A Fine Day for Kangarooing

“The Rise and Fall of the Tongariyaki”

“The Rise and Fall of the Tongariyaki”


Murakami Haruki

Translated by Michael Ward

In the corner of the morning paper that I was absentmindedly gazing through there was an ad printed for the Great Assembly for New Tongariyaki. I did not know very well what a Tongariyaki was, however, the cookie was famous. I am a sophisticated critic when it comes to sweets and in addition I was free, so I decided to attend the Great Assembly.

The Great Assembly was held in the ballroom of a hotel where tea and cookies were served. The cookies were of course Tongariyaki. I picked up one to see what it was like, but the taste was not particularly admirable. The quality of the sweetness was sticky and the outer part of the cookie was too dry. I did not think that the young people of today would like to eat this type of cookie.

However, the people who came to the assembly were around my age or younger than me. I was given a nametag with the number 952 printed on it, and because around one hundred people arrived after me, there were substantially over one thousand people who came. It was quite a big deal.

The individual sitting next to me was a girl around twenty years old wearing a strong pair of glasses. She was not a beauty, but she was a girl with a comparatively good personality.

“Hey, have you ever eaten Tongariyaki before now?” I asked the young woman.

“Naturally,” she said, “they are famous too.”

As I was saying “But the taste is not so goo…” she kicked me on the leg. The people around me were throwing glances at me. It was a hateful atmosphere. However, I looked at them with innocent eyes like Winnie the Pooh and let the comment pass.

After a little time had passed, she whispered “you are a bit of an idiot aren’t you?” into my ear. “After an individual came here and slandered the Tongariyaki like that, he would be caught by the Tongariyaki Crows and never return alive.”

“Tongariyaki Crows!” I shouted surprised. “Tongariyaki Crows…”

“Shhh!” She said. The explanation assembly had begun.

The President of Tongariyaki Confectionaries began talking about the history of the cookies. It was the kind of story with unknown authenticity about someone who did something to create the prototypes of Tongariyaki during the Heian period. Also, a poem concerning Tongariyaki was printed in an anthology called the Kokinkaka. Because it was strange I thought everyone would laugh, but everyone around me wore serious faces while listening intently. Also, after all, because the Tongariyaki Crows were frightening, so I decided not to laugh.

The president’s explanation continued for a whole hour. It was dreadfully boring. In short, to sum it up in one sentence, the only things that he liked to talk about were the traditions of the Tongariyaki and with that he finished his speech.

Then, the managing director went on to perform the New Product Recruitment Exposition. The explanation stated that the famous Tongariyaki through its long history throughout the nation had to be dialectically developed by incorporating new blood to adapt to the ages. Fame like that is good, but after all in short, because the flavor of Tongariyaki was old fashioned, sales were dropping and this was why the company wanted the ideas of young people. Still, it would have been good if he had spoken in a straightforward manner.

As I was leaving, I received the application form and instructions. According to it I was to make the cookies a month later and take them to the Tongariyaki base. The prize money was two million yen. If I had two million yen I would be able to move into a new apartment and marry my sweetheart. This is why I decided to make the new Tongariyaki.

As I stated before I am a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to cookies, so I could make them in any manner I desired: bean jam, cream, or pie crust. It’s easy to produce some new and simple Tongariyaki in a month’s time. At the deadline I made two dozen Tongariyaki and brought them to the reception desk of Tongariyaki Confectionaries.

“They look delicious,” the young female receptionist said.

“They are delicious,” I said.

At the end of the month I received a phone call from Tongariyaki Confectionaries asking me to please go to their office. I headed out to Tongariyaki Confectionaries with my necktie on and there I talked to the managing director in his reception office.

“The new Tongariyaki that you submitted have received considerably good criticism within the company,” the managing director said. “Ah, your popularity is good amongst the younger workers.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“ On the other hand, the older executives within the company say that these are not true Tongariyaki. This situation is that there are arguments both pro and con for this new product.”

