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The Nakano Thrift Shop

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From the author of Strange Weather in Tokyo comes this funny, heartwarming story about love, life, and human relationships that features a delightfully offbeat cast of characters.

Objects for sale at the Nakano Thrift Shop appear as commonplace as the staff and customers that handle them. But like those same customers and staff, they hold many secrets. If examined carefully, they show the signs of innumerable extravagancies, of immeasurable pleasure and pain, and of the deep mysteries of the human heart.

Hitomi, the inexperienced young woman who works the register at Mr. Nakano's thrift shop, has fallen for her coworker, the oddly reserved Takeo. Unsure of how to attract his attention, she seeks advice from her employer's sister, Masayo, whose sentimental entanglements make her a somewhat unconventional guide. But thanks in part to Masayo, Hitomi will come to realize that love, desire, and intimacy require acceptance not only of idiosyncrasies but also of the delicate waltz between open and hidden secrets.

Animating each delicately rendered chapter in Kawakami's playful novel is Mr. Nakano himself, an original, entertaining, and enigmatic creation whose compulsive mannerisms, secretive love life, and impulsive behavior defy all expectations.

224 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 1, 2005

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About the author

Hiromi Kawakami

109 books2,291 followers
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 reinvented herself as a writer and wrote her first book, a collection of short stories entitled God (Kamisama) published in 1994. Her novel The Teacher's Briefcase (Sensei no kaban) is a love story between a woman in her thirties and a man in his sixties. She is also known as a literary critic and a provocative essayist.

(from Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,353 reviews
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
857 reviews5,910 followers
March 26, 2023
Some books feel like a warm, heavy blanket on a crisp morning, something you take in soft and slow and while you are getting nowhere fast you are everywhere you want to be. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami—lovingly and gorgeously translated by the always impressive Allison Markin Powell—was just that sort of book for me and a balm on my soul when I needed it. A quiet little novel about the employees and regulars of second-hand antiques store in Western Tokyo, this book shows how much can be accomplished through the strength of well-written characters without needing much of a plot to propel you forward. The two young employees, Takeo and our narrator, Hitomi, live in the casual world of their employer, the enigmatic and eccentric Mr. Nakano, and slowly take in the local gossip and fall in and out of love with each other. It is such a charming book with a sharp comic sensibility and enough heart to wrap you up in a blissful reading experience as it examines interpersonal relationships and introspective anxieties in a world rapidly changing and speeding up when all one wants to do is slow down and embrace the beauty in the details.

Ours was a strange world, in which whatever was new and neat and tidy diminished in value.

This book was very close to my heart for many reasons. Essentially it is a book that grows storytelling through local gossip, and as someone who is admittedly a workplace gossiper...well, these are my people. One of my jobs is working in a local bookstore with a small staff nestled in our bustling downtown. So much of the casual small store aesthetics and slowly piecing together the stories of locals and locales reminded me of why I love that job and how much I appreciate the people I work with. This is a book about people and their habits, quirks, charms and flaws and Kawakami brings them to life so seemingly effortlessly that by the end of the novel you feel like you, too, have known and interacted with these characters.

The glue holding everything together in this book is Mr. Nakano. An aging and charismatic yet quirky womanizer, Nakano’s offbeat personality is so affable and adorable you can’t help but enjoy him despite the fact that he’s kind of a shit. I feel bad for his (third) wife, who is mentioned but never present despite his mistress Sakiko becoming central to several sections of the novel and an empathetic and lovable character. He has a verbal crutch of saying ‘you know what I mean?’ to dive into his conversations, something a former manager during my Barnes and Noble days also said and why on her final day at our store a good friend signed her going-away card with “I guess we’ll never know what you meant”. Kawakami excels at piling details like this upon small detail after small detail to create a larger-than-the-sum-of-their-parts atmosphere and overall body of the novel. It could be said to be a novel about details, which is, honestly, an aspect of this book I like best.

