In one of the climax scenes of the novel 1Q84, the protagonist Aomame goes to Hotel Okura in Tokyo. She is moments away from a foreboding encounter to which an Alice in Wonderland series of events has been tensely building. Despite evidencing a personality that combines inner strength, courage, integrity, and selective sensitivity, Aomame feels an uncharacteristic apprehension, perceiving the unexpected presence of an undefined and potent hand of fate at work. She waits in the oversized, opulent lobby for an escort who will bring her to the room where her antagonist will be waiting. Alone amidst a crowded diversity of people moving to the buzz of unlimited agendas, her mind skirts between its very rational and methodical proclivity and the nonsensical world that has somehow crept into her life.
I write this on an airplane, three hours away from landing in Japan’s Narita Airport for a corporate video shoot. I am here with Curt, my husband who is a director of photography for our company Voices & Visions Productions. This will be our second trip to Tokyo, so its sprawling urban landscape will not come as a surprise. On our last trip we had dinner one night on the top floor of our hotel and were seated at a table next to a large window overlooking the city. Actually, it was only a wedge of the city. Yet I remember thinking that the vision before us spread inescapably to the horizon, harboring within its dense mass infinite numbers of people and offices and stores and restaurants and everything. Like hotels.
When the logistics of this current trip to Tokyo were being planned, the office manager of our business client offered to reserve a room in the hotel where they have a corporate rate located a block away from their workplace. Eliminating for us the daunting task of choosing between countless hotels in the complex grid of Tokyo neighborhoods, we took them up on their kind gesture, then received the e-confirmation for a room at Hotel Okura.
I was reminded of Rick’s line about Ilsa in Casablanca: “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Of all the thousands of hotels in Tokyo, our client booked us in the one where this pivotal moment in the best book I’ve read in years takes place.
I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami, the author of 1Q84, and especially of this particular book. It took me weeks to finish the 1,200-page odyssey since I am often working until after midnight, leaving me exhausted when I lay down in bed at night and open a book. For the first third or so, I read two chapters a night, but by the time I got to the middle of the book, my appetite for the plot grew voracious. Each night after I closed the book, the characters and plot danced through my dwindling consciousness into my dreams. They would fade into the paper of the book’s pages through most of the daytime hours when the real world of documentary and corporate video production would dominate my brain. In other words, like Aomame in that pivotal scene, the book transported me to a mental place of vacillation between the real world and the fictional world of Murakami.
It’s been a few months since I finished reading 1Q84, and some of its details have begun dissolving from my memory like the ending slate of a video we create. As the long United Airlines flight to Murakami’s city approaches our destination, my mind is transitioning into the concrete producer/writer roles in which I feel comfortable. But I confess that, immersed in the setting of Hotel Okura, I will not be able to avoid looking out for the imaginary Aomame and the ominous meeting she has in a room that may be located down the hall from the one where we will be camping out the next four days.
Fortunately the nature of our work is creative, so the influence of imagination in video storytelling – as much for a corporate marketing video as any other type – promises to be beneficial.