‘Somewhat episodic’ – Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

swithkThere is a rather fine novel by Junichiro Tanizaki called Diary of a Mad Old Man, in which an elderly gentleman gradually becomes attracted to someone much younger than himself. Hiromi Kawakami’s Strange Weather in Tokyo could, from some angles, be seen as a sort of contemporary reboot viewed from the young woman’s point of view.

Tsukiko is a slightly dreamy lady in her forties who finds herself seated at a bar next to one of her former high school teachers, who is of course much older than she is. A friendship slowly develops, albeit with short hiatuses as a result of fallouts over such things as baseball. Tsukiko refers to her teacher as Sensei throughout, even as their friendship becomes closer and they gradually realise they are falling in love with one another.

Like Banana Yoshimoto, Kawakami’s book is somewhat episodic – the two central characters eat and drink together, take a walk together, go mushroom picking, take a trip – and gentle as a spring wind. Anyone familiar with Akira Kurosawa’s last film, Madadayo, will recognise the tender way in which mortality is dealt with here. It’s not a book that will take you too long to read, and it’s as pleasant as a fine meal whilst it lasts, although not something you may recall for too long in the future.

Any Cop?: Although not quite as surreal as the cover seems to suggest, Strange Weather in Tokyo is fine enough.


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