
Sakigake people rather than being tortured.
We learn that Tamaru was born in Sakhalin Island (the island of Chekhov's
book in Tengo's parallel story) of Korean parents working for the Japanese
and then abandoned at the end of the war and raised in a Catholic orphanage.
He mentions Chechov too: "once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired".
And he doesn't seem to be sure that they are in the real world.
It turns out that Tengo's favorite piece of music is Janacek's Sinfonietta,
which is the music that fascinates Aomame because she cannot explain how she
knows it so well. He listens to it every day. A sinister man, Ushikawa, the
director of a literary foundation, visits Tengo offering to pay him a huge
sum for a six-month sabbatical to complete his novel. Tengo has only told
two people (his publisher and his girlfriend) that he is writing a novel
and cannot explain how this stranger knows it. Uncomfortable, Tengo declines
the offer. Ushikawa, however, hints that he also knows of his complicity in
Eri's fraud, which sounds like a veiled threat.
Aomame is afraid to ask others how many moons they see in the sky. She still
sees two but nobody else seems to notice. The rich widow informs her that
she has found a way for Aomame to meet the cult's leader (as a masseuse). Tamaru
delivers the pistol that she asked for. Aomame has to be ready to strike.
Back home Aomame reads in the newspaper that Ayumi has been killed during
a sex encounter in a hotel.
Aomame feels anger and sadness, but no desire for revenge: she knows that
Ayumi always wanted extreme sex, aware of the risks.
Rewriting "Air Chrysalis", somehow brought back the memory of his first love,
a girl he met in school when he was ten: Aomame. (For the first time Murakami
uses the name explicitly). They didn't exchange a word, they just held hands.
And still after so many years he still thinks of her. He remembers masturbating
years later. He never forgot and always regretted not talking to her.
Eri's novel brought back the pain.
Aomame too is thinking of him (and now Murakami makes her use the name Tengo
explicitly - she has never named the love of her life before, just the fact
that she fell in love with a ten-year boy and she's loved him ever since).
Tengo receives a letter from Komatsu, which sounds odd since he normally
Kyoko's husband calls: he found out about their relationship and tells Tengo
that she will never show up again.
The sinister Ushikawa calls again trying to convince Tengo to accept the
grant, and this time he is more specific about why they want him to accept
the grant: because he has helped spread some information that should have
been kept secret, and someone wants him to move out of the way. Tengo visits
his father at the sanatorium for the first time in two years. His father
is becoming senile and speaks in riddles, but Tengo understands that the
old man is basically admitting that Tengo is not his biological son and that
his mother did not die but simply ran away. Tengo has always hated his father
because they were poor and he was taking him on his collection rounds instead
of letting him play with the other children;
and now Tengo feels released from that hatred: there is no need to hate someone
who is not his father. Tengo realizes that all of this is just a conjecture.
Eri finally shows up: she knows that something terrible is about to happen
because she can hear the Little People and wants to be near Tengo when that
happens. The police searched Sakigake and the media are swarming all over
Ushikawa approaches him one more time with a final offer, and let Tengo know
that they know everything about him ghostwriting Eri's novel. Since they know
everything about him, Tengo suspects that they told Kyoko's husband about
their relationship, but Ushikawa knows nothing of it. He does know a lot about
Tengo's mother and offers to give him the files if Tengo cooperates.
Tengo, however, cannot be bribed and tells Ushikawa to go to hell.
Back home Tengo opens an envelop that contains a huge sum: payment for his
work on Eri's story. He doesn't care about money. He is gripped by a profound
existential crisis. He wants to change his life. Eri is still in his apartment
and keeps warning about the Little People. When Tengo asks her how much of
her novel is real, she asks him to define "real"...
