Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami)


I’ve read ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ at quite some time ago, but haven’t write any reviews yet although I’ve made some notes and highlights for this book. It’s the fourth Haruki Murakami‘s book I’ve read, after ‘Kafka on the Shore’, ‘Norwegian Wood’and ‘1Q84’. However, the Japanese Literature Reading Challenge which I joined recently has motivated me to give my thoughts on any Japanese literary works that I’ve read.

‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki…’ tells the story of a quite, introvert, and seemingly not-so-ambitious man named Tsukuru Tazaki who has an established job as an engineer in a Tokyo-based railway station company. Sadly though, his secure and sufficient life is not make him enjoy it anyway because of a haunting event from the past.

Back to his high school life at Nagoya prefecture, Tsukuru befriended with four persons whose all of their names contain colors: Akamatsu (literally means “red pine”), Oumi (“blue sea”), Shirada (“white lily”), and Kurono (“black field”). The only person whose name ‘colorless’ is Tsukuru. To tell you the truth, there was something I just realized after finished reading this book: the group of five friends is also reflected on the book cover where there are four circles of color: red, blue, white, and black; and one colorless circle in which the book title being placed on it.

The group is always held together and shares stories each other, until an unexpected mysterious event had separated them, or to be exact, Tsukuru’s four ‘colorful’ friends had left and abandoned him without any explanation. This condition is unimaginable to Tsukuru as they were his closest friends and the fact that they cut him off without notice is unbearable to Tsukuru. This makes him feel even more insignificant and negative, as he eventually thinks that he really is ‘colorless’, the colorlessness that makes him feel that he has nothing to offer to everyone around him. Consider the importance of their friendship, Tsukuru tries to confront them in order to find at least the answers and reasons why they left him, which was unfruitful because four of them refuse to speak with Tsukuru and are always try to stay away from him.

The story then moves to Tsukuru’s life after being painfully rejected by his group. After high school he moved to the capital city to pursue a degree in engineering and later achieved a position in a major railway company, just as his biggest passion which is reflected from his name ‘Tsukuru’ which means ‘to build something’. It’s during this period however, Tsukuru has a close relationship with an intelligent and beautiful woman named Sara Kimoto who encourage him to meet his former friends to get a clue on what was happening when they suddenly abandoned him. After some hesitations and careful consideration, Tsukuru finally decides to confront the past, no matter how absurd or unacceptable their reasons might be.

However, the use of colors as metaphors may be a red herring that plays along well to move the story and to keep reader’s curiosity. The exact reasons why their colorful friends have abandoned him may not be the true essence of the story even though it’s certainly the sole purpose of the protagonist to move forward within the plot. We may see this similar plot in his other works, such as Norwegian Wood. Nevertheless, Murakami seems to give a heavier portion to the character’s development and the journeys toward the goals.


‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki…’ is a kind of novel which prose will get along well with readers who are in loneliness and depression to overcome it. It is an enjoyable read. I prefer ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki…’ over his other works I’ve ever read before. This book may be a perfect introduction for Murakami’s early readers to enter his surreal world of literature.

 This review is a part of

Japanese Literature Reading Challenge



10 thoughts on “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami)

  1. “I prefer ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki…’ over his other works I’ve ever read before.” — Does this mean ‘Colorless’ is your favorite Murakami so far? That’s interesting since a lot of people have given this one mixed reviews.

    But this sounds like my type of Murakami. I’ll only read it when I finish the three (!!!) other Murakamis on my shelves first, though.


  2. Yeah, you can say that.. 😀 Compared to his other works I’ve previously read such as Kafka on the Shore and 1Q84, I definitely prefer Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. I’d recommend this to readers who prefer realistic nuances just like you do.

    Wow you already have 3 Murakami’s on your shelf? What are those? I’ve read After Dark and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as well but haven’t write any reviews yet. I’m intrigued to read his other works in different forms such as his memoir ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ and non-fiction ‘Underground’ and ‘After the Quake.’


  3. I have Norwegian Wood, The Elephant Vanishes (short story collection), and Underground. I really want to read Underground because when I was a teenager, I watched a Discovery Channel documentary about the Aum attack and I want to know more about it.

    But then, I want to read Norwegian Wood just as much. Decisions, decisions.


  4. Tsukuru is indeed an enjoyable read but as I have said this is “too light” of his. It brings calmness for me and as much as I like Murakami, this one doesn’t leave a big impression (except the book price *laugh*)


  5. If you’re a more realism reader, I think you’d love Norwegian Wood. However you should prepare yourself for a set of sex scene in it.

    Now that you mention it. I’m also interested to read his short story collection. I’m excited for ‘Blind Willow Sleeping Woman’.

    I learned Aum gas attack from Intisari magazine. It was a long time ago but I quite remember the tragedy.

    Have a good time reading Murakami!


  6. I must agree that Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is much lighter than his other works and it somewhat brings calmness to the readers due to the calm prose. But because of that feeling, this book is my favorite Murakami’s so far. Still, there are a lot of his works I haven’t read yet, so hopefully it’ll change eventually.


  7. Talking about the sex scene in NW. I am the type who often not comfortable reading it but in NW somehow not very disturbing. Yes it has some but still engaged and sensible.


  8. This is interesting. First, because a lot of people found Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki to be quite disappointing, compared to Murakami’s published book: IQ84 and second because I found someone who’s interested in the ‘realistic’ side of Murakami’s writing. Have you by any chance read his first three books? (Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase) or South of the Border, West of the Sun? I think all those books, besides Norwegian Wood, also captured and portrayed the realistic side of Murakami’s writing. Though, I personally prefer the magical surrealism side of Murakami such as Kafka on the Shore (which happens to be my favorite book from him) and IQ84. IMO, what disappointed most about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was the fact that this book, in its’ core, was apparently only about a guy who’s unable to move on from his past love and that all the metaphors splattered in this book solely serve as a purpose to give this book a heavier meaning in order to cover the lack of depth in its’ core story. Anyway, my opinion asides, this is still a great review and a fresh perspective.


  9. Hi there Rinta (I’ve just happened to follow your blog and saw your name on ‘About’ section). Thanks for leaving a comment! 🙂

    Well, maybe I’m one of very few Murakami readers who enjoys his realistic side over his widely known surrealistic themed works. I just adore his clear, vivid, and intellectually-intriguing prose that will be a perfect match for realistic works.

    Unfortunately I’ve never read those books yet. Now that you mentioned those books, I’m planning to read those as my next Murakami’s read.

    I must agree with you in terms of the essence of this story. Its plot is indeed may be boring, but I observed the significance of one’s struggling over a traumatic incident. It might be because of the author’s clever storytelling techniques.

    Thank you for your kind words. Hopefully we’ll have some other book discussions! 😀


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