|I don’t really see any relationship of the|
cover image to the novel.
Publication date is 2012.
Almost all the interactions in the book take place in a bar that serves Japanese food, and the food plays a big role. As a non-Japanese reader I suspect I am missing a lot of the subtlety of the many traditional dishes and their meaning. For my particular interests the fascination with food that the characters show in this book is wonderful.
A few of the many food descriptions include these:
Sipping saké side by side in the dimly lit bar while we used our chopsticks to carve away at either chilled or warm tofu, depending on the season— that was how we usually saw each other. (Kindle Locations 167-168).
“One kimchi pork special,” Sensei said to the girl at the counter. He prompted me with his eyes, “And for you?” There were too many things to choose from on the menu— it was bewildering. Bibimbap with egg appealed to me at first, but I decided I didn’t want a fried egg, which was the only option. (Kindle Locations 205-207).
That night we drank only beer. We had edamame, grilled eggplant, and octopus marinated in wasabi. (Kindle Location 302).Many of the foods and preparations were entirely unfamiliar to me. The following passages, for example, are a bit baffling. I could look up all the Japanese names, but I haven't done so.
Daikon, tsumire, and beef tendons, please, Sensei ordered. Not to be outdone, I followed with Chikuwabu, konnyaku noodles, and I’ll also have some daikon. The young man next to us asked for kombu and hanpen. We left off our conversation about fate and past lives while we focused on eating our oden for the moment. (Kindle Locations 935-938).
The flying fish’s head shone on the plate. Its wide-open eyes were limpid. With renewed determination, I seized a piece of the fish with my chopsticks and dunked it in gingered soy sauce. The firm flesh had a slightly peculiar flavor. I sipped from my glass of cold saké and looked around the bar. Today’s menu was written in chalk on the blackboard. Minced bonito. Flying fish. New potatoes. Broad beans. Boiled pork. If Sensei were here, he would definitely order the bonito and the broad beans first. (Kindle Locations 1294-1297).Or a little familiar. like this reference to one of my favorite condiments, ponzu sauce:
Dipped in ponzu sauce, the sweetness of the octopus melted in your mouth with the ponzu’s citrus aroma, creating a flavor that was quite sublime. (Kindle Locations 1693-1694).Sometimes there are long conversations about food, such as this:
“There are many varieties of mushrooms.”I've only included the food descriptions that characterize the narrator's relationship with Sensei. She has a brief relationship with another man, one her own age, and they also talk about food and eat together -- but the food is entirely different.
“For instance, you can pick murasaki shimeji mushrooms and roast them on the spot. Drizzled with soy sauce— my goodness, so delicious!”
“And iguchi mushrooms are quite savory as well.”
As our conversation went on, the owner of the bar had poked his head out from his side of the counter. (Kindle Locations 441-445).
In sum, Strange Weather in Tokyo is an appealing and rather complex novel that masquerades as simple. I think Hiromi Kawakami is an interesting author, and I hope to read one of her other books.
from the current New Yorker, "Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey.” It's by the very much more famous writer Haruki Murakami. It's a coincidence that I read it immediately after finishing Strange Weather in Tokyo because the two stories had some eerie similarities. I was especially intrigued because both stories included a character wearing an unexpected t-shirt printed with the motto:
In Strange Weather in Tokyo the wearer was Sensei, who normally wore clothing appropriate for the retired high school teacher that he was (and teachers dress pretty formally in Japan). In "Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” it was the monkey who wore the shirt. The monkey also served as a bath-house attendant and shared beer and Japanese snacks with the narrator, who seems to have been a fictional version of Murakami. If you are a Murakami fan, a monkey who does things like this will not surprise you -- in fact, I think you will love the story.
This review © 2020 by mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com.