A brief, disquieting companion to the bestselling Strange Weather in Tokyo, set during a summer afternoon and featuring a mischievous pair of creatures called tengu.
On a summer afternoon, Tsukiko and her former high school teacher have prepared and eaten somen noodles together.
“Tell me a story from long ago,” Sensei says.
“I wasn’t alive long ago,” Tsukiko says, “but should I tell you a story from when I was little?”
“Please do,” Sensei replies, and so Tsukiko tells him that, when she was a child, she awakened one day to find something with a pale red face and something with a dark red face in her room, arguing with each other. They had human bodies, long noses, and wings. They were tengu, creatures that appear in Japanese folktales.
The tengu attach themselves to Tsukiko and begin to follow her everywhere. Where did they come from and why are they here? And what other invisible and unacknowledged forces are acting upon Tsukiko’s seemingly peaceful world?
Part fairy tale, in which some readers will discern a moral, part gentle reminiscence of childhood’s passing miracles and memorable pains, Kawakami’s compact novel is gentle, charming and smart, as ‘pretty . . . and sad’ as the sparkling touches of the tengu.
Enigmatic novella in which the world of Japanese mythology intrudes into the mortal realm . . . Like so much of Kawakami’s work, an elegant mystery that questions reality in the most ordinary of situations.
Here [Kawakami] goes full pelt into fantasy, leaving quirky some ways behind with a tale in which folklore and modernity collide.