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Subterranean settings are staples in the fiction of Haruki Murakami — most notably in “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.” Perhaps the bestselling author was called, then, to one day venture himself into a sinister underground world.

On the morning of March 20, 1995, Murakami was at his home in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture, arranging bookshelves. At the same time, two hours north, on different trains in the Tokyo subway, three members of the cult Aum Shinrikyo punctured plastic bags with the sharpened tips of their umbrellas, releasing sarin gas to the unsuspecting commuters.

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