Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Strange Weather in Tokyo is a lovely, quirky little tale.

One evening, thirty-something year old Tsukiko runs into one of her former teachers in a bar.  Unable to recall his name at first, she calls him ‘Sensei’, a title that sticks throughout the novel.  They chat and, over the the following weeks, see each other in the same bar from time to time without ever formally arranging to meet.  What starts as a tentative friendship slowly blossoms into something deeper.

The story is narrated by Tsukiko, and so you rarely get a sense of what Sensei is thinking or feeling.  You suffer with Tsukiko as she realises that she is developing feelings for him without knowing if this is reciprocated – mirroring the uncertainty that many people feel in starting a new relationship.

I liked the structure of the novel – each chapter is self-contained, and could almost be read as a series of short stories rather than a novel, the only link being the characters and their developing friendship.

At it’s heart this is a love story, and yet there is an overwhelming sense of loneliness associated with both characters.  Both Tsukiko and Sensei have chosen a solitary lifestyle, and seem to have deliberately distanced themselves from the people around them.  This adds a poignancy to the story, and makes the potential relationship between Tsukiko and Sensei more important – I wanted them to happy.

A lovely little story, and well worth a read.

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