While there is still a slow-burn forward progress to the overarching narrative, the structure of the book breaks it down to anecdotal storylines by chapter, with chapter titles attached to a different item that crosses the doorway of Nakano’s shop during that segment. Each chapter becomes a different set of gossip and discussions to examine the characters from a new angle or further their introspective ideas about each other. The effect is as if we the reader are handling the characters and inspecting them the way a customer in Nakano’s shop might with the antiques. Many of these discussions provoke sexual aspects, such as a packet of nude photos sold by a shady older customer, or Sakiko’s erotica fiction drafts that befuddle Mr. Nakano because he considers himself too polite of a lover to satisfy these desires. The coziness and cuteness of the novel is hilariously offset with a strong sexual undercurrent with much of the drama surrounding Nakano and Masayo’s (his older sister) love lives (a funny saga occurs early when Nakano bribes Hitomi to casually get info from Masayo about who she is dating, who counter-bribes Hitomi to not reveal anything). Then, of course, there is the sexual tension between Hitomi and Takeo in their awkward on-again-off-again not-quite-dating interactions.

...the idea of spending the rest of my life like this — going through my days in a fog of anxiety and fear

Much of the young love plotline becomes a wonderful examination on anxieties and confidence. Takeo masks his anxieties of life through a quiet aloofness that never gives away much of what he is thinking, which makes him difficult to read for Hitomi. ‘People scare me,’ confides Takeo. But her anxieties over her inability to understand Takeo becomes a springboard of self-realization that she doesn’t even understand her own desires.
When Takeo said the word ‘scare’ the fear that I had been feeling this whole week blew up inside of me all at once. That’s because it is scary. I’m scary. Takeo is scary. Waiting is scary. Tadokoro, Mr. Nakano, Sakiko, Masayo, and even Mr. Crane — they were all scary. Even more frightening was my own self.

Much of these fears is what makes the thrift shop an ideal place for them to be, secluded from much of the world in a warm and supportive small circle of acquaintances. Yet it is also fairly insular as Hitmoi realizes when Nakano’s two mistresses are friends of each other and none of them know anyone outside the local antiques industry. Like the envelope that held the customer’s pornographic photos, described as fitting the photos so snugly it becomes difficult to get the photos in and out, the thrift shop is snug, comforting and secure but also restrictive. These anxieties around growth and change reveal themselves in other ways too. While Masayo may be the most emotionally matured of them all, her mind tends to often be on notions of aging and how to appropriately grow into her age. This is contrasted with Nakano who seems to fill his time with affairs and antiques in order to avoid growing up and looking towards a future which is coming whether they like it or not.

Nakano’s Shop is, in effect, an outlet for the comforts of golden age nostalgia. It represents a return to tradition as well as an escape from modernity. The Nakano family is said to be a long line of land owners who have eventually lost their wealth and the store seems to emotionally be the last link back to the past through the antiques. In Strange Weather in Tokyo, Kawakami explores the waning of traditional society and it’s relationship with nature in an ever modernizing and faster-paced world and many of these ideas are quietly examined here as well. Much like the older lover who despises cellphones in Strange Weather, Hitomi reflects on how increasing connectivity can be damaging to interpersonal relationships, such as her own mental health struggles as she obsesses over calling Takeo during their period of silence:
I hate cellphones...there has been no greater evil for love affairs—those that are going well as much as those that are going badly—due to the greatly increased ability to receive phone calls no matter where you are, no matter what the situation.

The slow, soothing pace of the shop is contrasted with Hitomi’s life later in the fast-paced office world. ‘I made copies, I ran errands, I filed vouchers, I created documents,’ she says of her time in a place where people are always ‘glued to their desk,’ hardly anyone speaks to each other and she sees the agitation of those who often stay at work through the night. It is more productive, but does it feel even halfway as fulfilling as the shop?

