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The Briefcase

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,476 Ratings  ·  447 Reviews
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, traced by Kawakami’s gentle hints at the changing seasons, develops from a perf ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Counterpoint (first published 2001)
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Best Japanese Books
108th out of 493 books — 2,300 voters
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Literature by Japanese Women
10th out of 99 books — 51 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 24, 2012 Mmars rated it really liked it
This book reads like Japanese art. Clean lines, spare and uncluttered. Or sparse, haiku as opposed to Shakespeare. The story is slight and the book is short. I found it somewhat cinematic - chapters as scenes - in Santuro's bar, at Sansei's, on the island, mushroom hunting, etc. Each an experimental and incremental step in a casual relationship full of stops and starts.

There's not a lot of explanation to why they are the people they are. They are loners who do not seek out friendships, though th
Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter


(Snow by Shimura Tatsumi)

The 37 year-old narrator of this story, Tsukiko believes she is not cut out for love. One day she chances upon her former Japanese teacher in a bar. Throughout the novel Tsukiko refers to the 67 year-old man as «Sensei», which in Japanese means teacher or master. Both Tsukiko and Sensei are loners and neither actively seek friendship or company. Tsukiko is unconventional, enjoys solitary pursuits and is out of sync with life. Sensei, who also lives alone, is rather old
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 16, 2013 Sian Lile-Pastore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
oh. really sweet, tender and gentle book. There isn't much of a plot (I like no plot) just all about a relationship between two mismatched people and lots of lovely passages about japanese food and drink - tofu, miso, salted shallots, edame, beer and sake.
really beautiful.
Mar 13, 2016 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist 2014
Book 2200.

Not as twee as it looks. The heroine is about 15 years older than the flying manic pixie dreamgirl on the cover, she gets drunk a lot, works stupidly long hours, has arguments about sports and forgets to clean a pair of muddy shoes for weeks. Out of the characters in the limited number of Japanese novels I've read, Tsukiko is furthest from the traditional idea of a Japanese woman, though she doesn't seem to have set out to reject it; she isn't intellectual, she simply sees herself as n
Patrick Power
Apr 22, 2016 Patrick Power rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Poignant atmospheric love story involving a thirty something lonely Woman and her former teacher 30 years her senior.Lots of cultural and culinary insights about Tokyo.The fragmented storyline charts this unusual relationship to its inevitable conclusion.Very enjoyable.
Sep 20, 2011 Noce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In una giornata fate tutto: lo comprate, lo leggete e voilà..lo dimenticate.

Ecco un libro che mi ha deluso profondamente.
A sentir la quarta di copertina racconterebbe di un’insolita e delicata storia d’amore intrecciata con tradizioni lontane e ricette culinarie giapponesi.
Chi pensa di immergersi nella versione nipponica di “Chocolat” si sbaglia di grosso.
E mi sbagliavo anche io a rincorrere questo libro per mesi, perennemente in prestito in biblioteca e sempre esaurito in libreria.

E’ pur vero
#JapaneseJune Book #1.

I purchased Strange Weather in Tokyo on my Kindle for a mere 99p, and for that reason I am glad that I read this book. However, if I'd had to pay a normal Kindle price, I would have been a little bit miffed. Although this was a quick and easy read, I didn't feel very satisfied upon finishing it. I just feel ambivalence.

The story is told from the perspective of a woman in her late 30s named Tsukiko, who encounters an old teacher of hers at her local bar one night. From that
Sep 18, 2013 Bert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous + delicate novel with quiet, minimal writing that also manages to be full of warmth (and delicious food). Like that beautiful cover picture it has a dreamlike floatiness. In the end I found it all very touching, sweet and sad.
Oct 07, 2014 Oscar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
La literatura japonesa tiene algo especial. Tanto sus paisajes como su sensibilidad a la hora de tratar situaciones y personajes son únicos. Mediante una prosa sobria pero profunda, Hiromi Kawakami nos cuenta, como reza el subtítulo, una historia de amor. Pero el corazón y el tema principal de la novela es la soledad en la que están imbuidos los dos personajes principales.

Para llenar el vacío que rodea su vida, Tsukiko acude a su bar a beber sake y cerveza. Un día se da cuenta de que el hombre m
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Beautiful and poignant, this little story stole my heart. The layers of the friendship and love flow like waves on the shore as the tide comes in. Each time a little higher than before.

