It takes place between the hours of 11:56 p.m. and ends at 6:52 a.m.
Mari is studying at a Denny's when Takahashi, an acquaintance of her sister's starts talking to her. He later goes off to play in his band at an abandoned building. But, about an hour later, Kaoru comes in looking for Mari; Kaoru knows Takahashi, who told Kaoru where Mari was studying and that Mari can speak Chinese.
Mari's linguistic's skills are needed because Kaoru works at a love hotel, and a young, Chinese prostitute, who doesn't speak Japanese, has been beaten up badly.
Not until I read this novel did I realize why love hotels are needed over there; there is not enough space for privacy for lovers, so they go to these places to have fun. However, it can also be dangerous; some people who go there work for the organized crime syndicates. Despite there being so many people in Japan, illegal aliens do manage to sneak in.
The American influence on the Japanese society is really apparent in several sections of the novel.
Kaoru and her co-workers at the love hotel are trying to determine who beat up the poor prostitute by looking at the film of the surveillance camera and blowing up the image.
Korogi exclaims, "Wow! Look at what you can do! Like Blade Runner!"
Takahashi goes to a Seven-11 to pick up food. And the Denny's where the novel begins, does serve breakfast 24 hours a day, but you are allowed to smoke there.
On this morning, Takahashi decides to give up his dream of playing in a band and start seriously studying to be a lawyer. At 3:07 a.m., he tells Mari of his experience of observing a court case:
"I'm sitting there listening to the trail, and all I can see in my head is the creature (an octopus). It takes on all kinds of different shapes - sometimes it's 'the nation' and sometimes it's 'the law' and sometimes it takes shapes that are more difficult and dangerous than that. You can try to cutting off it's legs, but they keep growing back. Nobody can kill it. It's too strong and it lives too far down in the ocean. Nobody knows where its heart is. What I felt then was a deep terror ! And a kind of hopelessness, a feeling that I could run away from this thing, no mater how far I went..."
And in spite of having this feeling of doom, Takahashi decides that it's time to grow up, realize that his musical talent won't take him too far, and to study the law. Is this how many of the young Japanese people feel or just the ones that become dedicated to their work? I don't think Murakami feels like this about being a novelist.
And this is not the creepy part of the novel. There is some sort of spirit, a malevolent one, watching the sleeping Eri, Mari's sister, all this time. And, when Mari went to a restroom at 1:56, "The Mari in the mirror is looking from her side into this side (the world that the characters live in). Her somer gaze seems to be expecting some kind of occurrence. But there is no one on this side. Only her image is left in the Skylark restroom mirror."
After reading this work, I was left a bit disturbed and thought about it for days. A group of young people being awake when everyone else is sleeping gave me a lot to think about.