Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
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Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  6,376 ratings  ·  462 reviews
From Haruki Murakami, internationally acclaimed author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood, a work of literary journalism that is as fascinating as it is necessary, as provocative as it is profound.

In March of 1995, agents of a Japanese religious cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin, a gas twenty-six times as deadly as cyanide. Attempting to discov...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published August 11th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Amazing, thoughtful compilation of interviews conducted by Murakami. While the accounts of the gas attack itself are both shocking and fascinating, it also gives invaluable insight into what it means to be Japanese and the life that is expected of you. In fact, when reading the rigid and all-prevailing work ethic of the commuters on their way to work on the doomed trains, the sense of entrapping routine makes you wonder how 'crazy' the interviewed Aum members are for wanting to escape it. A cul...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
There was a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway system carried out in 1995 by a religious cult called Aum. They released poison gas, called sarin, during rush hour on several different train lines, killing 13 people, and injuring hundreds of others.

This book contains interviews of people caught in the attack, as well as interviews of members of the Aum cult, although none of them were perpetrators of the attack.

As a reader from another country, I feel like I'm missing a lot. I read the book fe...more
This is actually two books. Part I (1-223), titled "Underground" (Andaguraundo) was published in 1997; Part II ("The Place that was Promised") was written and published separately the following year.

Part I consists of interviews with the victims (see updates; this section is too long and is tedious). Part II consists of interviews with members and former members of Aum Shinrikyo.

And this is where things get really weird....

The members of this cult -- who r...more
Jan 18, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in cults
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: the library shelf
The bestselling novelist Haruki Murakami gives a Studs Terkelish treatment to the Tokyo sarin gas attacks of 1995 which killed 12 and injured hundreds. There's a great deal about Terkel's methods to like (when Terkel uses them), but they fall flat here. I don't think the oral history treatment works well in this instance, in which every victim is in the same location (the subway system) and is subjected to the same assault; the approximately 30 victim accounts are extremely repetitive, which bec...more
The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground.
The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 were perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese religious cult, and attracted wide media attention. Aum emerged in 1984 when previously strict measures by the Japanese government against new religions were relaxed. During the post-war American occupation and in the years following, this laxness was an attempt to show that the new poli...more
On March 20, 1995 a Japanese religious cult, called Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas onto five subway trains during the morning rush hour. Cult members entered trains near the front with two or three newspaper-wrapped packets of sarin, piercing the packets with sharpened umbrellas the members were able to get off the train with minimal injury due to the gas.

In Japan, this book was published as two: the first being interviews with sarin survivors that had been affected in some way, even just havi...more
I still remember the first time I came across this book at the local used-book store. I was about to check out with my purchases when I noticed a book with Murakami written on its spine behind the woman at the counter, so I asked her for it & quickly looked up the book on Goodreads. But I wasn't really keen on non-fiction back then, someone on my friends' list had given it a one-star rating & I being short on cash conspired together & I didn't buy it. Bad judgement on my part, now th...more
Thanh Hằng
Đọc Ngầm, tôi sợ. Tôi thấy mình cứ yếu đi dần dần với mỗi chân dung người hiện ra. Chưa có quyển sách nào của Murakami lại khiến tôi sợ đến vậy.

Thường sách của Murakami sẽ khiến tôi hơi khó hiểu chỗ này chỗ kia, bối rối và mệt mỏi truy tìm ý nghĩa một chút. Ngầm thì là sách phi hư cấu, nhưng lại khiến tôi sợ kinh khủng. Không phải nỗi sợ mơ hồ những điều không đoán định được như ma quỷ, mà vì những điều tăm tối nhất trong con người (cả con người tôi, nhất là con người tôi), vốn bị nén chặt ở tầ...more
Seth Hahne
Murakami's Underground was by turns devastating and intriguing. There were moments I wanted to abandon humanity in a wastebin behind an abortion clinic and others when I sat there dumbfounded, thinking Wow, humanity, you're like the most interesting people on earth. Love to hate to love to hate. Again and again.

That's what books about patent insanities do to me.

Underground chronicles the psychological aftermath of Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 deposit of Sarin nerve gas across several of the mass-transit...more
This a collection of interviews with the victims of the Tokyo subway gas attack, in the first part, and with some (ex)members of the cult that did carry out the attack. Although I did find the latter part more interesting, the first one is very revealing as well. Murakami sets out to show how the event was felt by those directly involved in it. What exactly happened that very morning? What did people do? Who reacted how? And the answers are very surprising, at times unbelievable. One of the most...more
I read it to get a better understanding of 1Q84. I wouldn’t say it’s essential reading for it, but it's very helpful to understanding the book’s themes and characters. Underground is a non-fiction account of Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin gas terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway in March, 1995. Aum Shinrikyo was a doomsday cult and the attack happened to fulfil its leader’s prophecy that a gas attack in Tokyo was to start the Third World War and lead to Armageddon. The attack killed 13 people (the last o...more
Knar   Avetisyan
A book of Murakami about Tokyo gas attack, that left only 12 people dead but 1000s were intoxicated.

