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Strange Weather in Tokyo Paperback – 1 May 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846275105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846275104
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'With its flying-waitress cover and kooky title, this Japanese novel - shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize - hints at Murakami-style weirdness. ... Delicate marks of the passing seasons reveal Kawakami's frank debt to classical Japanese poetry, while the odd couple's shared meals will tickle foodie palates. An elegiac sense of speeding time, and yawning distance, drizzles the story - sensitively translated by Allison Markin Powell - with a sweet sadness.' --Boyd Tonkin, Independent

Beautifully written… Expertly translated by Allison Markin Powell, this is a beautifully understated love story, a novel of sadness, longing and gentle humour. The book is a thing of beauty that makes you want to pick it up and start reading. I hope lots of readers will. --A Life in Books blog

Strange Weather in Tokyo is a charming, understated story, played out against Japan's seasonal extremes. Acutely observed, it's a delicious read. --Gloucestershire Echo

Tender, enigmatic, oddly gripping... It's a portrait of an entire culture and a haunting, eccentric meditation on love and loneliness. --'Books of the Year' chosen by Rupert Thomson, The Big Issue

Strange Weather in Tokyo is a charming, understated story, played out against Japan's seasonal extremes. Acutely observed, it's a delicious read. --Gloucestershire Echo

'Kawakami transforms an affecting cross-generational romance into an exquisite poem of time and mutability. This is a delicate and haunting novel' --Boyd Tonkin on the IFFP shortlist, Independent

'Subtle and haunting... Kawakami's prose is warm and often humorous. Allison Markin Powell's masterful translation conveys a deceptively effortless, understated delicacy and dream-like tone. Often enchanting but ultimately heart-breaking, this is an unforgettable evocation of love and loneliness' --Alev Adil, judge of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

'This short, quirky love story and some of the chapters read like extended haiku. Allison Markin Powell's translation is clear and graceful. In its love of the physical, sensual details of living, its emotional directness, and above all in the passion for food, this is reminiscent of Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen' ***** --Independent on Sunday

'As well as being a sweet love story and an exploration of loneliness, Strange Weather in Tokyo is packed with nostalgic Japanese atmosphere' --Bath Life

About the Author

Born in 1959 in Tokyo, HIROMI KAWAKAMI is one of Japan's most popular contemporary novelists. Her novel Drowning won both the Ito Sei Literature Award and Joryu Bungaku Sho (Woman Writers' Prize) in 2000. Her novel Manazuru won the 2011 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize. ALLISON MARKIN POWELL is a literary translator and editor in New York City. She has translated works by Osamu Dazai, Kaho Nakayama, and Motoyuki Shibata, and she was the guest editor for the first Japan issue of Words Without Borders.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By IsshoniVanessa on 19 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
Elegantly encapsulating an essence of `Japaneseness'; with all the elusive paradoxes that entails, this mesmerising book offers a read that is somehow light and breezy, yet possessing of literary depth. Nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2013, `Strange Weather in Tokyo' is so much more than a romance novel about two lonely people who find solace in each other's company.

Plain with the truth, the tone of the narrative is confessional. Bored, thirty-seven year old office worker Tsukiko gets to know Sensei, a man thirty year her senior. She recognises him from her own school days and they both enjoy drinking in a local bar. Socially awkward, she makes no bones about the fact that she goes there specifically to drink. Drink a lot. And eat. Socialising is incidental. A love of sake, beer and traditional Japanese dishes brings the two together, on and off throughout the year. As the seasons pass, the odd couple indulge their appetites, but restrain their feelings.

Alone, together, in the city, there is always a feeling of disconnection. Neither character seems quite three-dimensional. They reveal little to each other or to the reader. Only on jaunts into more natural settings, such as the mountains of Tochigi for mushroom hunting, does Tsukiko experience some sense of confused connection. `I found myself surrounded by such a plethora of living things, all of them buzzing about. What on earth was I doing, wandering around a place like this?' In contrast, Sensei remains comfortable, no matter how trippy and bizarre the situation becomes. When he opens up about his wife's experience with the poisonous `Big Laughing Gym Mushrooms', and we learn that she left him, but little else.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 9 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
Please note this book has previously been published as: The Briefcase.

Tsukiko, an attractive, young-minded woman in her late thirties, meets an old school teacher of hers, at her local sake bar. She is unable to remember his name, so she calls him 'Sensei' (which, I believe, means 'teacher' in Japanese) and she continues to call him by this name throughout her story. Gradually over a period of weeks and months, Tsukiko and Sensei form a friendship, which slowly develops as they spend their evenings eating and drinking and their days shopping in the local markets. They also join the owner of the sake bar, Satoru, and his cousin, Toru, on an outing to the mountains to collect wild mushrooms, and they even manage to get away for a weekend to visit a spa hotel on an island, where they almost come close to a romantic encounter. Tsukiko and Sensei are essentially solitary people, but they are people who do not really want to be totally alone, and Tsukiko, finding that she is only really happy when she is with Sensei, realizes she is falling in love with her old teacher - but he is so correct in his behaviour towards her that she is finding it difficult to gauge how he really feels about her. And then there is Sensei's ex-wife, an unusual and intriguing woman, who left him years ago - but what happened to her and how does Sensei really feel about her now?

First-person narrated by Tsukiko, and written in spare, simple, uncluttered prose, this short novel shares with the reader the relationship that builds between Sensei and Tsukiko, and is a beautiful, poignant and charming story which is almost dream-like in places.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ann Fairweather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Oct 2013
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed every minutes of reading this unusual novel. The heroine is 37 years old but somehow lives in a dreamy state of mind more akin to adolescence. And indeed when she meets again after many years, her old school teacher in a sake bar, she develops for him an attachment that will take her some time to acknowledge for what it is. This is a beautiful 'anti-romance' in a way, where the two protagonists seem to want to ignore their own feeling for as long as possible. Yet a great tenderness infuses the whole story, and the ending is extremely touching. If you wish to read something modern but quintessentially Japanese, this is it. It is incredibly atmospheric, poetic, slow and off-beat but always fascinating. I loved the vivid images evocated all along, and it is a very unusual novel that I am delighted to have come across. Another priceless gem shining well away for the brash light of bestsellers yet deserving more readers...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By beccalikesbooks on 3 Sep 2013
Format: Paperback
This left me in a daze upon finishing, and I think that the feeling of the book will stay with me for a while.

It is the story of Tsukiko, a lonely woman in her late thirties, who re-meets one of her high school teachers - whose name she cannot remember at first, and so simply calls 'Sensei' - while they happen to be drinking in the same bar. So begins a tentative, tender relationship, punctuated by small events such as a cherry blossom viewing party and a mountain hike to collect mushrooms. Nature is ever present, the passing of time indicated by the changing weather and the seasonal foods that they enjoy with copious amounts of sake, small details which sparkle with life.

The delicacy of the relationship between Tsukiko and Sensei - hesitant, cautious and always conscious of manners and how they seem to each other - reminded me of Jane Austen, particularly Persuasion, as it is also a study of loneliness and quiet longing later in life.

It's beautifully written, and in Allison Markin Powell's translation each word seems perfect. Since its original publication in Japan in 2001, it's apparently become one of Hiromi Kawakami's best-loved novels, and I can see why. Strange Weather in Tokyo is lovely, and achingly sad, and really quite magical.
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