Like Strange Weather, this book also paces itself and adapts its tone to the changing seasons as a constant reminder of time’s unstoppable progress. Pets and people die, the store must turn towards online auctions to stay relevant, people come and people go. What is lasting, however, are the impressions we make on each other. The conclusion of this book is rather effective in the way it reminds the reader of the impressions left upon us by all the characters, major and minor, in The Nakano Thrift Shop. While I tend to find tidy endings trite, this one really worked and wrapped the novel in a perfect emotional bow. This was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I have had all year and was a blast of serotonin and good vibes that I truly needed. I even enjoyed this more than Strange Weather in Tokyo. Cute, charming and comical, The Nakano Thrift Shop was a massive success for me and one I won’t soon forget.

Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,137 reviews8,151 followers
July 27, 2017
I think I expected something more whimsical, maybe even a hint of magical realism in this, from the way it's described. But it's a pretty plain story told by a pretty plain narrator; in fact she has virtually no personality which is probably why I could never really get into it. It's a quiet story about a woman who works in a second-hand shop, under the employment of a sort of eccentric playboy, Mr. Nakano. She's in love with her co-worker, friends with her boss's sister, and generally a pretty uninteresting person. I didn't hate this but wouldn't necessarily recommend it.
Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
435 reviews973 followers
March 26, 2023

“There are plenty of people in the world I don’t dislike, some of whom I almost like; on the other hand, I almost hate some of those whom I don’t dislike, too. But how many people did I truly love?”

The Nakano Thrift shop by Hiromi Kawakami is a quiet slow paced story that is in turn funny, thought-provoking and insightful. A slice of life story that focuses on the owners and the employees of a second-hand shop in Western Tokyo ( no antiques, please!), the story is narrated in the first person by our protagonist, Hitomi, an employee of the shop who embarks on a complicated on/off relationship with her colleague Takeo, who comes across as socially awkward and difficult to read resulting in confusion, anxiety and heartbreak for Hitomi. After a brief introduction to the shop , the larger part of the narrative is divided into different segments, each featuring an item that is either being acquired or sold in the shop. As the narrative takes us through the daily working of the shop we get to meet the store owner Mr. Nakano and his artist sister Masayo, both of whom lead interesting lives. Their respective eventful personal lives result in some humorous situations, awkward (but often meaningful) conversations and unlikely complications for Hitomi and Takeo who find themselves entangled in the lives of their employers.

The author skillfully touches upon themes of love, relationships, friendship, acceptance, and trust. It should be mentioned that the characters in this story are ordinary people, with ordinary people problems. Love and relationships as depicted in this story are not all about grand gestures or dramatic outbursts. As these characters go about their days at work or in their personal lives, the emphasis is on the simple, even banal, but important everyday things-– what we say or don’t say to one another, what we do or don’t do for each other, our willingness to accept the other person with his/her flaws and vice versa and how we cope when things do not go according to plans or as per our expectations, the lessons we learn and how we evolve as individuals.

“It was as if everyone doled themselves out in such small portions. Never completely open, not all at once.”

This book might not be for everyone as some might find the story too slow or bland but with its simple yet elegant prose, concise writing, an
interesting setting and a wonderful cast of characters, I found The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Allison Markin Powell) to be an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for T.D. Whittle.
Author 3 books190 followers
September 22, 2018
I adore this writer. She is appealing in a very individualistic, particular, introverted Japanese way that is reminiscent of Murakami's works yet entirely and uniquely her own. I mention Murakami only because the authors share enough similarity in their character types and their descriptions of the small, mundane rituals of daily life that it deserves an NB: if you love Murakami's quirky characters and his descriptions of cooking "simple meals" and having "nice long talks", you will find much to love about Kawakami. Otherwise, her writing will probably make you want to toss your book into a pot of boiling spaghetti, as you cook your nice, simple meal.

