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. Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.
I never expected to find a book that closely resembles Banana Yoshimoto's writing style, which I'm so fond of. I was at first attracted by the quirky cover and premise, and it turned out to be such a wonderful, bittersweet read.
Both characters are people you root for, and what I appreciate is that I feel like a bystander, a reader wanting to keep my distance as I watch their relationship blossom. I do not become the kind of reader that falls in love with either character, instead content to just be with them in their journey.
The story has no real plot and moves quite slowly, one random slice of life after another, but it indeed does have a beginning and ending, and a middle that I just love exploring. I know there are readers who might feel unable to follow a story without a real plot, and I might be such a reader myself but then now that I think about it, I'm fine with just tagging along for the ride, and such a melancholy book speaks to me more than reading about 'something' that always needs to be defined.
I am going to read Manazuru next, and I'll just say the ending stays with me for a long time. It's a beautiful read, well worth my time and makes me so sentimental I want to weep after I'm done with it.
5 out of 5 stars