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Strange Weather in Tokyo reading group reviews

5 August 2013 / 7 Comments

We gave 20 reading groups the opportunity to read and review Strange Weather in Tokyo by Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami.

About the book

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, 'Sensei', in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass - from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms - Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

About the author

Born in Tokyo in 1959, Hiromi Kawakami is one of Japan's most popular contemporary novelists, famous for her literary, off-beat fiction. Hiromi has won several awards for her works, including the 2001 Tanizaki Prize in Japan for Strange Weather in Tokyo.


Download the reading group guide to Strange Weather in Tokyo with questions to spark conversation.

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Are you and your book group reading Strange Weather in Tokyo? If so, we would love to hear what your group thinks of this book. Leave a comment below or email us.


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  1. Richard Ashman 10:11, 27 August 2013

    Aloofness personified is about right for the two characters portrayed in this novel and yet it is probably more realistic in terms of a developing relationship than is often the case in fictionalised accounts. It has to be said that this is an undemanding novel although it is the frustratingly slow unfolding relationship that is also its unusual charm. This is a believable romance, particularly with the age difference factor taken into account, but also slightly odd. A quirky read albeit short and unchallenging. Great characterisation but maybe insufficient plot to make this a truly memorable book. Nonetheless it deserved to be shortlisted as a potential prizewinner.

  2. Geraldine Wilson 09:34, 28 August 2013

    A very short book which, although strange, has an almost hypnotic quality. it is told through the eyes of Tsukiko, a single woman in her late 30s who one day meets one of her old teachers and subsequently develops a relationship with him. It isn't a love story in the usual sense: there is a huge age difference between them and their meetings appear to take place by chance. There's no formal structure to their relationship and both Tsukiko and Sensei are self contained to the point of reticence. I found the mood of the book melancholic, suffused with a sense of yearning and loss. The snatches of haikus added to this feeling. Tsukiko shies away from intimacy, as shown in her relationship with Kojima, yet she also craves it. Food is obviously a very important theme in the book, highlighting the similarities between Tsukiko and Sensei and I did wonder whether some of their choices may have nuances that are obvious to the Japanese reader but lost on me. Indeed the book brought back many memories of a visit to Japan some years ago and the bewilderment I felt at some of the strange customs and etiquette of daily life. Although drawn into the book, I didn't feel emotionally involved until the very end, and maybe this was down to cultural differences, although the last few lines were incredibly sad. I'm glad I read it and would recommend it to others, not least because it is totally different to the books I usually read and perhaps gives a little insight into Japanese culture.

  3. Ann Cookson 10:10, 10 September 2013

    Our reading group found this book quirky and different because of the Japanese setting. We could have got more out of the book had we known more about the culture and the food they were eating. The format of the book was easy to read because of the short chapters, however it was rather disjointed. We were disappointed with the ending be so abrupt. Having watched the relationship between Tsukiko and Sensei develop, it would have been fascinating to see it unravel: would it have been the huge age difference, or rather a genuine falling out of love? We found it difficult to emphasise with the characters although we also wanted to see where the story went. We would recommend this book as we enjoyed it being so different to our normal reads.

  4. sara nixon 01:00, 20 September 2013

    Lye Down With A Good Book Reading Group - Lye, West Midlands What a peculiar little book. We felt that it showed the difference in writing styles between our two languages. Characters a little shallow and the story didn't grip us. Glad that we read it but a little unsure about our overall feelings.

  5. Alan Nash 10:58, 23 September 2013

    Review by Chislehurst Library Reading Group of Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami. Rather than present a view of Japan for Western consumption, this book seems to capture a genuine foreignness which at times is quite unnerving and strange. The sense of place is very important in this story, as is taste and smell. It has a quietness and a stillness unlike most popular fiction. At first the meeting between Tsukiko and her Sensei seemed a little staged, but as the plot develops and their relationship becomes more involved, the story gains a depth which the first few chapters belie. Although written in simple language, this does not prevent the author from portraying depths of feeling – in fact, the writing style actually helps in this. The relationship between the two main characters was always intriguing and never dull, drawing the reader into a world of rich imagery and imagination. Anyone looking for a different read, away from the run-of-the-mill reading group titles, would do well to give this a go. It is not a thrilling book, but nevertheless will leave an impression.

  6. Gill Andrews 04:21, 18 October 2013

    From Ellesmere Port Reading Group. A slowly developing romance, quite delightful for 2 people to be so shy with each other. A real insight into japanese social life, they did seem to drink alot! Were the dreams mirroring Tsukiko's concerns over her relationship with Sensei? It was lovely to read a translated book and the front cover made the book very inviting. It was mostly a yes to some of the words left in the original japanese. Quite daring to write about a physical relationship with such a large age gap, their solitude lives and meetings mostly in silence, allows the author great scope for vivid descriptions.

  7. colleen ewart 05:25, 25 October 2013

    Feedback from The Busy Bees - Nottingham. Before 30 something Tsukiko meets up with her old teacher, Sensei, she seems to lead a very lonely existence. We never get to know exactly what she does for a job but her life seems very monotonous. This is very unconventional "love story"; talk about a "slow burn"!!! Debbie (busy bee) thought the age gap was ridiculous and almost repugnant to contemplate. We tried to explore why she was attracted to Sensei when she could clearly attract men of her own age. Kevin (busy bee) thought she enjoyed his dominating character and was looking for a powerful older man. I thought he simply enjoyed her company and never offered any encouragement until the end. Jerry (busy bee) couldn't connect with either character. He found them both cold but could at least get a picture of Sensei whereas he was clueless as to how Tsukiko might look. We all enjoyed the brief look at another culture but it was not enough; we wanted more!!! I have watched a great deal of Anime films with my son so found the book familiar territory. I'm not saying that this genre covers everything to do with Japan but it does allow a glimpse of a very different culture to ours. The "cherry blossom" festivals, eating/drinking rituals and the respectful observance between generations was fascinating. None of the group understood the dream sequence or felt it added anything to the story. In all we felt the only thing they had in common was a love of eating and drinking. They indulged their appetites freely but never shared any emotional connection. Their lives were so compartmentalised by the time they reconnected that they were never going to be able to enjoy an intimate connection.