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The Briefcase

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  15,862 ratings  ·  1,978 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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Lora The only similarity between this book and Lost in Translation is that they both take place in Tokyo and there's a man and a woman at the center of the…moreThe only similarity between this book and Lost in Translation is that they both take place in Tokyo and there's a man and a woman at the center of the story. This book is much more like The Housekeeper and the Professor, very quiet and a very simple story. But the deep emotions behind even the most subtle gestures is what makes this story so interesting. This is about how two lonely (and quirky) people fit together. It's really beautiful. (less)

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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  15,862 ratings  ·  1,978 reviews


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Jim Fonseca
A May-December love story. She’s 37, he’s in his 70’s.

Her life is her career as an office worker. She has no friends; seldom sees her family; she seems tired of failed relationships with men. She drinks too much sake and beer. The story is written from her point of view.

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She calls him Sensei. He’s her former high school Japanese teacher. They see each other on and off in a bar, occasionally eat out together, take walks or visit a museum. They go mushroom hunting with the bartender. They are bot
...more
Mmars
Oct 11, 2012 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
...more
Candi
“I find something quite carefree about the days around the winter solstice, when the daylight is so brief it seems like it’s chasing you. Knowing that it will soon be dark anyway, I’m able to steel myself against that inevitable sense of regret brought on by the evening twilight… The moment after I realized it was dark, I would feel a surge of loneliness.”

I don’t know that anyone would ever have called me particularly sensitive in the past, but lately I’ve been easily tearing up by phrases like
...more
Richard
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-wd
Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami concerns the relationship between Omachi Tsukiko, a solitary and somewhat lonely woman in her thirties and her old school teacher, Mr Matsumoto or ‘Sensei’ as she knows him.
After a chance meeting, a fragile bond slowly develops. Both are singular, unconventional figures and there is quiet humour to be found in their social awkwardness and the large age gap.
The writing is simple, precise and a little remote - this seems to add to the emotional weight o
...more
Elyse  Walters
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sweet elegant prose drew me into a dreamlike experience in “Strange Weather in Tokyo”.

Tsukiko Omachi is in her late thirties. Her former Japanese High School teacher, Mr. Harutsuns, *Sensei*, is in his seventies.
They bump into each other one night at a bar. They drink, (five flasks of sake), eat, and talk to one another ....then leave ....returning to their respective homes.
They bump into each other another night at the same bar. Eat, drink, talk some more. Return home again.
Before they
...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ms. Smartarse
Translated into English as Strange Weather in Tokyo.

38-year-old Tsukiko is content enough to split her days between the office, her regular bistro and her lonely appartment. She used to have a boyfriend... or two, but they weren't really significant, so the relationship fizzled out soon enough. Her high school Japanese teacher wasn't particularly memorable either, proof of this is that she can only refer to him as sensei (teacher in Japanese)... lest she didn't want to be outright rude. As it tu
...more
Tonymess
Jul 09, 2013 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
...more
Antonomasia
Apr 08, 2014 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
...more
Vanessa
May 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
#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
...more
Patrick
Jan 01, 2016 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.
Anna Luce
Hiromi Kawakami injects a series of ordinary episodes between two people with a dreamy atmosphere, one that makes the events she describes anything but boring. In Strange Weather in Tokyo, also translated as a The Briefcase, Tsukiko, a 38-year-old woman who works in an office (it is never specified what her job truly entails), runs into Sensei, her former teacher. The two are both gourmands, and find themselves conversing over food and becoming 'drinking companions'. Their talk feels very natura ...more
Roberto
Aug 04, 2013 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.
Ivana - Diary of Difference
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Being born in Macedonia, I grew up reading books that were mostly translated. Because of that, I always appreciate the amazing job that translators do and have always cherished translated copies of my books. Strange Weather in Tokyo is no different, and Allison Markin Powell did an amazing job translating this book. 

I read this book in August as part of the Tandem and Granta Books Instagram readalong - to celebrate #Kawakamimonth as we
...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Strange Weather in Tokyo’ is the story of the slightly aloof and repressed Tsukiko and her budding romance with her former school-teacher, ‘Sensei’ a jocular, if melancholic man who Tsukiko happens to run into in a bar.