I picked this novel up in a bargain/sale bookstore because the cover and title piqued my interest, and I love discovering Japanese authors I haven't read yet. It seems that Kawakami is quite a famous novelist, and though this is the only story of hers I have read so far, the beautiful mood and touching romance lea
Jul 31, 2016 Tonymess rated it really liked it
Here’s a challenge for you, write a novel about loneliness without becoming boring. Write one about emptiness without being melancholy, how about deep love without sentimentality? “the briefcase” is a moving sparse and deeply emotional tale of loneliness, emptiness and love but in a style that that is removed and scant enough to elicit a sadness that lingers long after the final page has been read.

This is the story of Tsukiko, in her late 30’s, a loner and a food aficionado who crosses paths wit
Jan 04, 2016 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1) A surprisingly refreshing novella that is rather more beguiling than the simple love story it seems to make out. Very cinematic atmospheres and chance encounters flow hazily and in a roundabout fashion from one to the next, from bars in Tokyo, mushroom fields in the mountains to Japanese island spas; the description of Japanese cuisine and drinks in the novella is delectable, since so much of the novel surrounds what seems like the mundanity and awkwardness of dining out and alone. I thought ...more
Aug 25, 2014 Charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is just wonderful. It's quite short at 192 pages and I read it in a little over a day because I just couldn't put it down. It follows Tsukiko and her former teacher, whom she calls 'Sensei', after a chance encounter leads them to form an unlikely friendship. Sensei is much older than Tsukiko but as they are both consumed by loneliness they begin to seek comfort from their time spent together. It isn't long before Tsukiko begins to question her true feelings for Sensei, and the story ex ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Joana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romane
Was für eine schöne Liebesgeschichte. Selten liest man so ein ruhiges Buch, in dem so wenig geschieht und genießt trotzdem jede einzelne Seiten.

Tsukiko ist 38 Jahre alt und etwas einsam. Sie arbeitet viel, weiß jedoch in ihrer Freizeit wenig mit sich anzufangen. Sie glaubt, dass sie für die Liebe kein Talent hat. Mit trockenem Humor und etwas Verbitterung erzählt sie von sich und ihrem Leben.

Eines Tages trifft sie in ihrer Stammkneipe ihren fast doppelt so alten ehemaligen Japanisch Lehrer, sie
Mind the Book
Tokyos gator.
Två regnsjälars inre liv.

Skrev jag just en haikurecce!?!

Så förälskad i min slow burner-staff pick från Stanfords i Bristol.

Oväntad, odefinierad vänskap uppstår vid en bardisk.
Inom kort delas sake, edamame, förtroenden och ev. tatami.

Full av flanörmelankoli. Raderna vibrerar av sublimering och det osagdas symbolik.

#BOTNS-bingo: 'Set in Asia'.
Katie Lumsden
I have mixed feelings on this one. I liked some aspects of it - the relationship between the two central characters was really interesting, and there were some really nice moments and snatches of beautiful writing. However, sometimes the characters said or did things that just felt implausible. A lot of the writing felt a bit clumsy to me (possibly a translation issue, but I'm not sure), and the pacing felt off for me at times.
Rina Suryakusuma
May 24, 2016 Rina Suryakusuma rated it really liked it
At first, to be honest, a little bit boring
1/3 part of the novel, saya membatin dalam hati, oke, terus? terus??
Ayo terus apa, saya butuh plot yang nyata nih

Jadi, The Briefcase bercerita tentang seseorang wanita di usia pertengahan tiga puluh tahun yang ketemu dengan mantan gurunya, yang biasa dia panggil Sensei
Usia si Sensei ini beda sekitar tiga puluh tahun lagi dengannya
(ini mungkin sebab kenapa saya tertarik dengan buku ini. Karena si penulis memasukkan kisah cinta lintas usia, dan saya suka
May 05, 2015 Roberta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oriente, 2015
Non capisco onestamente tutto l'entusiasmo per questo libro (che ho acquistato solo perché in offerta su Amazon in formato kindle qualche giorno fa) che io ho trovato piuttosto insipido.

La storia racconta di una quasi quarantenne che di anni sembra ne abbia una ventina, dal comportamento, che lavora, non ha amici, vede la famiglia una volta l'anno e basta e avanza, la sera cena e beve nei bar da sola, che ritrova, proprio in uno di questi locali, il suo professore di giapponese del liceo. I due
Mar 30, 2015 Subashini rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
i cried when i finished this book, which is neither here nor there, i know. i suppose it's because nothing about this book strikes me as manipulative; it's not sentimental or "romantic" in the sense of what's typically published and sold under the genre, yet all the common elements are there: thirty-something lonely woman meets a man and falls in love. plot twist: he's much older, and was her former teacher. it's just rare to read a story about the dissolution of a carefully-constructed urban al ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: c21st, japan
Reading The Briefcase, from the vantage point of one who has very little experience with Japanese fiction, it seems to me that it’s a bit like Japanese food. You either like its elegant simplicity and the artful way that very restrained flavours are arranged, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you may think this book rather lacking, in the way that you might prefer the robust flavours of Italian cookery or the complex artistry of French cuisine.

