Strange Weather In Tokyo is a short book, but somehow feels longer. Tsukiko is a middle aged woman who seems to have done little with her life. She finds herself drinking in a bar next to her former Japanese teacher, Sensei. Sensei remembers Tsukiko, despite her modest scholastic abilities, and they embark on a gentle friendship.
This is essentially a novel of manners; we see the tentative steps taken as a friendship develops with neither Tsukiko nor Sensei wanting to overstep the mark and scare the other away. This unfolds, oh so slowly, across a variety of Japanese settings such as the pachinko lounge, tatami rooms and Disneyland, composing haikus.
The pace is a problem. There is little to hold the reader's attention and although it is great to see two lonely people finding some solace in each other it is apparent that their loneliness was not an accident. There is, perhaps, a small element of watching inter-generational relationships; Sensei is always the master and Tsukiko is always the pupil. There is an opportunity to see old traditions jarring against a modern society; samurais doing battle against Pokemon. But it is all so languid and so little actually happens. We don't really see much character development and encounters with secondary characters such as Satoru the bartender as they go off hunting mushrooms just feel like padding.
I know many reviewers have hailed the beauty of the book and found it deeply moving. For this reader, though, it just felt sterile and the relationship at its centre never felt real.