Review: Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Tsukiko Omachi was living a life of single ordinariness. Thirty seven, an office worker in Tokyo, she stops semi-regularly at a little bar near the railway station. And one evening meets Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto. Her old high school teacher. Sensei.

That evening we drank five bottles of sake between us. Sensei paid the bill. The next time we saw each other at the bar and drank together, it was on me. The third time, and every time thereafter, we got separate bills and paid for ourselves. That’s how it went. We both seemed to be the type of person who liked to stop in every so often at the local bar. Our food preferences weren’t the only things we shared; we had a similar rhythm, or temperament. Despite the age difference of more than thirty years, I felt much more at ease with him that friends my own age.

Strange Weather in Tokyo is a poignant, lyrical and often magical love story that is full of subtle humour and aching sadness. Nature and food are beautifully woven throughout the narrative as Kawakami carefully teases at the carapace of individual loneliness revealing an old-fshioned romance that is haunting in its simplicity and intensity. This is one of my favourite books of the year so far.

Kawakami, has won several prizes for her contemporary fiction, is one of Japan’s most popular young authors. Strange Weather in Tokyo (Sensei no kaban) was translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell and is published in Australia by Granta.

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