This is only the second book I've read of Kawakami's, the first being Strange Weather in Tokyo, and I am looking forward to reading all of those which have been translated into English. (I have just begun Manazuru too.) This one is a simple coming-of-age story about a young Japanese woman who works at at thrift shop, and the three people who share her life during this time: Takeo, her young co-worker for whom she develops a passion; Mr. Nakano, the philosophical and philandering shop owner; and Masayo, Mr. Nakano's sister who is a charming and rather endearing mediocre artist. The characters are all so interesting in a quiet, quirky, never-fully-revealed way. The two younger ones are in a state of almost constant bewilderment about themselves, each other, and everyone else around them. Plot spoiler: uh ... oh wait ... not needed. There is no plot, y'all. Just read it anyway. Who needs plots? I hate em myself. ;)
Profile Image for Sean Farrell.
166 reviews3 followers
October 3, 2016
I loved Strange Weather in Tokyo, but found this book by the same author quite appalling. Dull, aimless, the characters irritating, it was a real chore to get to the end. Haven't been this disappointed for quite a while...
Profile Image for Jessaka.
889 reviews121 followers
May 12, 2022
For Those Who Love

This light read was most enjoyable, but if you are looking for a plot, there is done. It isn’t even like Seinfeld, but the idea is there.

The woman telling the story has no name, that is, to say, she is not given a name, but she is the main character. Then near the end of the book her mother calls her “Hitomi.” I will use it now because I need a name, and I dislike the word, “protagonist.” It just sounds dry. I will never speak of it again.

Hitomi works behind the counter at the thrift store. Next is the young man, Takeo, who along with its boss, Mr. Nakano, leave the shop to find items to buy and sell. More characters show up later. Maybe even I will come into the store and buy something.

Nothing happens in the lives of these people that doesn’t happen in the lives of many of us, which is nothing. I know, I exaggerate. But don’t most of us go to work daily, and visit with those at work, if we are allowed? Don’t we all then go home and read a book, visit with our family or not? Don’t many of us chase after the love of our life even if they are not interested? Now, you have the book.

Hitomi decides that she is in love with Takep. How she decides this I do not know, but maybe it is because he is the only young man she sees daily. Her world is small. How she gets him in bed I do not know, because Takao isn’t interested in women or sex, nor is he interested in men and sex. Hitomi never gives up, and at the end of the book, well, like I said, she never gives up.

Mr. Nakano is married. I know this because he has a mistress, and I don’t think that you can have a mistress unless you are married. I used to know these things, but I am getting old, and so now I only think that I know. He leaves the shop almost every afternoon to go to the bank. His mistress is that bank, the author says. She walks into the store one day and puts a manuscript on the counter. Hitomi picks it up later when she is gone, and she reads it. Erotica. A man is tracing his finger all over a woman’s body in order to excite her. This what they call “foreplay.” I am sure about this word. Hitomi decides to Xerox it and puts her copy in her bag. Takeo should read it, I think.

I came into the shop that same day, and I looked around. I found some Japanese bowls that I wanted. Cat food bowls, I thought. They would look good on the floor. I walked up to the counter, but no one was there. I waited. Then I saw the manuscript and began reading. When I was a kid I read everything in sight, even the milk carton. I never lost the habit. I began reading. “Trash,” I thought. “Are they selling trash here now? I am too old for this.” I put the manuscript down. Then Takeo walked over to me and asked if I needed help. “Yes, I do. I wish to buy these bowls. But Here,” I said, as I handed him the manuscript, “Something tells me that you would like this, that you need to read it.” I can be so insulting. That too, comes with old age. No, it doesn’t. I would never sazy that. Hitomi came from out of the backroom just then, and I purchased my bowls and left.

Days go by, and the seasons change. It rains, it freezes, it snows, and then the sun comes out. Everyone’s life changes but in some ways, stays the same. And my Japanese cat bowls look good on the floor, but now we have a skunk coming into the house to share food with the cats, but I will write about that in my review of Raccoons.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jenna 🧵.
225 reviews77 followers
January 4, 2022
Everyone who knows me knows I tend to like literary fiction books in which nothing much happens, plotwise. And, I also like books that are setting/place-centric (like, say, a thrift shop seems like a fabulous idea for this).

And, I certainly like books about work and about disillusionment with the modern workplace. I really like Japanese lit in translation, lately, too - especially that written by women.

And my quirk tolerance - I mean, it’s pretty high.

Despite ALL of this, however - this book just left me kind of cold.