Aomame meets the nameless leader in a hotel room. The leader reveals that
very few of his followers have ever seen his face. He is also adamant about
having sex with underage girls, but the story is more complicated that
simple rape. It turns out that "they" (the Little People?) are using the
leader as a sacred object for people to worship. This leader is actually
a very sick man who often gets paralyzed. When he is in that state, he has
massive erections. Young girls are "sacrificed" to him because people want
a heir and they hope that one of the girls will get pregnant. While he
is paralyzed with the erection, the prepuberal girls have sex with him.
He totally understands that it is unlikely any of them will ever get
pragnant, but that's the miracle that his followers are waiting for.
There are currently three little girls who take turns at this.
This started seven years earlier (when Eri was ten in Tengo's parallel story).
The leader lives in extreme pain and is hoping that Aomame can solve the
problem. She gets at work on him but she immediately realizes the paradox
she's in: the man is in permanent excruciating pain and she is there to kill
him and therefore terminate his pain, which doesn't sound like punishment
for his horrible treatment of Tsubasa. In fact, eventually he tells her that
he knows: he knows that she is a hired assassin, and he wants her to kill him.
He mentions in passing that it was his own daughter who brought the Little
People to the community and that he became the one who listens to their voices,
but it sounds like this all happened regardless and ultimately against his will.
Aomame also realizes that Ayumi has been killed by the Little People as warning
to her, not to mess with them. The leader tells Aomame that she has become
a special being and that the Little People cannot directly destroy her.
Now that Aomame is hesitating to kill him the leader has to convince her,
and finally he offers her a deal: if she kills him, he will save the life
of Tengo. Aomame is shocked: she never told anyone the name of the ten-year
old boy she's in love with. The leader tells her that Tengo has become
important in the cult's story as well as she is. The connection between them
was not accidental. "Chance has nothing to do with it". The leader even
calls their age 1Q84, which is the name Aomame coined for the world with two
moons but only used in her mind. The leader shows his mind powers by lifting
a clock, thus proving that he has the power to save Tengo.
He knows things that are impossible to know without reading her mind.
He knows that she feels she entered another universe, which she calls 1Q84,
he knows that she masturbates thinking of the ten-year old Tengo, and he knows
that Tengo wants her too.
His job is to listen to the inner voices.
The Little People entered 1Q84 through his daughter Eriko (this is the first
time we read her real name and have confirmation that Eri is the daughter
he's been talking about) and then turned him into
their agent who could hear their voices, which also implied raping
his own daughter Eriko.
She turned against them and against him, thereby reestablishing some kind of
balance that, according to the leader, is a fundamental requirement of this
Now both Tengo and Aomame are in danger, and it is unlikely that they can both
be saved: Tengo teamed up with Eriko to write the best-selling novel and thus
became a force opposed to the Little
People like a dangerous virus, and Aomame was sent to kill the leader which
would deprive the Little People of their agent. If Aomame kills the
leader, then the Little People will lose interest in killing Tengo.
As long as the leader is alive, Tengo is dangerous and must be eliminated.
However, if she kills the leader, the cult will track her down and kill her.
She has to decide whether to save herself or to save Tengo. And she decides
to save Tengo: she kills the leader.
Tengo was trying not to have sex with Fuka-Eri, but one night he feels
paralyzed, has an erection and Eri has sex with him. Even more weird is that
she tells him she hasn't started her periods yet: she is 17 but doesn't
menstruate. She also tells him that now the Little People are not angry anymore.
(From the leader's confession we know that the paralysis and the sex with
non-menstruating girls has to do with the Little People's needs to preserve
Somehow this experience has a dramatic effect on Tengo: he realizes how lonely
and miserable his life is and how desperately he needs to find Aomame.
Meanwhile, Komatsu has disappeared.
After reporting back to the rich widow and Tamaru, Aomame goes into hiding.
She tells the widow that the leader knew he was being assassinated and that
he was happy that way. Tsubasa is still missing.
Tamaru tells Aomame about a childhood friend, a savant who was a genius but
used his genius only to carve sculptures of rats.
Aomame wonders how Eri will feel when she reads that her father has died.
Eri seems to know where Aomame is: she tells Tengo that Aomame is hiding
very near. Unfortunately, Eri does not answer any difficult question.