“Ah,” I said. I really did not understand clearly what he was trying to say.

“It was decided at a conference of senior executives that, for this case, the respected opinion of the Tongari Crows will be asked for.

“Tongari Crows!” I said. “I hope that you that you can explain to me what sort of creatures the Tongari Crows are.”

The managing director looked at me with a look of incomprehension on his face. “You mean to say that you entered this contest without even knowing about the Tongari Crows?”

“Sorry, I am kind of out of it.”

“How is it possible for you not to know about the Tongari Crows,” the managing director said shaking his head, “ ... But well, it's okay. Please follow behind me.”

I followed the man out of the room, walked down a hall, rode an elevator up to the sixth floor, and then walked down another hall. At the end of the hall there was a big iron door. After pushing a buzzer firmly, the figure of a guard came out. His partner confirmed the managing director, and he opened the door with its key. Their cautiousness was quite severe.

“In here are the Tongari Crows,” the managing director said. “This particular family of Tongariyaki crows has lived for many years eating nothing but Tongariyaki.”

Additional explanation was unnecessary. Inside the room there were upwards of one hundred crows. The Tongari crows were sitting alongside each other on a number of horizontal bars in a building that was around 500 meters tall and seemed to be an empty warehouse. The Tongari crows looked like ordinary crows except that they were very big. The big ones were around one meter long; however, the small ones were around sixty centimeters. Since I had a good look at them, I noticed they had no eyes. In the areas where their eyes were supposed to be, there were only clumps of white fat adhering to the surface. To make matters worse their bodies were filled to near bursting point.

We entered the room and I heard the noise of the crows yelling something together while noisily flapping their wings. At first the thunderous roar kept me from being able to hear anything, but soon my ears became used to the noise and I understood that they seemed to be shouting “Tongariyaki! Tongariyaki!” They were disgusting animals.

After the managing director reached into a box and tossed a handful of Tongariyaki on the floor, one hundred Tongari Crows sprung upon them at once. Desiring Tongariyaki, the Tongari crows snapped at each other’s legs and clawed at each other’s eyes. Well, that was the reason why they had lost their eyes.

Next the managing director scattered cookies across the floor that looked like Tongariyaki from another box. “You see? These are the rejected entries from the Tongariyaki contest.”

The crows flocked together as they did before, but after they realized they were not Tongariyaki, they spit them out. They all simultaneously shouted in angry, loud voices





Their voices echoed off the ceiling to the extent that the insides of my ears hurt.

“Look! They will only eat the genuine Tongariyaki!” The managing director shouted with pride. They will not hold the false ones in their mouths!”




“Well, let’s see what will happen when we scatter your new Tongariyaki across the floor.” If they eat them, you will be chosen. If they do not, you lose.”

I wondered if that would be okay, because I had a dreadfully bad premonition. Generally they are mistaken in deciding the results by letting the crows eat. However, the managing director was unmindful of my expectations and did business by scattering my submitted new Tongariyaki on the floor. The crows still flocked around the cookies, and then the chaos began. Some crows were satisfied and ate the cookies and others spit them out and shouted “Tongariyaki!” Next the crows that were unable to get the cookies became vehement and stabbed at the windpipes of the crows that had eaten the cookies. A crow jumped at the cookies spit out by the others, but a massive crow shouting “Tongariyaki” caught him and tore open his stomach. The circumstances led to a free for all fight. Blood called for blood and hate called for hate. They are only cookies, but for the crows they are everything. The only question for their existence was choosing whether or not certain cookies were Tongariyaki or not.

“Please, look at that!” I said to the managing director. “Because you scattered that many cookies, the stimulation was too strong for them.”

And then I left the room alone, went down the elevator, and out the door. I regret having to give up the prize money of two million yen, but I would by no means want to spend my life in the companionship of those long lived crows.

I will only make the things that I like to eat and eat them myself. Let the crows peck each other to death!