Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami


[#]s indicate page breaks. Days are not directly indicated in the book.


[1] Ryu, Lilly at Lilly’s apartment. Ryu describes (to the reader) a cockroach in the kitchen while he and Lilly talk idly about something that happened before page one. Lilly injects heroin or Philopon in herself, offers to Ryu who says “Not today, I’ve got some at my place too, and some friends are coming over” re [2]. Ends with an implication that they have sex.

[2] Ryu, Reiko, Okinana at Ryu’s apartment. Begins “A sharp odor filled my room” re “an old pineapple.” Okinawa references an orgy that happened before page one (“Hey, Ryu, you going to fix up another party?”) and Ryu says “Yeah, well, those black guys asked me to” referencing the orgy in [6]. Okinawa asks Reiko if she’s going to the party. Reiko says yes. Okinawa says he doesn’t want her “to get stoned and screw some black.” Okinawa talks about being in a “drug rehab center” in the past and being injected with morphine everyday. Okinawa injects heroin into Ryu. Something unclear happens between Okinawa and Reiko. Ryu hears Okinawa “spit out the word Shit!” and leave the apartment (Ryu says to Yoshiyama in [4] that Okinawa “got impatient and shot it all up himself, her’s too”). Ryu “recalls” the face of a woman he saw “in a movie or a dream,” something that’s somewhat/maybe referenced in [12] when Ryu, on mescaline, describes Lilly’s “gesture and expression” as “just the same as a little girl I’d seen once in a dream.”


[3] Ryu, Reiko walk in daytime to the train station. Ryu says “I don’t understand that guy Okinawa—I mean, the trains had already stopped running for the night by the time he left” referencing end of [2]. Reiko “softly” says “It’s O.K. Ryu, I’ve had enough” referencing [17]. Reiko talks about collecting a specimen book of leaf veins, says she wants to show Ryu, who seems distracted, says he wants to go to Reiko’s bar “today” to tell Moko and Kei about “the party.” At the station Ryu talks about how it’s hot outside and already Summer. Reiko—maybe depressed about Ryu’s seeming disinterest in her specimen book—says “Huh? What?”

[4] Ryu, Reiko, Kazuo, Yoshiyama, Moko, Kei talk and use drugs at Reiko’s bar after she closes early and “spill[s] about two hundred Nibrole pills out onto the table” saying “Tonight’s the night before the party!” They listen to music from a record player, drink whiskey, talk idly and drunkenly, and Kazuo photographs people with his Nikomat with a strobe sometimes attached to it as people vaguely protest him photographing everyone. They discuss how to get to the “party” the next day, re [6], decide on “one o’clock at Koenji Station.” Ryu, Yoshiyama go outside “to vomit.” After vomiting they talk about the urge to kill a woman.


[5] Ryu, Reiko, Kazuo, Yoshiyama, Moko, Kei meet at the train station discussed in [4]. Moko has shoplifted things, maybe perfume. The “three girls” put on make-up and “People passing by looked at them strangely.”

[6] Ryu, Reiko, Moko, Kei, Jackson, Bob, Oscar, Durham, Saburo have an orgy in Oscar’s room (see page six for a summary of this orgy).

[7] Ryu, Lilly at Lilly’s apartment. Lilly seems angry, tells Ryu not to “get in too deep with that Jackson, the MP’s are watching him, he’s going to get caught.” Ryu relates (to the reader) post-orgy back-story about “Bob’s woman Tami” getting in a fight with Kei, threatening to tell her gangster brother and that he brought Tami to Lilly’s to calm her down, because Lilly knows Tami. Lilly asks if she should buy mescaline for Ryu and her, referencing when they take mescaline in [12], and Ryu asks how much it is and Lilly answers. They start talking about something else without a clear answer about the mescaline.


[8] Ryu, Lilly the next morning still at Lilly’s apartment after they “did it” the night before and Lilly “shot up again” and said “I just keep using more, no matter what, I’ve got to cut down pretty soon or I’ll be an addict, right?” Ryu looks at people and things outside as it rains and Lilly lies in bed half-asleep then asleep. Ends with a small girl coming inside the apartment, whose door is open, saying “Lilly, hey, it’s raining” and other things. Lilly wakes and says “Hey, Sherry, what are you up to?”

[9] Ryu, Reiko, Moko, Kazuo, Yoshiyama talking idly downstairs from Oscar’s room (where the orgy happened). It is still raining. People are waking. Kei opens her eyes and says “Hey, so ya stayed over last night with that whore-lady?” to Ryu re [8] re Lilly.