Following a cue from Eri, Tengo ransacks his memory until he remembers that
the moon was special the day he and Aomame held hands in that classroom.
He guesses that the moon can lead him to her. Just then he realizes that
there are two moons in the sky. (Is this a consequence of having had sex with
Aomame reads "Air Chrysalis" and we finally learn what the book is about.
It is basically a retelling of everything that we already learned except that
Eri changed the names: there is a religious community, there is a peaceful
leader, there is a little girl who gets punished for not taking care of a goat,
there are Little People who come out of the dead goat, etc. But then we learn
something new: the Little People built an air chrysalis from which a double
of the little girl came out. The Little People explain that this is a "dohta"
(a soulless double) of a "maza" (the real being). When the dohta wakes up,
the Little People will have another passageway to this world, and the signal
will be a second moon in the sky. Afraid of the consequences, the little girl
decides to run away, leaving the dohta to take her place in the community.
The little girl comes to the capital and looks for a friend of her father's,
who gladly gives her hospitality. But the second moon has already appeared.
In school she meets a boy who becomes her best friend, but the Little People
cause him to get sick and be sent to a sanatorium.
The Little People are capable of making dohtas from mazas, and for some reason
the mazas have to be little girls; but the dohtas are not exact duplicates
because they don't have a soul, and, for example, they don't menstruate.
The novel ends abruptly as the little girl is building her own air chrysalis
to counter the Little People. Aomame realizes that Eri's novel is simply a
diary of what happened and Aomame suspects that Eri didn't finish the novel
because Eri's air chrysalis is not ready yet and therefore Eri herself doesn't
know how the story ends.
Aomame realizes that Tsubasa was probably a dohta, which explains why she
was incapable of expressing herlsef: not because she was traumatized but because
she is not human.
Aomame also realizes that
the leader had sex not with mazas but with dohtas, so technically he never
raped a girl: he was raped by zombie-like creatures.
The leader might, after all, have been a victim, not a monster.
In any case Aomame is aware that she may be killed any time.
The widow has planned for her to change face and identity, but the Little
People might get at her sooner.
(Tengo just had sex with a non-menstruating little girl, Eri: is she too a
non-human duplicate made in an air chrysalis? the very girl who wrote about it?
or is Tengo unknowingly hiding Eri's dohta? This new Eri seems to know things
that only the Little People know, like Aomame's whereabouts.
Is this part of the plot by the Little People to replace the dead leader and
get a new leader?)
Tengo, staring at the two moons from a playground, realizes that the second moon looks exactly like he described it when he rewrote Eri's novel.
Eri is not shocked to hear that: she laconically explains that they are one,
they wrote that novel together because they were meant to, he is a "receiver"
(just like the leader) and she is a "perceiver".
Aomame from her apartment can see the young man staring at the moons in the
playground and recognizes him as her long-lost love Tengo. By the time she
runs downstairs, Tengo is gone.
Aomame dresses like she was dressed five months earlier at the beginning of
the story, takes a taxi,
tells the driver to drop her off in the middle of the highway and looks for
the stairwell where 1Q84 started, but the emergency stairwell does not exist.
She realizes that she can never leave 1Q84. She pulls out the gun and shoots
herself while drivers stuck in traffic stare powerless.
Tengo travels back to the sanatorium to visit his father one last time because
the old man has entered a coma. Tengo talks at lengthy to his father who
probably cannot hear him, telling him that he is grateful that his father
raised him alone, knowing Tengo wasn't even his biological son.
Eri predicted that something would happen during
his visit at the sanatorium and sure enough: at one point Tengo sees an air
chrysalis materialize in his father's bed, and that air chrysalis is exactly
like Tengo described it in the novel. Inside the air chrysalis is the ten-year
old Aomame, fast asleep. The air chrysalis disappears but Tengo is now more
determined than ever to find Aomame.
