Tsukiko is drinking alone in her local sake bar when by chance she meets one of her old high school teachers and, unable to remember his name, she falls back into her old habit of calling him ‘Sensei’. After this first encounter, Tsukiko and Sensei continue to meet. Together, they share edamame beans, bottles of cold beer, and a trip to the mountains to eat wild mushrooms. As their friendship deepens, Tsukiko comes to realise that the solace she has found with Sensei might be something more.
About the Author:
There is not much known about Hiromi Kawakami in the Western world. At least from what I found on the internet. She is known here as one of the most famous novelists in Japan besides being a literary critic and a provocative essayist. She was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize with “Strange Weather in Tokyo” and has won several other literary prizes. Some sources put her birthdate at 1958 some at 1959, but all are sure to mention she graduated from Ochanomizu University which is one of only two women’s universities in Japan. Most links I could find about her name are reviews of her books. But maybe that is what a writer should rather be known for anyway.
(Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 )
That’s sweet: I have only read 3 Japanese Authors so far, and all these books had one thing in common: The lack of extreme emotions. I do not know a lot about Japanese culture, but I seem to remember that showing emotion is not polite. And Japanese writing shows that. These stories feel more like sitting at a quiet river watching the story flow by calmly than a roller coaster ride of emotions. And still these stories draw you in quietly, and you cannot escape the exotic charm they display.
That is exactly how I felt about reading “Strange Weather in Tokyo”. At first I thought this was a collection of short stories even though it does not say so on the cover. It made me feel though like that, by the way, the chapters are written. They jump from one setting to another, and you sometimes have to think quite a bit to understand where you are now. However, I love stories and novels that challenge me and my reading experience.
The lack of obvious emotions makes it difficult at first to connect with the characters, but there is something about the way they are shown which draws you in. I am not quite sure what that is. Maybe you are just so curious what is behind them that you keep reading.
This is an unusual love story: A woman in her mid-thirties meets her college Japanese teacher by accident. They keep meeting by chance and grow closer and closer until they realize that their friendship is much more. At times, they seem rude to each other but not on purpose. It is just they have to deal with their own bundle of memories. And when these bundles of memories become apparent everything gets touching. It is also unusual because Hiromi Kawakami does not show it’s a love story in the beginning. It develops over time like Sensei’s and Tsukikos relationship.
I like the fact that this book gives you a glimpse of Japanese society (even though most people describe Hiromi Kawakami’s writing “off-beat”) which is different to the Western world.
This is a book I will read again and again as I believe it will open up to me more and more the more I will read it.
That stings: In a way I have already mentioned the parts that sting: the difficulty to come close to the characters due to the lack of obvious emotions and the lack “action” in the story. I am not sure though if they are a real drawback of the story as these parts have challenged my reading and made it exciting at the same time.
And the honey of it all? The strangest and most touching love story I have ever read which gives you a glimpse of Japanese life. A love story you certainly won’t forget.
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