Book Review: Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Strange Weather in Tokyo
by Hiromi Kawakami, Allison Markin Powell (Translator)

Publication date: May 1st 2014
Publisher: Portobello Books (first published 2001)
Pages: 176


Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

Source: Goodreads


I’m loving Japanese literature at the moment, and my latest read “Strange Weather in Tokyo” is no exception.

Hiromi Kawakami writes a shy, romantic tale between Tsukiko, a single woman approaching 40, and her former teacher, a man 30 odd years her senior. This isn’t your typical romance novel and the plot isn’t overly complicated, it’s just a nice, heart-warming tale about a quirky couple and the food and drink they bond over.

“If the love is true, then treat it the same way you would plant – feed it, protect it from the elements – you must do absolutely everything you can. But if it isn’t true, then it’s best to just let it wither on the vine.”

I think one of the reasons I enjoy Japanese writing so much is that it’s like a piece of art. The books I’ve read have mostly be short quick reads without a lot of lengthy description or a complicated plot, but they’ve all been powerful and elegantly written. In this book, for example, Kawakami tells a simple story of a relationship between two lonely people, but the message is a lot stronger as it gives us an insight into human nature and manages to pack an emotional punch without a lot of drama.

“I felt a sudden rush of warmth in my body, and felt the tears well up once again. But I didn’t cry. It’s always better to drink than to cry.”

I really enjoyed this book! The only criticisms I have are that the translation was a little funny at times and I also thought that the cover was a little strange. Tsukiko is supposed to be in her late 30s, and the descriptions of her are not in anyway representative of the young woman on the front. Who is this mystery lady?

Overall rating: “Strange Weather in Tokyo” is a wonderful piece of uncluttered Japanese literature. This is a quirky romance that I’d recommend and I’m looking forward to reading more of Hiromi Kawakami‘s work. 4 stars!

See my other reviews of books by Hiromi Kawakami here: