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Parade Page 1

by Hiromi Kawakami


  Strange Weather in Tokyo

  “Simply and earnestly told, this is a profound exploration of human connection and the ways love can be found in surprising new places.”


  “A moving, funny, and immersive tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance . . . A quiet, understated beauty of a book.”

  —Book Riot

  “In quiet, nature-infused prose that stresses both characters’ solitude, Kawakami subtly captures the cyclic patterns of loneliness while weighing the definition of love.”


  “In its love of the physical, sensual details of living, its emotional directness, and above all in the passion for food, this is somewhat reminiscent of Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen.”

  —Independent (UK)

  “Each chapter of the book is like a haiku, incorporating seasonal references to the moon, mushroom picking and cherry blossoms. The chapters are whimsical and often melancholy, but humor is never far away . . . It is a celebration of friendship, the ordinary and individuality and a rumination on intimacy, love and loneliness. I cannot recommend Strange Weather in Tokyo enough, which is also a testament to the translator who has skillfully retained the poetry and beauty of the original.”

  —Japan Society

  “Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tender love story that drifts with the lightness of a leaf on a stream. Subtle and touching, this is a novel about loneliness, assuaged by an unlikely romance, and brought to life by one of Japan’s most engaging contemporary writers.”

  —Readings (Australia)

  “A dreamlike spell of a novel, full of humor, sadness, warmth, and tremendous subtlety. I read this in one sitting, and I think it will haunt me for a long time.”

  —AMY SACKVILLE, author of Painter to the King and The Still Point



  “In Kawakami’s first novel to be translated into English, a woman fades in and out of the present as she visits the beach town of Manazuru, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. The real and the fantastical meld as Kei narrowly avoids disaster (she escapes the typhoon that destroys the restaurant where she was dining). Her memories are startlingly vivid, yet their veracity remains uncertain; are the visions she has of her husband with another woman real or imagined? Kawakami has a remarkable ability to obscure reality, fantasy, and memory, making the desire for love feel hauntingly real.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “The action convincingly moves in waves between Kei’s past and present, the surreal and the everyday. Part ghost story, part meditation on life and death, family and self, this slim novel is captivating and suspenseful, and sure to satisfy not only fans of ghost fiction but all readers.”



  The Nakano Thrift Shop

  “Kawakami lavishes attention on quotidian minutiae and exquisitely awkward pauses, ending scenes on maddeningly unresolved but vibrant images . . . It feels a lot like daily life in Tokyo, but odder.”

  —The New York Times

  “A gentle, humorous novel.”

  —The Wall Street Journal

  “[Kawakami] knows she doesn’t need fireworks to keep the reader entertained, and is pushing her exploration of form and style.”

  —The Japan Times

  “[The characters] are thoughtfully written—understated, quirky, flawed, and by the end of the novel you care about them so much.”

  —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  “Hiromi Kawakami’s charming novel illuminates moments of kindness, love and friendship that pop up like the unexpected treasures amid the shop’s dusty collection of pretty mismatched bowls and plates, castoff eyeglasses, task lamps and old electric fans.”

  —The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

  “Subtle, graceful, wise, and threaded on a quirky humor, this exploration of the connections and disconnections between people kept me smiling long after the last page.”

  —JULIA ROCHESTER, author of The House at the Edge of the World

  “Kawakami has an extraordinarily way of drawing you into her ethereal world where, although nothing really happens, when they do, little transgressions or events cause ripples that spread seamlessly throughout the whole book and stay with you long after the story has finished.”

  —The Reprobate (UK)



  The Ten Loves of Nishino

  The Nakano Thrift Shop

  Record of a Night Too Brief

  Strange Weather in Tokyo


  This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  First published in Japan in 2002 by Heibonsha Co. Ltd.

  Copyright © 2002 by Hiromi Kawakami

  Illustrations copyright © 2002 by Takako Yoshitomi

  Translation copyright © 2019 by Allison Markin Powell

  All rights reserved

  First Soft Skull edition: 2019

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Kawakami, Hiromi, 1958– author. | Powell, Allison Markin, translator.

  Title: Parade / Hiromi Kawakami ; translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell.

  Other titles: Parēdo. English

  Description: First Soft Skull edition. | New York : Soft Skull, 2019. | Originally published in Japanese by Heibonsha in 2002.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2019008880 | ISBN 9781593765804 (pbk.)

  Subjects: LCSH: Children—Japan—Fiction. | Tengu—Fiction. | Tales—Japan.

  Classification: LCC PL855.A859 P3713 2019 | DDC 895.6/36—dc23

  LC record available at

  Cover design & art direction by

  Book design by Wah-Ming Chang

  Illustrations by Takako Yoshitomi

  Published by Soft Skull Press

  1140 Broadway, Suite 704

  New York, NY 10001

  Soft Skull titles are distributed to the trade by Publishers Group West

  Phone: 866-400-5351

  Printed in Canada







  “WHEN YOU SAY ‘LONG AGO,’ HOW LONG ago do you mean?”

