Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Strange Weather in Tokyo Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell

Shortlisted for 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize

Five words from the blurb: romance, old, teacher, friendship, solace

Strange Weather is Tokyo is a beautifully written story about the friendship that develops between Tsukiko and one of her former high school teachers. The pair meet by chance in a bar and over time their relationship blossoms into a strange love affair.

Very little happens over the course of the book, but I was captivated by the quality of the writing. If the same story had been set in England I’d have probably been bored, but there is something about the Japanese way of life that fascinates me. I loved the atmospheric descriptions of the bars and food had a high prominence – it was mouthwatering:

With renewed determination, I seized a piece of the fish with my chopsticks and dunked it in the gingered soy sauce. The firm flesh had a slightly peculiar flavour. I sipped from my glass of cold sake and looked around the bar. Today’s menu was written in chalk on the blackboard: MINCED BONITO. FLYING FISH. NEW POTATOES. BROAD BEANS. BOILED PORK. If sensei were here, he would definitely order the bonito and broad beans first.

It is probably worth pointing out that the cover of this book is quite misleading. The floating woman implies some supernatural element, but this book is firmly grounded in reality. Anyone looking for the more bizarre aspects of Japanese fiction will be disappointed.

Despite the slow pace of the plot I read this book very quickly – it only took a few hours to reach the emotionally charged end. It’s the perfect way to be briefly immersed in Japanese culture.

Recommended to those who love all things Japanese.




For more Japanese book reviews see Tony’s January in Japan blog..

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  1. I really like the sound of this and would not be disappointed by the absence of those bizarre aspects you refer to… Mouthwatering indeed!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. *dreams of eating Japanese food*

  2. Tony says:

    Loved the book, hate the cover – and the fact that the UK edition changed the title of the earlier US edition (‘The Briefcase’).

    1. Jackie says:

      Tony, It’s lovely to finally find a book we both enjoy! I do like the cover, but don’t think it is a good reflection of the book’s contents. I think the new title is much better, but I’m not convinced either are suited to the sytle of the book.

  3. Kailana says:

    I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the cover to be honest. It is kind of misleading in general.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kailana, Yes, strange isn’t it? If she had her feet on the ground then I think it would have worked, but as it is it implies super natural elements that just aren’t there :-(

  4. Bellezza says:

    I was captivated by the quality of the writing, too. As well as the lovely, s-l-o-w pace.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bellezza, I don’t normally enjoy a slow pace, but for some reason this book really worked for me too :-)


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