The first part of the book includes a number of interviews of injured people, their memories and feelings about all of it.

The second part of the book includes the interviews with members and formers of the attack. I haven't read this book till the end as it was written in a very boring way. But i was able to make my mind about it and get that there was nothing special about this book, except the...more
Dimitris Hall
I find it very interesting reading non-fiction by writers that are generally better known for their novels. I like taking a sneak peek at how they perceive and document real events and whether their love for the imaginary can affect the way they tell a story.

For some reason I have connected Murakami with magical realism, even if I've only read one other book of his and that not one of his most well-known. This book, then, didn't feel like Murakami - possibly because I have no clear idea of what...more

I started to read this book when it came out. After 130 pages I was bored and put it on my shelf where it laid for eight years. I don't like unfinished business and it was bothering me to have an unread book in my room, so I picked it up two weeks ago to finally finish what I started so long ago.

Underground is a series of separate interviews Murakami conducted with 60 victims of the gas attacks in the Tokyo subway and 8 members of the Aum-sect, descriptions of how the attacks were carried out....more
Chelsea Szendi
This book proves two things I've long suspected about Murakami Haruki. One is that he'd be a lot more interesting if he'd deny his own ego every once in a while, and the second is that he is not very skilled at analysis. This book of Murakami's is nonfiction and almost entirely the compiled testimonies of survivors of the March 20, 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway.

At first the experiment is absolutely absorbing. In his prologue, Murakami promises to explore the kind of "double victimization...more
The effects of terrorism on individuals as diverse as one could imagine. Old, wealthy, poor, young, from city and rural and more. Individual non-fiction interviews in which Murakami uses no voice other than those who were impacted by the The Tokyo Gas Attack. The impact on each survivor and those close to them is told in a way that I found at times to be dry and then five minutes later I would cry. What we get here is the truth with no embellishments by the author. Read this if you want to feel...more
‘The date is Monday 20 March, 1995. It is a beautiful clear spring morning. There is still a brisk breeze and people are bundled up in coats. Yesterday was Sunday, tomorrow is the Spring Equinox, a national holiday. Sandwiched right in the middle of what should have been a long weekend, you’re probably thinking “I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.” No such luck. You get up at the normal time, wash, dress, breakfast, and head for the subway station. You board the train, crowded as usual. No...more
Jee Koh
I'm planning to visit Japan in August and so when I found Haruki Murakami's work of journalism Underground at Kramerbooks in D.C., I bought it immediately, for who can resist a book subtitled "The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche"?

The first, and bigger, part of the book consists of interviews with the victims of the gas attacks, and the family of those who died. These interviews are ordered according to the subway lines on which the Aum attack on March 20, 1995, a Monday, took place. Di...more
I know the subway line in Tokyo that the AUM attacked very well. It goes through the 'posh' or expensive areas of Tokyo - as well as some leading tourist sites - the Ginza, Roppongi. Then the unthinkable happened - especially in Tokyo. The gas attack.

Murakami and an assistant interviewed everyone who was on that train line that morning - so the reader gets slightly different versions what happened on the subway line. All the victims talk about their bad health after-affects of course, but what i...more
When I first started reading this book, I must admit: I was bored. However, I forced myself to keep going and keep reading, and I'm glad that I did. My favourite part is when Murakami interviewed the Aum followers. Reading about Aum, it really made me think about the media: and how it twists stories to whatever they like... it makes me feel differently about listening to the media all the time. Aum believers think of themselves as out of this world, when really in my opinion they are only feelin...more
I really liked this book, but it suffered from what I thought was a pretty glaring flaw - at no point does Murakami or any of his interviewees, which include current and former members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, discuss the motive for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. I think that would have gone a long way toward an understanding of the Aum cult, which Murakami tries to provide in the latter part of the book.
I would give an additional .5 of a star, if I could.

A fascinating look into the human psyche, memory, and society. Murakami's conclusions about society's failure to offer many people meaning, and how this can lead to isolation and the seeking of community in cults that can lead to dangerous activities, is especially poignant in the wake of another public shooting spree in the U.S.

I'm glad Murakami provided interviews with both people affected by the gas attack and those involved in the cult tha...more
It's interesting in this book, written after Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, how a sense of detachment similar to that which Murakami explores in his fiction is echoed by the former Aum members he interviews. While most of the gas victims he talked to in the first half of the book share similar lifestyles, at least in terms of the (stereotypical) Japanese work ethic, the cult members actively shunned these values. What's surprising is that the former cult members don't seem so alien. An average American...more
I found the review from Observer is the closest to express my sentiment about this book.

