Author: Hiromi Kawakami
First Published: 2001
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance
Tsukiko, thirty–eight, works in an office and lives alone. One night, she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, "Sensei," in a local bar. Tsukiko had only ever called him "Sensei" ("Teacher"). He is thirty years her senior, retired, and presumably a widower. Their relationship develops from a perfunctory acknowledgment of each other as they eat and drink alone at the bar, to a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.
As Tsukiko and Sensei grow to know and love one another, time's passing is marked by Kawakami's gentle hints at the changing seasons: from warm sake to chilled beer, from the buds on the trees to the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Strange Weather in Tokyo is a moving, funny, and immersive tale of modern Japan and old–fashioned romance.
Strange Weather in Tokyo is a poignant love story that feels like the changing of the seasons. There is really something to admire about Kawakami’s writing, the way she can convey loneliness cleanly in concise, sparse prose. A romance between two quirky people seems so unlikely, but in the quiet moments sat side by side eating at a local bar, they fit together so comfortably. The romance between Tsukiko and sensei doesn’t feel like a breathtaking lusty romance, but instead a warm companionship that eventually leads to a mutual need for the other person’s company.
“This strange weather must be a result of the strange thing you said, Tsukiko.”
This story has some strange and surreal turns that are disorienting, and sensei is such a quirky character he will not be an agreeable person for every reader. I did really enjoy Tsukiko’s character, how she merely drifts from work to a bar to home, lonely and listless as she approaches middle age. Her attempts at dating another man her age and feeling apathetic toward the attempted courtship were relatable to me. The story felt dreamy yet down to Earth, the romance calm and bittersweet. I enjoyed this little novel and the weighty emotions that are conveyed in a sensitive way.
Warnings: Mild sexual content