  “Long ago means long ago.”

  “I see.”

  Sensei and I were preparing somen noodles. I put the freshly boiled noodles in a colander and muttered, Hot, as I brought my fingertips to my earlobe.

  “Does that really work, Tsukiko, touching your earlobe like that?” Sensei asked while he cut a thin fried egg into strips.

  “I just assumed so, ever since seeing actresses on television shows do it.”

  Now that he mentioned it, though, touching my earlobe seemed like a strange thing to do when I could just as easily run my fingers under cold water. Sensei quickly finished cutting up the egg, and then set about the myoga ginger.

  “Don’t you think a woman touching her earlobe is a charming gesture—kind of sexy?”

  “Tsukiko, that sort of thing doesn’t suit you.”

  “Pardon me.”

  As I rinsed the somen, my gaze was fixed on Sensei’s hands wielding the kitchen knife. Egg, myoga ginger, shiso, scallions, shredded cucumber, crushed sesame seeds, umeboshi paste, simmered eggplant. He prepared the condiments, one after another. He served each on its own small plate. I dumped the drained noodles into a large bowl, and Sensei furrowed his brow.

  “Tsukiko, that simply won’t do for the somen,” Se
nsei said as he returned the noodles to the colander. He immersed the colander in water again, and then he drained smaller clumps of noodles, one at a time. He wound each clump into its own bundle as he put them back in the large bowl.

  “This makes it easy to pick up with chopsticks, doesn’t it? Here, Tsukiko, you try it.”

  What difference does it make, since you’re going to eat them anyway? I held back these words as I fumbled at scooping the somen noodles into separate lumps. Sensei carried the plates of condiments into the tatami room where the low table was set up. The glass doors had been flung open, and the cicadas were buzzing outside. It was Saturday afternoon.

  We had eaten lunch here another time, just before the end of the rainy season. That day we’d had soba. I’d been sprawled at the low table while Sensei prepared the meal. At first he’d said, Make yourself comfortable, Tsukiko, but after a while he’d scolded me. At least you can set up the tray stand. While Sensei was swiftly coming and going between the kitchen and the tatami room, I had wiped down the table and dillydallied about, slowly bringing out some small plates. Eventually he had said to me, “You’d better just sit back down, Tsukiko. Otherwise, you’ll only be in my way.”

  That was two weeks ago. The rainy season had ended, and the hot weather had arrived. It was true what they said about the first ten days after the rainy season always being hot and dry.

  “Sensei, you’re actually quite the chef, aren’t you?” I said to him.

  He’d once told me that he hardly ever cooked.

  “Well, nowadays I have started cooking occasionally,” he replied. “When my wife first ran off, I had no choice but to cook all my own meals.”

  “I see.”

  “Let’s dig in, Tsukiko, shall we?”

  The yellow of the egg and the green of the shiso, the lapis of the eggplant along with the pale red of the myoga ginger. Sensei and I slurped our somen noodles as we listened to the drone of the cicadas and the leaves of the cherry trees rustling in the garden. When we had eaten all of the somen that was in the bowl, Sensei went to the kitchen and emptied the rest of the noodles from the colander into the bowl and brought it back out.

  “Sensei, the somen doesn’t seem easier to eat this way. Haven’t you just dumped all the noodles into the bowl?” When I pointed this out, Sensei looked at me with a deadpan expression. “Well, that’s just the way it goes.” He scattered a heap of myoga ginger into his dipping sauce and then took some noodles with his chopsticks. The songs of the min-min cicadas and the abura cicadas seemed to be vying with each other. Every so often a faint breeze would pass through, cool against the sweaty napes of our necks. We ate up the somen, devouring every last noodle.

  “A full stomach makes you sleepy,” Sensei said to me as I poured barley tea into his glass. I was indeed sleepy. I was going to comment on how lively the cicadas were, but I found it hard to open my mouth to speak. I realized that Sensei was lying down.

  “You should have a nap too, Tsukiko,” Sensei recommended drowsily.

  “I couldn’t do that,” I replied, but Sensei sounded as though he was already half asleep. By the time his breathing had become quite regular, I found that I too had lain down. The cicadas sure are lively. This time I managed to get the words out, but now that Sensei had fallen asleep there was no one to hear me. The cicadas are lively. I murmured this to myself once more, and closed my eyes. For a while, I was still awake, but sooner or later I must have dozed off. Even within my slumber, the persistent drone of the cicadas resonated faintly in my ears.

  IT FELT AS THOUGH I HAD BEEN ASLEEP FOR a long time, but about thirty minutes later I found myself awake. When my eyes opened, they met Sensei’s gaze on the other side of the low table.

  “You’re awake,” Sensei said languidly.

  “I fell asleep.”

  “I did too, so it’s okay.”

  “Is it really?” What, exactly, was okay? Sensei and I remained where we were, lying down. A torpor lingered within my body.

  “The weave of the tatami is imprinted on my arm,” I said.