'There is no artifice or pretension in Underground. There is no need for cleverness. What Murakami describes happens to ordinary people in a frighteningly ordinary way. And it is all the more bizarre for that.'

What Murakami assembled gave me, as a reader, a multi perspective view to a horror that most people and media only saw as a good vs evil phenomenon. It's truly ordinary and honest. It shook me because a...more
Timur Aliev
Книга Мураками посвящена террористическому акту, который организовала секта «Аум Синрикё» 20 марта 1995 года в Токио, распылив в токийском метро на нескольких линиях ядовитый газ зарин. «Подземка» – сборник из интервью, взятых у пострадавших вследствие терракта людей, каждый из которых описывает, что с ним произошло, какие действия он предпринимал. Эти интервью подобраны интересным образом (полагаю, такова задумка автора) – каждый новый рассказ лишь усиливает весь ужас происходящего, обрисовывае...more
Oct 18, 2011 Elsje rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elsje by: Gnoe Graasland
Shelves: read-2011
Underground is een van de weinige non-fictie boeken van de door mij zeer bewonderde Japanse schrijver Haruki Murakami. Hier onderzoekt hij de gifgas-aanval op de metro van Tokyo, uitgevoerd door de leden van de sekte Aum Shinrikyo, op 20 maart 1995. Hij doet dat op drie manieren: in het eerste deel van het boek interviewt hij een flink aantal overlevenden van de gifgas-aanval, omdat hij van mening is dat bij de verslaggeving van de ramp de nadruk veel te veel heeft gelegen op de daders en niet o...more
This was not the typical Murakami. Because it's non-fiction. Because most words are not Murakami's. Regardless, it's a Murakami book. It took me a few pages to understand this, but then testimony by testimony I savoured it slowly.

Underground is a glimpse onto Japanese society in face of a major disaster, the sarin attack in Tokyo's metro. This was perpetrated by Japanese people, on a weekday during rush hour and inflicted onto Japanese people. Almost unthinkable on the days before it took place....more
Daphne Racoon
Underground came into my hands while I was browsing the shelves of a bookstore for sociology and semantics books. I was busy reading other books so I started reading it after a long time, but when I finally got to read it, I was engrossed in its beautifully composed non-fictional world. I had never come across this kind of book, so it intrigued me even more... The fact that a book written in 1998 describes a gas attack through the eyes of actual victims seemed surreal to me for some reason.

I can't recall the last time I'd devoted any serious reading commitment to a work of non-fiction. But Underground came highly recommended and Haruki Murakami is an author I admire greatly. More so, I've always been interested in the eastern mindset, in comparative religious studies, as well as those pseudo-religions more commonly known as cults.

The entire first section of Underground is devoted to the individual stories of victims and family members affected by the Aum cult's 1995 sarin attack o...more
Astonishing how Murakami crafted raw interviews into intimate psychological portraits of the victims of Tokyo's 1995 sarin gas attacks, the perpetrators of the attacks, and the community as a whole.

There is a profound sense of alienation rendered in these interviews. Normal people--muddling through everyday disappointments, scurrying to work even on their days off, burdened by a thousand trivial obligations--suddenly became victims of an invisible poison. But after two hundred pages of heartbrea...more
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Haruki Murakami (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as 'easily accessible, yet profoundly complex'. He can be located on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka...

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by Am...more
More about Haruki Murakami...
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“If you lose your ego, you lose the thread of that narrative you call your Self. Humans, however, can't live very long without some sense of a continuing story. Such stories go beyond the limited rational system (or the systematic rationality) with which you surround yourself; they are crucial keys to sharing time-experience with others.

Now a narrative is a story, not a logic, nor ethics, nor philosophy. It is a dream you keep having, whether you realize it or not. Just as surely as you breathe, you go on ceaselessly dreaming your story. And in these stories you wear two faces. You are simultaneously subject and object. You are a whole and you are a part. You are real and you are shadow. "Storyteller" and at the same time "character". It is through such multilayering of roles in our stories that we heal the loneliness of being an isolated individual in the world.

Yet without a proper ego nobody can create a personal narrative, any more than you can drive a car without an engine, or cast a shadow without a real physical object. But once you've consigned your ego to someone else, where on earth do you go from there?

At this point you receive a new narrative from the person to whom you have entrusted your ego. You've handed over the real thing, so what comes back is a shadow. And once your ego has merged with another ego, your narrative will necessarily take on the narrative created by that ego.

Just what kind of narrative?

It needn't be anything particularly fancy, nothing complicated or refined. You don't need to have literary ambitions. In fact, the sketchier and simpler the better. Junk, a leftover rehash will do. Anyway, most people are tired of complex, multilayered scenarios-they are a potential letdown. It's precisely because people can't find any fixed point within their own multilayered schemes that they're tossing aside their own self-identity.”
“The rain that fell on the city runs down the dark gutters and empties into the sea without even soaking the ground” 9 likes
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