The book is more a series of pretty vignettes-some touching, some amusing and some suffused with a kind of sadness which reminds me of the films of Ozu-Kawakami lacks, perhaps, Ozu’s innate sense of genius, yet her almost detached way of telling the story, whilst imbuing the nove
...more
Sumaiyya
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I spent the better part of my day with STRANGE WEATHER IN TOKYO by Hiromi Kawakami. I finished it in less than a day and I’m quite pleased that my first book of the year is a five star read.

This novel is gentle, tender and written in uncluttered prose that I found appealing and satisfying. It’s the story of Tsukiko and Sensei, a 37 year old woman and her high school teacher who cross paths at a local bar and fall into a companionable routine with ease. The novel follows this seemingly odd pair a
...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
I LOVED this book. It is a strange and wonderful read. A middle aged woman happens to meet her high school English tutor and later develops feelings for him.

When she meets her teacher, she cannot recall his name, so she calls him Sensei (Sir) and continues to do so till the end of the book. We see a strange love story that surpasses age, thinking (the teacher is older and there are clash of ideas). The book is fragmental in nature; we read about an event in the lives of the characters and then m
...more
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
...more
Kate
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.25/5stars

I REALLY enjoyed this!! I'm happy to say my initial thought that it reminded me of Hotel Iris mixed with Murakami was pretty spot on!

This book follows a woman Tsukiko who accidentally runs into one of her teachers she had in secondary school, and the two of them become fast friends. This story is about them getting to know each other, and slowly falling in love. This book was ADORABLE. Tsukiko was so blunt and didn't take no bullshit, and Sensei was so cute (legit, he did the thing th
...more
Abbie | ab_reads
3.5 stars


This book is a strange love story which unfurls when 37-year-old Tsukiko finds herself sitting next to her old high school teacher in a bar one night. It’s translated by Allison Markin Powell and is quite the pleasure to read!
.
It’s only a slim novel (I read it in about three hours), but Kawakami packs a lot into those pages; the novel is sweet, sad and reflective, as Tsukiko ruminates on what it means to be lonely and the repercussions of being in love with an older man. I thought it mi
...more
Doug H
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hard for me to explain why I liked this so much. I struggled with thinking about how to explain it for a week and I still can't. Its tone is light grey. The writing is spare. Not a lot happens. There is much eating and drinking and "Yes, I see..." dialogue. Sometimes it borders on being "twee". And yet, by the end, it hit me hard emotionally. Not sure if that emotion came from sadness. I don’t think I found it sad. I found it beautifully cleansing. I love the poetry of e. e. cummings and Japanes ...more
Helly
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange Weather in my room, after reading this
Xueting
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So sweet, charming, warm, and sad in a tender way. Not much happens plot-wise but the two main characters are very well developed and real, and it’s a understatedly sharp exploration of loneliness and aging in an urban city. Lots of lovely descriptions of food and drinking too!
Fiona MacDonald
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A first for me, the strange world of Hiromi Kawakami is utterly weird and bizarre. This story I loved, but trying another of hers (Record of a Night too Brief) was a mistake - it made no sense whatsover.
Tsukiko lives alone in her 30s, and one night comes across one of her old high school teachers named 'Sensei' in a bar. The two start talking and reminising and soon begin to meet regularly for drinks and food, and then before long they arrange to go on a trip together. Tsukiko has fallen hard fo
...more
David
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-red-circle
If your book is going to be a bit rightwing, can it at least be a bit sexy (I'm thinking of Yukio Mishima)? Kawakami's young woman is unsatisfied with modern (*cough* Western) life and so falls for the wise old "wax on, wax off" Japanese and his spadeful of mono no aware, his haikus, his cherry-blossom viewing, his pachinko, his "let's look at the moon and no we can't have sex oh go on then". ...more
Daniela
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written little book about the relationship between a retired teacher and his former student, which evokes the issues of loneliness, what it is to grow up, and how independence and adulthood usually come at the expense of being alone.

I greatly enjoyed this, it’s a very relaxed reading experience. It’s an effortless read, somewhere between dream-like sequences and deceptively simple dialogue.
Usha
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Poignantly delightful ....
Viv JM
Strange Weather in Tokyo is a love story between Tsukiko (late 30s) and her former teacher "Sensei", 30+ years older than her. Their growing closeness revolves largely around eating tofu or fish, and drinking sake or beer. This is certainly not a wild and passionate tale of romance. Slow burn would be an understatement! There are some poignant moments but overall, I was a little bit underwhelmed with this book, sadly.
Alice Lippart
Strange and beautiful.
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.
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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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  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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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.” 44 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.” 33 likes
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