PLOT: 3/5

“If the love is true, then treat it the same way you would a 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.”

–        Hiromi Kawakami, Strange Weather in Tokyo

The plot summary

On a solitary evening at her favorite sake bar, Tsukiko’s life takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself sitting beside her former high school teacher. Struggling to recall his name, she reverts to addressing him as ‘Sensei.’ 

As the months go by, they continue to meet, sharing conversations over edamame beans, savoring bottles of cold beer, and embarking on a memorable journey to the mountains to savor wild mushrooms. 

As the seasons change, their bond deepens, evolving from companionship to something beyond. In the midst of spring and autumn, Tsukiko begins to realize that the solace she discovers in the company of Sensei might be the start of something profound and meaningful.

My thoughts

Okay, I’ll be honest. The reason I chose this book was because of its intriguing cover—a woman floating in a convenience store – which was giving off a magical realism kind of vibe. But let me tell you, the story turned out to be quite different from what I expected.

Most Japanese literature I’ve read has this calm and peaceful quality to it, and Strange Weather in Tokyo captures that essence perfectly. Tsukiko and Sensei, both longing for companionship, try to fill their loneliness with sake and miso soup. 

They meet regularly, sharing food and drinks, forming an unusual and heartwarming friendship. We don’t learn much about their past, but we understand that they are separate individuals, even in their shared solitude.

However, as their friendship slowly evolves into a more conventional romance, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted. It’s a May-December love story, in the sense that the characters in the story have a significant age difference of over 30 years, which may initially seem unusual. However, as you delve into the pages of the book and become immersed in their journey, gradually it begins to make sense.

The fact that they had a student-teacher relationship in the past also made it challenging for me to fully embrace their connection, despite the years that had passed since Tsukiko graduated. 

“I, on the other hand, still might not be considered a proper grown-up. I had been very much the adult when I was in elementary school. But as I continued on through junior high and high school, on the contrary, I became less grown-up. And then as the years passed, I turned into quite a childlike person. I suppose I just wasn’t able to ally myself with time.”

The development of their love connection is not rushed; it takes its own time to bloom. These characters are not driven by the mere desire to be in a relationship; their connection is much more genuine and sincere. This refreshing aspect sets their story apart, as it exudes a sense of tranquility often absent in other intensely passionate romances prevalent today.

Much of the book revolves around Japanese culture, particularly the delectable cuisine, which adds an intriguing layer to the storytelling. 

The characters possess their own unique eccentricities and quirks, making it an enthralling journey to read about their peculiar whims and idiosyncrasies.

Kawakami’s writing style is beautiful. The glimpses of nature scattered throughout the book, like mushroom hunting and cherry blossoms, were captivating and became my favorite parts. If you’re looking for a serene and unconventional read, Strange Weather in Tokyo is worth picking up.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Strange Weather in Tokyo.