[10] Ryu, Reiko, Moko, Kei, Jackson, Oscar, Bob, Saburo, “a flabby fat white woman,” Rudianna in Oscar’s room. Ryu puts on a “silver negligee Saburo said he’d got from a pro stripper” and Moko puts make-up on his face. Someone injects Ryu with heroin. Jackson injects heroin into the palm of Reiko’s hand. Ryu dances. Bob says “Sexy.” Rudianna forces Ryu to have sex with her, sitting on him, as Jackson comes in Ryu’s mouth and the “flabby fat white woman” puts Ryu’s toes then foot into her vagina.

[11] Ryu alone in Oscar’s room at night idly looking outside at the rain and lightning.


[12] Ryu, Lilly at Ryu’s apartment. Lilly has brought the mescaline. They each ingest one mescaline capsule and drive, park somewhere, run through a tomato field, drive somewhere else, go onto a runway where a plane flies over them. Ryu describes (to the reader) the lightning making everything transparent (see central event).


[13] Ryu, Kei, Moko, Reiko, Yoshiyama, Kazuo in Ryu’s apartment, early in the morning. Three cops enter the apartment unexpectedly, without a warrant, saying “What’re you kids up to in here?” and “Hey, you little bitch, did I make you feel bad?”

[14] Ryu, Kei, Moko, Reiko, Yoshiyama, Kazuo go to “a performance by the Bar Kays at the Hibiya Park open-air concert stage” after “Yoshiyama, the oldest, [turned] in the standard apology forms at the dusty smelling police station” (it seems unclear what the cops did to them). Kazuo, Yoshiyama don’t have money to enter and climb over a fence. Kazuo is beaten in the leg with “a bat” by a guard. Yoshiyama says “We’ve caught the bastard who got Kazuo.” A “half-naked, mixed-blood hippie,” Yoshiyama, and another hippie beat the guard badly, break his left arm, and leave him in a “dimly lit public bathroom.” On the train leaving the concert Yoshiyama pukes then “[watches] vacantly as other passengers hurried to move away.” He grabs a woman, tearing her blouse, and she runs away, toward Ryu, Moko, and Ryu trips her and tries to “tongue-kiss her.” At the next station Ryu, Moko, Yoshiyama spit at the woman and run out onto the platform and get away, with Yoshiyama hitting a station official in the face when the station official “[seizes] Moko’s arm.”


[15] Ryu alone in Ryu’s apartment looking idly outside at people and birds. He decides to give the pineapple from [2] to the birds. He throws the pineapple from his second floor apartment to the roots of a poplar tree, at the suggestion of an American woman from the first floor who “seemed friendly.”

[16] Ryu, Reiko, Okinawa, Yoshiyama, Kei, Kazuo at Ryu’s apartment. Reiko tells Ryu not to tell Okinawa about “the party” because he would “kill [her]” and Ryu laughs. Yoshiyama is “mad” Kei didn’t come home “last night.” Ryu walks Moko to the train station. Moko tells Ryu to watch Yoshiyama because he’ll beat Kei. Ryu returns to his apartment. Reiko injects heroin into her palm like Jackson did to her in [10]. Okinawa asks where she learned to do that. Reiko looks at Ryu and winks and says “Why, Ryu showed me, of course.” Yoshiyama beats Kei on the roof as Ryu and Okinawa talk inside (see central theme, expressed aloud). Ryu goes to the roof and stops Yoshiyama from beating Kei. There’s a space break in the text, then Kei is on the bed “groaning painfully” as Yoshiyama sobs while begging Kei not to leave him. Kei is unresponsive. Yoshiyama cuts his wrist. Kei says “we’re going out to eat now, nobody’s had lunch yet so we’re going out to eat. If ya want to die, ya go and die alone, rightu So ya don’t lay any hassle on Ryu, go outside and die alone” (in [4] while Reiko was saying she wanted to die Kei had said “Well, why don’ ya jes’ go ahead and die thenu Hey, Ryu, that’s right, huhu Ya think sou People who wanna die should jes’ go ahead and die without a lot of fuss.” Non-Ryu “central event/scene,” maybe in combination with [17], of the book, in my view.

[17] Ryu, Yoshiyama are at a hospital. On the return walk to Ryu’s apartment Yoshiyama keeps talking about how he “won’t lay down any more hassles” and that he’s sorry and will “go to India.” Reiko, Okinawa, Kei are at Ryu’s apartment. Yoshiyama sits in front of the TV and tells Kei he has decided to go to India. Kei says “Yeah.” Van Gogh cuts his ear off in a movie on TV. Okinawa and Reiko fight about their relationship. Van Gogh shoots himself.

[18] Ryu alone in his apartment looking at a moth, then describing (to the reader) the things in his room, including “a mayonnaise bottle” and “a star-shaped candy box.”