The young female protagonist works in a small resale shop with her kind of …benignly womanizing??… and hapless older boss who is supposed to be interesting or charming, I guess, but I had zero interest in reading about him and the book seems to be more about his relatively dull escapades and personality and associates outside of the store (lovers, his sister, his sister’s lover’s landlord…) than about anything else.

She also has a crush on her socially awkward and taciturn co-worker, which I likewise found uninteresting to read about. (He does seem to try to come out to her as asexual at some point, which could have been interesting, but the protagonist somewhat disturbingly seems to dismiss this as it’s not what she wants to hear.)

I think a book like this could have worked for me on a character study level - say, like Convenience Store Woman, which I loved and maybe I was unfairly hoping for a readalike here - but I never felt like these characters cohered as actual people or that their behaviors made any sense at all; they were simply sketched too thin for me and the book seems like a series of random and loosely connected anecdotes, like a *boring mumblecore indie film* gone wrong.

There were also, like, eventually, pervasive mild sexual preoccupations that unexpectedly emerged on the part of most characters, but like, not in an intriguing or interesting way?? 🤷‍♀️

I guess I just wasn’t in the right place for this one! I’m sorry, I know there are people who loved it! I do like The Idea Of It!
June 7, 2022
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3 ½ stars (rounded up)

“I thought about how what I felt for him now and what he felt for me at that moment must be totally and completely out of sync. Trying to imagine it made me dizzy.”

Hiromi Kawakami has an almost uncanny gift when it comes to capturing on the page the most ordinary thoughts and moments of everyday life. Whereas Strange Weather in Tokyo centred around a woman's evenings at a bar, omitting mentions of her day job, The Nakano Thrift Shop is all about our protagonist's job. We don't know much about Hitomi other than that she is employed at the Nakano Thrift shop. This slight novel portrays this particular time in her life, without providing Hitomi or the other characters' much of a background. This may as well annoy some readers but I found that it made Hitomi's time at the Nakano shop all the more immersive.

“Ours was a strange world, in which whatever was new and neat and tidy diminished in value.”

In her new job, Hitomi meets plenty of interesting, eccentric, if not downright weird, people: from her old-fashioned yet a bit of an oddball employer, Mr. Nakano, to his sister, Masayo, her colleague, the nervous Takeo, to the many different customers. The novel is divided into twelve chapters, and each one of them reads like a vignette of sorts. Mr. Nakano's love life becomes almost a running gag uniting these various chapters, as do the rather quirky clients that browse his shop or try to sell him odd objects (we have a set of cursed bowls!).

“It was as if everyone doled themselves out in such small portions. Never completely open, not all at once.”

There are plenty of colourful characters who provide funny anecdotes or go on to have peculiar conversations with Mr. Nakano. While each chapter is self-contained Hitomi's relationship with Takeo is the thread that binds them together. Their not-quite will they/won't they romance brought to mind the one from The Idiot. In many ways, Kawakami's mumblecore dialogues recall those from that novel. The conversations and exchanges that occur in Kawakami's novel have this stop-and-start quality that makes them all the more realistic. The dialogues can be recursive, sometimes borderline inane. Characters misunderstand each other's words, parrot one another, or are unable to find the right words to express their feelings/thoughts.
Even when the characters do manage to carry out an actual conversation these can get out of hand, leading to silly/sudden arguments or to childish stalemates.

“This conversation was becoming less and less comprehensible.”

Hiromi's amusing lapses into navel-gazing too made me think of The Idiot. Her observations and realizations are far from ground-breaking, if anything, they tend to be extremely mundane but her voice has this vitality that makes her inner-monologue anything but dull.

“Whether your voice betrays you, or becomes deliberately calm, in the end it amounts to the same thing, I thought in a corner of my mind.”

Kawakami excels at depicting those tentative, awkward moments that often occur between two people who may be attracted to one another. Hiromi and Takeo's hesitant flirting really won me over.

“This was what made love so difficult. Or rather, the difficult thing was first determining whether or not love was what I wanted.”

While this novel is very much a slice of life kind of narrative, many of the scenes that occur in this novel are tinged with a sense of surreality.