Ushikawa, the same sinister man who threatened Tengo, is visited by the
Leader's bodyguards who have contracted him to track down Aomame. Ushikawa
now plays private investigator: they had originally hired him to do the
background check on Aomame. He has already found out about the rich widow
and has connected her to the Leader's killing. He asks the bodyguards if they
know anything about the killing of Ayumi (Aomame's friend/lover) and about
Tengo's married lover but they deny any involvement. Ushikawa is now
involved in both stories, Tengo's story and Aomame's story.
(Now the novel enters one of its slowest, most tedious and implausible
Aomame did not actually commit suicide. At the last moment she changed
her mind and walked back to the taxi. She has decided to keep waiting
for Tengo to resurface. She refuses to go into hiding and undergo
cosmetic surgery, as planned by the rich widow, in order to remain near
the playground where she spotted Tengo staring at the two moons.
There are still two moons in the sky.
Tengo spends a lot of time at the sanatorium, reading books to his father
and writing his own book, inspired by Eri's world with two moons.
Tengo's devotion to his father moves the nurses,
but in reality Tengo is there waiting to see the air chrysalis again
with Aomame inside.
When he sees Eri, who is
still staying at his place, Tengo avoids mentioning that he saw an air
chrysalis at the sanatorium. Eri tells him that the only visit has been from
a fee collector who seems to know everything about him. Note: his father
used to be a fee collector. Other than that, Eri's only company is a crow
that comes every day.
Ushikawa investigates the rich widow (we learn that her name is Shizue Ogata).
He finds out that she has a son and her daughter died. He suspects she is
helping battered wives to avenge her daughter's death. He doesn't know why
the rich widow would want the Leader dead, but guesses that Aomame must have
worked for the widow and the widow must be hiding Aomame somewhere.
(This part required an incredible leap of faith on the part of the reader).
Ushikawa also finds out that Aomame and Tengo went to the same school when
they were ten, and that Aomame fled his parents and their religious cult
when she was eleven.
Aomame keeps reading "Air Chrysalis" after the Leader told her that it was
written by her Tengo. Desperate that he is not showing up at the playground,
she thinks of killing herself again but, again, she can't pull the trigger.
A fee collector comes banging on her door but she doesn't answer: he might be
a fee collector or an agent of the Leader's sect Sakigake.
Informed, the rich widow pays the fee electronically. Nonetheless, the fee
collector comes back. Aomame, again, hides inside without making any noise
but the fee collector promises to come back. Aomame doubts that he is sent
by Sakigake because he is too loud.
But something else bothers her: she feels that she is pregnant, even though
it is technically impossible. She feels she is giving borth to a "dohta".
Tengo goes out with the nurses and one, Kumi, draws him to her apartment
and makes him experiment with marijuana. He dreams of Aomame. Kumi tells
him that she is a "dohta" and has seen her "maza" through the air chrysalis.
She talks to him about death and resurrection, and he feels that it is about
time to leave that town and return to the city, but first he needs to see his
father one more time.
Ushikawa visits the school where Tengo and Aomame met as children and
develops a theory that they somehow met again as adults and decided to conspite
against Sakigake for whatever reason, he by rewriting Eri's best-seller (that
reveals the sect's secrets), and she
by murdering Eri's father, the very leader of the sect
(we learn that his name was Tamotsu Fukada).
He also learned that Tengo, besides excelling at math, also played in the
school's orchestra: Janacek's Sinfonietta. Since he has no clue of
Aomame's whereabouts, Ushikawa decides to follow Tengo.
Aomame takes the pregnancy test and her pregnancy is confirmed: she apparently
got pregnant the night she killed the Leader. She is still puzzled about the
disappeared stairway but then realizes that, in order to escape from 1Q84,
she should have done it in reverse: not descending the stairway again but
climbing it from the subway. However, now she wants to find Tengo first.
Tamaru investigates and tells her that no fee collector is coming to her
apartment: the man who knocks at her door demanding payment is an impostor.
