Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

By Megan Tanuwidjaja

Jakarta, Indonesia

Taken as a whole, the novel is profound but in unusual ways (Photo Credit: HOBRF)

Reading Murakami is always a poignant, therapeutic journey, and his 2014 novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, is no exception. It’s a melancholic experience that feels so surreal that you find yourself lost in his magical words, unable to pull yourself out until you turn the very last page.


In this novel, five teenagers—three girls and two boys—share a cosmic connection and instantly become friends while volunteering for school. The group becomes so close that they spend every moment with each other.


Apart from Tsukuru, each of them has a “colorful” name: white, black, red and blue. This is representative of the way Tsukuru sees himself: colorless, with nothing valuable to offer to the rest of his group––or even the world. Little does he know that isn’t the way anybody views him at all. But when the group suddenly cuts him off with no explanation, he becomes a social recluse. His friends were his anchor, and without them, he sinks into a pit of depression believing that he just wasn’t special enough for his unique, vibrant group of friends.


It isn’t until twenty years later that Tsukuru begins to reexamine the past and hunt down the reason why his best friends cut him off. Because of Murakami’s thrilling and evocative prose, I almost felt like I wanted to know this reason more than Tsukuru himself!


Taken as a whole, the novel is profound but in unusual ways. Some readers may see themselves in Tsukuru—they often feel as if they have no defining qualities, or perhaps they feel like a fish out of water. Murakami’s novel proves that our views of ourselves are only one perspective; our actions have the ability to shape the lives of the people around us everyday, whether it be good or bad.


Murakami’s greatness is his ability to breathe life and intensity into the most humane issues we all go through. Upon finishing Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I found myself thinking about my own individuality through Murakami’s brilliant metaphors and symbolism for days. In a time of great uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to realize that we aren’t insignificant just because others are more noticeable or have achieved more. This book can help you do that, and I simply can’t recommend it enough.