The only thing that I wasn't too fond of was the inconsistent use of quotation marks. Some lines have them, some them, often within the same conversation.

Kawakami is not for readers who seek plot, action-driven stories, or layered character studies. If you can do without these things, and if you happen to be looking for an eccentric yet fun read, well, look no further.
Profile Image for FotisK.
356 reviews158 followers
December 11, 2018
Είναι ευκολότερο να γράψεις πολλά και εν τω μέσω να γράψεις και καλά. Αλλά είναι σαφώς δυσκολότερο να γράψεις λίγα και ποιοτικά. Ενίοτε, αν δεν είσαι ο Τολστόι ή ο Προυστ, είναι σχεδόν ακατόρθωτο να τιθασεύσεις την ποσότητα και να την μεταστοιχειώσεις σε ποιότητα. Και αντίθετα, αν δεν είσαι Μπόρχες, Χέμινγουεϊ ή Κάρβερ, η ποσότητά σου, η έλλειψή της εν προκειμένω, δεν συνεπάγεται αυτόματα και ποιότητα.
Η αφαίρεση είναι δίκοπο μαχαίρι που ενίοτε στρέφεται εις βάρος του δημιουργού, καθώς υπό το κάλυμμά της ελλοχεύει η ανία– του αναγνώστη πρώτιστα. Θέλει μεγάλη τέχνη η απόσταξη, η αφαίρεση του περιττού και η απόδοση του ουσιώδους. Να υπονοείς, να ελίσσεσαι λεκτικά, να απεχθάνεσαι το προφανές, την πρόδηλη σκέψη, την άκριτη δράση. Να προτιμάς την απουσία της, να αφήνεις τις σιωπές να μιλήσουν, να υποβάλλουν -και ουχί να επιβάλλουν- ατμόσφαιρα. Και οι Ιάπωνες (στη λογοτεχνία, και στο σινεμά ομού) είναι μάστορες σε αυτή την τέχνη.
Εν προκειμένω τώρα, το μικρό αυτό μυθιστόρημα διαθέτει όλες τις προαναφερθείσες αρετές. Αυτό που θέλει, το επιτυγχάνει, καθώς η συγγραφέας έχει δουλέψει επισταμένα το υλικό της. Η ίδια η ιστορία δεν είναι κάτι το ιδιαίτερο, το σημαντικό κι ούτε θα μπορούσε βέβαια, καθότι η αστική καθημερινότητα (ιδίως σε χώρες όπως η Ιαπωνία) ως επί το πλείστον κινείται "ανεπαίσχυντα και ειρηνικά" μεταξύ μικρών διαλλειμάτων έντασης και όχι το αντίθετο.
Εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα είναι η -καθόλου τυχαία- χρήση κάποιων συγκεκριμένων αντικειμένων ως τίτλοι των κεφαλαίων. Το αντικείμενο (ένα μπολ, ένα φόρεμα κ.ο.κ.) μετατρέπεται σε σύμβολο, αποκτά ουσία και νόημα διαφορετικό από το αρχικό του, καθώς συνδέεται με ένα συναίσθημα, μια φευγαλέα σκέψη, ακόμα και μια ανατροπή στην ψυχοσύνθεση των ηρώων.
Προφανώς πρόκειται περί μανιέρας, η οποία κάποιους θα τους αγγίξει και ακόμα περισσότερους όχι, καθότι το ύφος έχει σημασία εδώ περισσότερο από αλλού. Εξ ου και η μικρή δική μου ένσταση: Είχα την αίσθηση, σε όλη τη διάρκειά του, πως το βιβλίο πάσχει από έλλειψη πρωτοτυπίας. Πιστεύω πως χρειαζόταν κάτι περισσότερο για να στηρίξει το όλο οικοδόμημα και αυτό το "κάτι" το εντοπίζω στην τέχνη της συγγραφέως. Εντούτοις, δεν είναι δυνατόν να την κατηγορήσω γιατί δεν είναι η "Ιάπωνας Κάρβερ". Θα ήταν άδικο γι' αυτήν.
Το "The Nakano thrift shop" μου άφησε, ολοκληρώνοντάς το, μια όμορφη επίγευση, αυτή την καθαρά ασιατική αίσθηση χαρμολύπης.
Profile Image for Alison Smith.
843 reviews17 followers
December 9, 2016
A contemporary Japanese novel written by an award winning female writer.
As ever, I finished the novel, feeling somewhat baffled - such is the nature of Japanese fiction : oblique, dreamlike, enigmatic, subtle.
I enjoyed the book, but ...
If you want to dip your toes into the strange waters of Japanese fiction, give this one a try.
The characters are very engaging - this much I can say.
And there are passages where a trivial, daily detail is described beautifully - a sort of verbal still-life, perhaps.
I've said enough. Read it for yourself.

