Yesterday opens with a Beatles song being sung incorrectly by a man the main character, Tanimura-kun, only met briefly in his youth. This story explores the reliability of human memory and plays with the things we remember, why remember them, and what seemingly important details at the time get blurred as time moves forward.
As in Murakami’s other works, Yesterday explores Japanese culture and western influences on that culture. Tanimura-kun works in a coffee shop within the story along with his friend, for example, rather than something more transitionally Japanese like a tea house. Going further, modernized Japan’s education and testing system are briefly explored and the way individuality corrupts the uniform testing system in place. The drive to be an individual instead of conforming to parental and societal expectations is an underlying theme within the story.
Overall, while many themes are at play, I feel that Yesterday is an exploration and celebration of those unique individuals in our lives that we hold onto in our memory. Our meetings with them may be brief, and they may sit outside the norm of society, but it is the briefness of their presence in our lives and their originality that makes them such markers in our minds. Yesterday captures this masterfully well, in a way that only Murakami can.
I give this short story six Bards on our Bard Scale.