Aomame tells Tamaru the she got pregnant without having sex (and Tamaru
doesn't seem too shocked).
Tengo leaves his father, still in a coma, after telling him the truth about
wanting to see the air chrysalis one more time. Tengo also suspects that
the fee collector who has been bothering Eri is his father's soul, now
floating freely away from the body, and begs him to stop it. (A fee collector
has been bothering both Eri and Aomame). Tengo returns home to find it empty:
Eri has disappeared. She left a letter for him at the school where he teaches
math: she thinks that they are being watched.
Tengo thinks back to the night they had sex. While she's very attractive,
he never felt any desire for her after that night. Tengo too wants to find
Aomame, and Eri told him that Aomame will find him.
Aomame is now paranoid that the Sakigake sect is trying to steal her baby
because of some ominous dreams. She is more obsessed than ever about finding
Tengo before they find her. She also feels that in some weird way the baby
might be Tengo's baby even if they have not met since they were ten.
Tamaru tells her that an ugly man with a huge bald head has been staring
at the widow's compound, and Tamaru is sure that this man is trying to find
Ushikawa is a tragic figure: an ugly man, with a huge bald head, whose
miserable life has no meaning. Eri somehow felt that he was watching Tengo's
apartment. When he saw her leaving the place to go shopping for groceries,
Ushikawa immediately recognized her. Ushikawa knows the whole story, and is
puzzled why the Sakigake cult felt so threatened by her novel as rewritten by
Tengo. We now realize why Eri fled Tengo's apartment: while Ushikawa was
taking pictures of her, she turned and stared into his camera, despite the
fact that it was impossible to see it. Ushikawa himself felt that she knew
he was taking pictures of her. The close encounter via the camera's lens
caused him to fall into a brief depression. He even wonders if he may be
falling in love with her, a beautiful young girl that is quite a contrast
to his desolate lonely life. Later a fee collector came to
knock at his door. Ushikawa did not open for fear of being exposed as a
private eye spying on someone, and waited in vain to see the fee colletor
leave the building: he didn't see anyone looking like a fee collector from
the window of his apartment.
Tengo walks to the playground to watch the two moons, followed by Ushikawa.
Aomame barely misses Tengo and only sees Ushikawa from her window.
If she had seen Tengo, she would have hurried outside to meet him and thus
be found by Ushikawa. Because she missed Tengo, she stayed inside and Ushikawa
did not find her.
Later we read Ushikawa's version of the event, how he followed Tengo, saw
him stare at the sky, stared himself and was shocked to find that there are
two moons. A coldly rational man used to investigate mysterious facts,
Ushikawa realizes that something happened to the world and now has to find
out what and why.
Tengo's agent Komatsu resurfaces and tells him that Eri is back at
Ebisuno's place. Ebisuno wants to know if Tengo and Eri had sex. Tengo denies
having a sexual relationship and does not mention that one incident in which
Eri basically raped him. Komatsu tells him that he was kidnapped and kept
prisoner for 17 days by mysterious people. The kidnappers were actually
the Leader's bodyguards, Buzzcut and Ponytail (he uses the same nicknames
that Aomame used). Komatsu was not tortured but was told that the novel
contains a secret jealousy guarded by the cult and was ordered to stop
printing or publicizing the novel.
The bodyguards also revealed that Eri's parents are dead: her mother died of
cancer and her father Tamotsu Fukada committed suicide precisely because of
something that is contained in the novel that Eri wrote that took away his
powers to interact with the divinity.
Now Komatsu goes over the mystery with Tengo. They realize that Eri's novel
tells the story of the maza leaving the sect but doesn't say what happens to
the dohta that is left behind. In fact, now they are no longer sure that Eri
is the maza: it is possible that she is the dohta, who escaped, and the maza
is the alter-ego left behind. Tengo recalls that Eri does not have periods
and cannot get pregnant. Somehow the cult cannot continue to exist, and no
new leader can emerge, until
the correct combination of maza and dohta has been restore in power.