Well, I quite liked The Briefcase. It’s been longliste
May 26, 2012 Ryandake rated it liked it
not a book for everyone, for sure. you have to like slightly odd japanese fiction.

this one is about a young-ish woman (38) who falls for a retired former teacher (sensei). not quite a may/december romance--maybe august/december.

i alas cannot read japanese, so i don't know whether the oddball is a common character in the whole of japanese literature. in japanese-lit-in-translation, there are so many oddballs one could be forgiven for believing that the entire nation is just one very big, polite a
A pesar de que no soy muy fanático a este tipo de historias, Hiromi Kawakami, sin duda, sabe como narrarlas. El libro es una ventana al ritualismo cotidiano de los japoneses en todos los aspectos de su vida (incluso los emocionales), su sobriedad en los gestos y acciones y su compromiso milenario en guardar las formas y las apariencias.

Los personajes y la relación que surge entre ellos es profunda y poco corriente: unas cuantas brechas generacionales que, sin embargo, se ven salvadas por la emp
Ellie M
Jan 16, 2016 Ellie M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange little tale about the friendship between a nearly 40 year old woman and her ex teacher 'Sensei'. They spend hours drinking sake, eating tofu and taking trips to places. I sort of could see where the story was heading but still a good read.
Hiromi Kawakami hat mir mit ihrer Liebesgeschichte bewiesen, dass es eine solche zu erzählen gelingt, ohne Schnörkel, ohne Schmus, sondern einfach, schlicht und SEHR sparsam an Worten. So entstand eine literarische Begegnung zweier fiktiver Menschen, die auf nur 183 Seiten einen unglaubliche Tiefe erreicht und von einer leisen, sanften, sinnlichen Atmosphäre getragen wird, obwohl Tsukiko und Sensei stets eine höfliche Distanz zueinander wahren. Das Buch zu lesen, ist in der Tat, als wenn man unt ...more
Alice Lippart
Strange and beautiful.
Oct 01, 2013 Carola rated it really liked it
Hiromi Kawakami's The Briefcase was our 'readalong' for January in Japan. Kawakami isn't an author I had read or heard of before this event, so I was excited to get started. I have always been a bit more partial to modern Japanese literature compared to, especially, pre-WWII literature (which also has its charm, of course). Plus, The Briefcase was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and rightfully so in my opinion!

I enjoyed the pace of the book. The book starts out with seemingly rando
Jul 18, 2015 Tripfiction rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A golden years friendship unfolds in Japan

A gentle courtship plays out in the golden years of life. Tsukiko in middle age happens to meet her Japanese teacher from secondry school, Harutsuna Matsumoto – Sensei – and it is their unfolding circular dance of growing friendship that is at the heart of this short, 2 hour read. It is gentle and philosophical, as they arrange encounters and finally “dates”; it is leisurely at times, intense at others, as they forage for mushrooms, go out to an island,
Jul 01, 2016 Vivian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, 2016
First things first, the writing. It was wonderful, beautiful and had a dream like quality to it. Despite the lack of plot or the main character's lack of personality, I found that the writing just compelled me to continue reading. This was very strange read but I loved the exploration of Tsukiko and Sensei's developing relationship. It seemed like such an unlikely match but it all sort of fell into place and it made sense in the end.
Nidhi Srivastava
Aug 18, 2016 Nidhi Srivastava rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a dumb book. Made me cry for no reason.
Harj D
I was recommended 'Strange Weather in Tokyo' by a friend and thought I would give it a try. The reviews have been very good for this book and I think honestly, i would agree with the majority of them. If you are after a quick, clean read into loneliness, love and loss then this book is perfect for you.

The book is narrated by Tsukiko who begins the story by talking about her old Japanese school teacher who she runs into at a local bar. From there, the story escalates and the relationship between
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Kawakami Hiromi (川上 弘美 Kawakami Hiromi) born April 1, 1958, is a Japanese writer known for her off-beat fiction.

Born in Tokyo, Kawakami graduated from Ochanomizu Women's College in 1980. She made her debut as "Yamada Hiromi" in NW-SF No. 16, edited by Yamano Koichi and Yamada Kazuko, in 1980 with the story So-shimoku ("Diptera"), and also helped edit some early issues of NW-SF in the 1970s. She re
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“I, on the other hand, still might not be considered a proper adult. I had been very grown-up in primary school. But as I continued through secondary school, I in fact 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.” 14 likes
“If the love is true, then treat it the same way you would 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.” 6 likes
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