This quasi-detective tale follows an unnamed, chain-smoking narrator and his adventures in Tokyo and Hokkaido in 1978. The story begins when the recently divorced protagonist, an advertisement executive, publishes a photo of a pastoral scene sent to him in a confessional letter by his long-lost friend, ‘Rat.’ He is contacted by a mysterious man representing ‘The Boss,’ a central force behind Japan’s political and economic elite, who is now slowly dying. The Boss’ secretary tells him that his agency must immediately cease publication of the photo. He also explains that a strange sheep with a star-shaped birthmark, pictured in the advertisement, was in some way the secret source of the Boss’ power and that he has one month to find that sheep or his career and life will be ruined. The narrator and his girlfriend, who possesses magically seductive and supernaturally perceptive ears, travel to the north of Japan to find the sheep and his vagabond friend. The photo of the sheep brings the two to Sapporo. There the narrator’s girlfriend digs through various texts in the library and they explore the city. The girlfriend’s ears help to guide them to the Dolphin Hotel which is a shadow of its former self. It is run by a man who was once a sailor, but, due to an accident at sea, has only the use of one arm. The hotel owner points the pair to his father, the ‘Sheep Professor’, who is a bitter, eccentric man living upstairs in the hotel, still remembering the sheep from when he encountered them in Manchuria, decades before. The hotel owner and his father have a horrible relationship, and the Sheep Professor is reluctant, at first, to talk to anyone that his son brought, until the narrator mentions the sheep to the Sheep Professor.
A Wild Sheep Chase
His life was like his recurring nightmare: a train to nowhere. But an ordinary life has a way of taking an extraordinary turn. Add a girl whose ears are so exquisite that, when uncovered, they improve sex a thousand-fold, a runaway friend, a right-wing politico, an ovine-obsessed professor and a manic-depressive in a sheep outfit, implicate them in a hunt for a sheep, that may or may not be running the world, and eth upshot is another singular masterpiece from Japan’s finest novelist.