Aomame noticed Ushikawa at the playground and decided to follow him: the pursued
following the pursuer. Ushikawa took her to Tengo's building and she saw
Tengo's name on one of the mailboxes. She tried to ring the bell but Tengo
was not home. Now she calls Tamaru and tells him that the man spying on her
is also living in the same building as her childhood friend Tengo. Now she has
to tell Tamaru what she didn't tell him earlier about her connection with
And she is convinced that her baby is Tengo's baby.
(Tamaru, who otherwise seems like a perfectly rational pragmatic person,
seems to believe easily in all these incredible stories that Aomame tells him).
She begins to suspect that the
Sakigake cult is not after her (to avenge her killing of their leader) but
after the baby (who might be important for the survival of their religion).
Tengo receives a call in the middle of the night: his father died.
Kumi helps him with the formalities of the funeral. His father chose to be
cremated wearing his old uniform of fee collector. His father left him
an envelope that contains a picture of a couple and their baby: Tengo had
never seen a picture of her mother before. He is shocked to realize that
his mother looked like his ex-girlfriend Kyoko.
Kumi tells Tengo that she was died once in a dream, strangled by a stranger,
a dream that feels very real.
Ushikawa knows what Tengo does not know: his mother ran away with the baby,
then was found strangled in a hotel room, the murderer was never apprehended,
and his father took the baby back home.
Tamaru breaks into Ushikawa's apartment, ties up Ushikawa and tortures him
until Ushikawa reveals the whole ordeal: how Sakigake hired him to track down
Aomame and he chose to wait for her in Tengo's building. Reassured that
nobody else has been informed yet of the connection between Aomame and Tengo,
Tamaru kills Ushikawa. Tamaru then calls the number of Ushikawa's contact
at the sect. The man tells him that the sect has no desire to harm Aomame:
they now need something from Aomame and would like to talk to her, something
that has to do with the voice that keeps their religion going, a voice that
stopped working after Eri published her novel.
The sect is also indifferent to the whereabouts of Eri: she has completed
her mission for them. So now it appears that Eri was not doing something
against the will of the sect but carrying out a mission "for" the sect.
Tamaru tells Aomame that he disposed of Ushikawa. Aomame tells Tamaru that
she made a deal with Leader before killing him: she killed him as he
desired in return for Tengo's safety. Tamaru suspects that somehow Leader
managed to impregnate Aomame with a baby who will become the new person
capable of hearing the voice. Tamaru still wants Aomame to move to a safer
refuge, but Aomame refuses to do anything until she finds Tengo. Tamaru
arranges a meeting between Aomame and Tengo.
Tamaru did call Tengo and told him to get ready to meet Aomame and, in fact,
to be ready to never go back to his apartment. Tengo picked up his manuscript
and rushed to the appointment. Now they are holding hands again, after
twenty years. Aomame tells him that she's pregnant of his child and
Tengo understands that Eri was merely a vehicle: Aomame got pregnant the
night that Tengo had sex with Eri, or, better, that Eri forced Tengo to have
sex with her. Tengo and Aomame stare at the two moons. Aomame has a simple
plan for returning to the world with one moon only: climb the stairway
up from the subway to the highway. Aomame feels that the
Sakigake wants her baby and the only way to save the baby is to return to
leave 1Q84 and return to 1984.
Meanwhile the Little People come out of Ushikawa's mouth and start making
an air chrysalis...
In the last chapter Aomame and Tengo successfully climb up the stairway,
flag down a taxi and reach a hotel (where they finally have sex). There is
only one moon in the sky.
Lots of unanswered questions. The cult thinks that Eri completed her mission:
was her mission to get Aomame pregnant with Tengo's child? In that case they
might not have escaped the cult's plan but fulfilled it. The Leader, after
all, told her that there was no escape from 1Q84.
What's Ushikawa's air chrysalis for? Ushikawa's dohta? What for?
Not to mention the silly idea that now the two lovers (who never met in 20
years) will be left with a baby to raise that comes from another world.