[19] Ryu, Lilly at Lilly’s apartment. Lilly talks about a novel she read that reminded her of Ryu while Ryu seems distracted and alternates remembering disconnected things with describing things in the room (both to the reader only). Ryu begins twitching and drops a cup of black coffee. He starts saying incoherent things about birds, then smashes a brandy glass on the floor. He rolls on the floor saying “I can’t see anything. Lilly, I can’t see a thing.” Lilly runs outside. Ryu jabs a fragment of glass into his “shaking arm.”

[20] Ryu outside Lilly’s apartment alone. He relates (to the reader) back-story of running out of Lilly’s room with a bloody left arm and falling on the grass. He describes “[t]he horizon of the shadowy reflected town” to have a “a delicate curving line” the same as he saw in [12] when he’d “almost killed Lilly on the runway in the rain” somewhat/maybe referencing his dialogue in [4] with Yoshiyama about urges to kill a woman. He sits looking at a piece of glass then stands and walks to his apartment. The pineapple he threw out “yesterday” re [15] is still beside the poplar in front of his apartment. It is very early in the morning. He “[crouches] down on the ground and [waits] for the birds.”


[21] Three-paragraph, one-page letter from Ryu to Lilly that begins “Lilly, where are you now?” Second paragraph talks about someone named Augusta and a “half-Japanese painter” who weren’t in the book, but probably were involved in events after [20]. Ends “And just because I’ve written this book, don’t think I’ve changed. I’m like I was back then, really.”


More From Thought Catalog

  • JamesFranco'sEgo

    long story bro

    • tao


  • shoehorn

    “Sometimes I felt encouraged to continue by a feeling that I now felt more excited to write fiction, and that if I read an essay like this by someone else, on the internet, I might also feel more excited to write fiction.”
    i think you accomplished your goal.

    • tao


  • Michael Koh

    “I could see into the kitchen from where I sat.”

    There is something about this phrase that I think is genius.

  • Interested

    Brilliant article.

    I would love to know more about “The Back You Want To Kick” by Risa Wataya

    • tao

      i think it isn't translated to english

  • Nunsypher

    I can't wait to read your next novel. Read Philip Roth too :)

    • tao

      my next novel


    • Jonny Ross

      philip roth

  • Morgan

    I've never read “Almost Transparent Blue” so I only wanted to read parts of this. Now I want to go read the book so I can finish this essay.

    • tao


      i can mail you my copy for $5 paypal

      • Morgan

        That's a good deal. Will you sign it?

  • mario

    takashi murakami.

    • tao

      ryu murakami's goodreads 'bio':

      'Ryū Murakami is a Japanese novelist and filmmaker. He is not related to Haruki Murakami or Takashi Murakami.'


  • David Fishkind

    nibrole seems so sweet

    • tao

      chewy ass nibroles

  • kdub

    this is extremely interesting and i'm probably going to read it again later. slowly.

    • tao

      sweet sweet

  • BK

    I love this. absolutely.

    • tao



  • megan boyle

    “I think that scene is 'touching' to me because—by seeming to have no purpose except to non-rhetorically relate what seems, to me, like a memory—it promotes, or is evidence, to me, that a single specific experience that doesn’t cost anything, and has no effect on anyone that isn’t involved, and that doesn’t have to be known by anyone else can be 'worth more' to a person than years of comfort or love or accomplishment or millions of dollars or the respect and admiration of thousands. That a single person, or two people, using only themselves and each other, can easily create an intense, unrecorded, unshared memory that is more emotional, memorable, and affecting than winning the lottery or getting a masters degree or even 'falling in love,' maybe, seems 'beautiful' and exciting and affecting to me. I think I’ve had experiences like this even when alone, and even when feeling conventionally 'negative' feelings, like being very lonely or feeling extremely desperate. These moments—rather than 'accomplishments' or other hierarchal activities, or even some form of long-lasting comfort or calmness, or something—seem to be what I 'want' most, if I want anything, in life, based on what I know currently. When I’m aware of this, and believe it, to a certain degree, I feel calm, I think.”

    me too…

    good job

    viral ass transparent blue

    • tao

      good job changing ” to '


      • Brian McElmurry

        I liked this part too. Seems transcending.