  “Where? Show me,” Sensei said, and he stretched out his arm under the low table. I leaned mine up against Sensei’s, and he propped himself up on his elbow to examine it, seeming to duck his head under the table to do so.

  “Well, look at that. The tatami print is quite clearly marked on your skin.”

  “Isn’t it?”

  “On a much younger person, the marks would quickly disappear, but not on you, Tsukiko.”

  “That’s a rude thing to say.”

  Sensei continued to stare at my arm, all the way down to my palm. His eyes on my palm, he murmured something about me not having any wit lines, even though I had several affair lines. The vertical lines that stick out above your heart line are your wit lines, and your affair lines are the ones that run parallel to your life line, along the base of your thumb. Look, I have many wit lines, he said.

  “Tsukiko, tell me a story from long ago,” Sensei said as he tapped on my palm. Sensei’s hand was warm. I remembered the feeling from when I was young, of always wanting to hold someone’s hand. But I did not feel the urge to hold Sensei’s hand. I did not want to feel his warm hand against my own. Sensei was still tapping my palm. It was the same kind of tapping that one might do while singing a lullaby. A certain warmth spread through me from the spot where he was tapping.

  “I wasn’t alive long ago, but I should tell you a story from when I was little?” I said in a drawl.

  Please do, Sensei replied, and slowly I began talking about things from that time, things that had risen up from deep within my body as Sensei had tapped on my palm.


  The source of the noise was inside the room. It was red. Something dark red and something pale red were arguing with each other.

  As I pretended to still be sleeping in my futon on the floor, I strained my ears to discern the clamor being raised by these two people. (Or were they animals?) I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Perhaps because I had just woken up and was still in a bit of a daze—just as we are now—or perhaps I was surprised by the fact that these two red people (or animals?) were in my room.

  WHILE I WAS LISTENING TO THE CLAMOR, my head gradually began to clear. The two beings looked exactly like the spirit creatures I had seen in folktale books—they had human bodies, red faces with long noses, and wings. You mean tengu? Sensei asked. Yes, these were tengu, I replied. Their faces were beautiful shades of red, just as depicted in books.

  I CHANGED OUT OF MY PAJAMAS AND WENT to the kitchen, and these two followed after me. They continued to argue the whole time. Their voices were loud, and they were speaking fast. Mother won’t be pleased about this, I thought to myself. A mother will always find fault with whatever items a child brings back into the house. Colored tiles found on the street. Scarab beetles. Tadpoles scooped out of the rice paddy. Coix seeds. Stray cats. Get rid of that, mine would say at first. I’ll take care of it if you let me keep it, I would say. I won’t make a mess, I would promise. Better not, my mother would reply. And my insistent entreaties would ultimately be granted.

  I wondered if the tengu were things (people?) I had brought home from outside. I had no memory of doing so, but maybe they had attached themselves to me without my realizing it. But where might that have happened?

  As I sat down and started to spread margarine on a piece of bread, the two of them pointed at the margarine and grew increasingly boisterous. They were extremely disruptive. My heart was pounding, waiting for my mother to lose her temper. But there she was right in front of me, perfectly calm as she held the string of her tea bag, swaying it back and forth in her cup. My mother liked to say that swaying the tea bag brought out the prettiest color in the black tea.

  “Tsukiko, the tengu want to lick the margarine,” my mother said. As if this were perfectly ordinary.

  “Mom, aren’t you surprised?” I asked, and she shook her head. She picked up the plate of margarine and
handed it to the tengu, who unfurled their long tongues and began lapping away. I myself had at one time furtively licked the margarine, but I remember it immediately made me feel sick. The tengu, however, seemed unbothered. They licked up quite a good deal of the margarine.

  When I put on my backpack, the tengu ran their hands all over the sturdy leather schoolbag.

  “They’re touching it,” I said to my mother, and she laughed.

  “They must think it’s unusual.”

  Both of the tengu nodded at my mother. She nodded back at them. I found it kind of annoying, how well my mother seemed to be getting along with the tengu. After all, it was my room they’d shown up in.

  WHEN I GOT TO THE PLACE WHERE MY friends and I would meet up on our way to school, everyone else was already there. Both of the tengu followed behind me. Nobody said anything. It seemed as if the tengu were invisible. I wondered if my friends were just pretending not to notice.

  I always walked at the back of the group. I couldn’t seem to help lagging behind. Now that we were outside, the tengu were quiet. They followed very closely as we walked. Something about the way they followed me—so near and so silently—made it feel as though I were being rushed along. But because the tengu were there that day, I couldn’t dawdle as much as I usually did, bringing up the rear.

  I WAS SURPRISED WHEN I GOT TO THE classroom. Beside Minami there was a badger; a little old lady was sitting next to Nishida; and I could have sworn that Oda was arm in arm with another creature from folklore, a rokurokubi woman with a very long neck. Before today, there had never been any sign of these creatures—I was sure of that.

  I went over to Nishida and quietly ventured a question.

  “What’s with the old lady next to you? How long has she been there?”

  “She’s been here for a while,” Nishida replied matter-of-factly.


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