To preface, Haruki Murakami is a fantastic writer who writes the juiciest little explorations into human melancholy and makes you question reality with books that feature talking cats and mysterious little people.
But I think I speak for a lot of Haruki Murakami fans when I say his books have some of the most bizarre sex scenes ever put to pen, which is pretty big coming from someone who’s chronically on AO3 and actually liked 1Q84. So, let’s appeal to authority. The Literary Review once counted Haruki Murakami among its leading contenders for its worst sex scenes award, according to the Guardian.
Even Metropolis Japan asks, “We’re left with a simultaneously basic and profound question: why does such an amazing writer have so much bad sex? “
But the answer for that is likely to be too serious, and with seriousness comes the need for a literature degree I don’t have and tediousness I don’t have patience for. That is why, without further ado, I present to you a non-peer-reviewed ranking of bad sex scenes from Haruki Murakami books ranked from best to worst.
Aomame and Tengo in 1Q84
Alienation is a constant theme in Haruki Murakami’s books. Almost, if not all, of his lead characters are some type of outcast who wouldn’t be out of place in a documentary about hikikomori. It’s only natural that a lot of the relationships in his books are strange, ranging from having an undercurrent of incest to just plain lacking in chemistry. However, Aomame and Tango’s mutual pining in 1Q84 is about as sweet and romantic as it gets in a Murakami book and the ending sex scene between the two reflects that:
“I’ve always imagined being held by you like this,” Aomame said, whispering in his ear as she stopped moving.
“Having sex with me?”
“Since you were ten you’ve been imagining this?” Tengo asked.
Aomame laughed. “No, that came when I was a little older.”
Hajime and Shinamoto in South of the Border, West of the Sun
READ SOUTH OF THE BORDER, WEST OF THE SUN
While not quite as sweet as Aomame and Tango’s sex scene towards the end of 1Q84, given that one of the parties is married, South of the Border, West of the Sun has a touching love confession between characters Hajime and Shinamoto before the two get down to it. Hajime tells Shinamoto that despite his wife and children, he has always felt like something was missing and that he has come to realize it’s Shinamoto. For her part, Shinamoto tells him he’s the only person she’s ever loved.
The two take their sweet time undressing and admiring each other’s bodies. There’s talk about light and black holes as if to say this was a universe-defining moment for the characters and then the two drift off to sleep.
Toru and Naoko in Norwegian Wood
You know that, ahem, proverb about shoulders to cry on? That’s exactly what happens with Toru and Naoko in Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Toru watches Naoko cry with what he describes as “the force of a person vomiting”, so to calm her down he decides to sleep with her. To his credit, Toru does admit that he’s still not sure if it was the brightest idea and he continues to question if it was the right thing to do nearly 20 years after the event.
Unlike a lot of Murakami sex scenes where the characters are terribly callous with each other and seem to be doing the act out of spite, Toru is gentle with Naoko and Naoko is responsive to his advances.
That said, it wouldn’t be a Murakami sex scene if it weren’t uncomfortable and Toru messes it up by asking Naoko why she never slept with her dead boyfriend who was also Toru’s friend.
Fuka-Eri and Tengo in 1Q84
Trying to explain what the entire story of 1Q84 would take almost as long as the book itself, the English translation of which is infamous for being a doorstopper. So let’s keep the context simple: Tengo is a writer, Aomame is an assassin who kills people who abuse women, and Fuka-Eri is a mysterious underage writer who is heavily implied to not be human.
Tengo and Aomame haven’t seen each other since they were children, but they’re supposedly each other’s true love. None of this stops a dubious sex scene between Tengo and Fuka-Eri. Aside from one of the participants being underage, the passage has Fuka-Eri force herself on Tengo all the while assuring him that she won’t get pregnant. To make it even more uncomfortable, much ado is made about their difference in age and Fuka-Eri being a minor.
“A freshly made ear and a freshly made vagina look very much alike.” Is Tango’s epiphany for this scene.
Kafka and Miss Saeki in Kafka on the Shore
There are a lot of uncomfortable sex scenes in Kafka on the Shore, largely thanks to Kafka’s missing sister being brought up every time something sexual happens to the guy. In one scene, he thinks about his sister while an older woman touches him to help him get rid of his erection. There are a lot of mystical, Freudian themes about killing his father and sleeping with his mother and sister sprinkled throughout the novel. It comes to a head in a sex scene between Kafka and Miss Saeki, a librarian who the audience is led to believe is, in some way, Kafka’s missing mother.
Yuzu and the Unnamed Protagonist in Killing Commendatore
Killing Commendatore, despite having an unnamed protagonist, is one of Murakami’s best books but that doesn’t mean it’s without its questionable sex scenes. If you’ve read 1Q84 and thought, “Man, the best thing about that book was the sex scene between Fuka-Eri and Tengo.” and wanted more weird sex that blurs dreams and reality, Killing Commendatore is your book. In a dream sequence implied to be real, the unnamed protagonist climbs down from the ceiling and looms over female character Yuzu, and undresses her in her sleep. Realizing that she won’t wake up, the protagonist begins to have sex with her, all while acknowledging that she would probably be pissed if she were conscious at the moment:
“I was already inside her. It could be a terrible shock if she woke up in the midst of the act and saw who it was. She might well be furious. If that were to happen, I would deal with it then.”
That’s probably not all of the bad sex scenes in Haruki Murakami’s books, but the point is, there are a lot of them and they come with as much passion as a 20-year marriage on the verge of a divorce after all the kids have left the nest. Does that make the books bad all together? Nope! Murakami still writes some of the most gut-wrenching melancholic novels out there, but the bad sex scenes are just part of the Murakami reader’s bingo game at this point.
Artist Grant Snider has even come up with a bingo card just for Murakami and his bad sex scenes that features a nod to the author’s suspicious repeated mentions of sexy ears throughout his books: