Like most of Japan, Murakami was shell-shocked when in March 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo sect released sarin gas on a number of trains in the Tokyo underground. Twelve died, thousands were injured. This book, a series of in-depth interviews with some of the victims, is Murkami's attempt at coming to terms with the event.
What affected me most in these accounts was the Japanese stoicism; how an astonishing number of the injured deduced they "must be coming down with a cold" at the symtoms, and staggered on to their offices, though some were hardly able to walk.
Just like we Swedes at our "JFK-assassination-moment" (You know; that one time when everyone remembers where they were, and what they were doing. To me, that was when Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot down in 1986.) the interviewed Tokyoites all underline their surprise at the unexpectedness of the attack in what they had felt to be such a safe place. That is probably also why the Japanese emergency services turned out to be so utterly unprepared to deal with the situation.
This edition also contains Murakami's follow-up work, 'The Place That Was Promised'; similar interviews with mostly defected members of the sect, allowing for another angle to the events.
I'm not sure I found this second part very helpful - the interviewees are young outsiders, rather lost in life, most of which had no idea what the sect leader was preparing, even less able to clarify anything.
Still, the overall impression is of an interesting work; well-penned, though too long.