  • Jordan

    i felt inspired to change, i think, or 'remembered,' rather, a 'calmer, more [something] “version of myself”' that i seem to only be able to concretely associate with 'working on things in the library' or 'being alone in my bedroom working on things in a voluntary, “camly excited” manner,' that i have maybe not experienced in the past few days, after reading this essay

    i enjoyed reading your 'slimmed down' version of his conversation with 'okinawa'

    i felt excited about the possibility of participating in an orgy, i think, or excited, possibly, about something else, while reading your summary of the orgy in the book

    good job bro

    • tao

      seems like i imagine you in an orgy 'wandering around' with a 'glassy' eyeballs…sort of with a somewhat 'tense' neck/head area…slowly moving around, walking, almost with tears on your eyeballs

  • christopher lynsey


    • tao


  • Hilson

    i am pretty excited to read this, i wrote my senior work on this book a couple years ago.

    is there anyway you can put it together in a printable format. i want to read off the computer screen, on paper, at a place convenient to me such as my desk or toilet.

    • tao

      if you email me at binky.tabby [at] i can email you it in one i think

      maybe i can add a page 9 that has everything

  • kelly huckaby

    about 3/4 through reading this for some reason i remembered being 12 years old and sitting alone at the front of the bus on the way to school, feeling very sad and lonely after having returned from visiting 40ish cousins in malaysia and trying not to cry the whole way.

    i kept thinking “if somebody tries to talk to me i'm going to tell them my cat died.”

    • tao




  • bob

    I think you got an A on this essay at nyu

    not always good but sometimes great.


  • Robertbenesh

    I'm currently reading the Japanese version of this (as a part of my dissertation) after a few reads through in English, and I certainly feel that the balance between the perspective of the narrator and the perspective of the character have changed across translations, but I was having difficulty pinning it down. Your writing on the subject was very clear and concise and helped me greatly in understanding these differences. I find it to be very strange timing that you posted this in a time when I am focusing on this work so heavily.

    • tao


      i feel interested in the difference re english/japanese, if you would like to share your thoughts

      • Robertbenesh

        It's somewhat difficult to explain without spiraling into detail, but one of the main features I found was that the character of Ryu seemed somewhat more sympathetic and caring toward Reiko, and the narrator's perspective seemed something more–to me, like a sense of loss because of a love he allowed to escape him. As if, in retrospect, he feels guilt for not attempting to build a romantic bond between him and Reiko, realizing after the event that she was much more important to him than he originally understood. There seem to be several moments like this one where the perspective of the narrator Ryu seems to indicate that he wanted to revisit this time of life through this piece of work to better understand the opportunities he missed and the experiences that still weight heavily on him. But then again I could be making all this up.

      • tao

        thanks for sharing your thoughts, i felt that the narrator was more sympathetic toward reiko than the character, and that the narrator was more sympathetic because in retrospect he felt that reiko probably liked him in a way that he didn't like her, and simply sympathized with that, maybe as a vicarious source of sympathy in whatever unrequited situation he might currently be in (maybe he views lilly as an unrequited situation currently), or something

  • Chillwave Gonzales

    Having insomnia, and am chilling with this.

    • tao

      chillwave gonzales


  • Nicholas

    just ordered a copy off amazon. awesome essay, tao! very impressed :)

    • tao

      hi nicholas


  • Faiz Khan

    “There doesn’t seem to be any critique of society, but mostly only of existence, or of self, or of seemingly nothing, in this book.”

    this sentence made me feel 'very bleak'

    • tao

      hi faiz khan


  • stephen

    I liked this a lot, Tao. I'm glad you wrote it. After reading Ryu Murakami's story in Zoetrope, I'm very interested in reading more by him. The section of your essay that Megan quoted in her comment, that section made me feel gratified and excited. Great job bro

    • tao

      hi stephen


      enjoyed reading your comment

      glad you felt gratified and excited

  • Vicky Lim

    I liked this essay, particularly the moments of doubt and encouragement expressed on page eight, which is how I feel often when writing an essay.

    • tao

      hi vicky


  • aaron nicholas

    i…uh…skipped straight to page 7

  • jejune

    thanks for writing this, i appreciated it, especially the paragraph in which you explain why you were touched by the novel.

    i was surprised that the characters listened to luiz bonfa while having an orgy.

    • tao

      i like it, seems almost 'emotional,' luiz bonfa


  • buttercup mcgillicuddy

    found the nancy andrew translation online in .pdf format and plan to read [9] upon completing the novel

    also ['in-line', i think, with my interests] found this clip of the film version

    but could not find any torrents, dvds, streaming videos, etc. and feel desperate

    i enjoyed this analysis, tao, and feel inspired to write more fiction after reading it

    based on your receptiveness to this author, and based on previous japanese literature i've read, i perceive ryu murakami as [sort of] the 'most-underground' author who writes in a form and with similar intent/interests as oe and abe, which i feel excited to now be exposed to. thanks

    • tao

      hi buttercup


      enjoyed reading your comment

      i think ryu murakami is 'really famous' in japan (re 'most-underground')

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