Profile Image for Sara J. (kefuwa).
514 reviews43 followers
July 5, 2017
Enjoyed this a bit more than Strange Weather in Tokyo. Another interesting slice-of-life type book. I swear reading translated works allows you insight into stuff you never thought you needed insight in. The way some words defy direct translations into other languages. How you need a string of sentences to convey what that one word actually means.

As I read it over the work week though I may have missed a lot of things/quotable quotes as I tend to skim on the surface and my inner monologue sometimes gets away before my brain manages to catch up to what is going on. Anyway. I think Japanese books have a very subtle touch to them, vague and somewhat (do I dare say it?) wishy-washy in parts. I think I have mentioned it before that I am a big fan of slice of life anime... how mundane, everyday things and tasks somehow take on a light, airy almost dreamlike "weight" to them.

If you don't have the heart to appreciate it you will probably find it really pointless, boring & droll.

But overall I like it and will probably continue to seek out more of the same.
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
488 reviews507 followers
January 20, 2021
3,5. Hitomi es una joven veinteañera que trabaja en una pequeña tienda de segunda mano. Aqui se reunirán un variopinto grupo de personajes. Por una parte tenemos a Nakano, el peculiar dueño de la tienda, el cual se dedica a buscar gangas que vender en su tienda mientras intercala relaciones amorosas. Su hermana Masayo, es una artista con un extraño don para la gente. Takeo es un chico tímido e introvertido al que le cuesta expresarse. Por último, Sumiko es una enigmática mujer, amante de Nakano. La historia gira en torno a las relaciones entre estos personajes con el pequeño escenario de fondo de esa agradable y destartalada tiendita de segunda mano.

A través de la narración de Hitomi nos adentraremos en una lectura cálida y de confort, donde no hay mucha acción, pero que te deja una sesanción apacible y bonita al acabarla. Es precisamente eso lo que más me ha gustado de la novela y de la obra de Hiromi Kawakami en general. Esta autora siempre consigue tocarme de una manera especial. Me deja esa sensación agradable del día a día, de lo cotidiano, de la rutina de una vida. Una nostalgia feliz, podríamos decir.

Mis personajes favoritos han sido los femeninos, ya que me parecían más inteligentes y más diferentes entre sí. Sobre todo Masayo, que me ha parecido muy divertida, y además tenía unas salidas para reflexionar bastante interesantes. Lo que no me ha gustado tanto han sido los personajes masculinos. Siento que los tres más principales tratan fatal a los personajes femeninos, y ninguno me terminó de calar a causa de ese egoísmo.

Nakano es infiel a sus mujeres con amantes y a su amante de turno con otras amantes. Mientras que Takeo justificándose en sus "traumas" trata realmente mal a Hitomi durante toda la novela. Hay una cita que Hitomi dice sobre Takeo en determinado momento que viene a resumir muy bien a los personajes masculinos que es la siguiente: "Odio a Takeo. Siempre igual: él nunca se da cuenta de las necesidades de los demás, pero les exige que sean considerados con él." Si fuera una historia que denuncia precisamente eso, lo hubiera comprado. Pero no creo que sea el caso, Hiromi es más de mostrar simplemente una historia dulce y sencilla.

Eso sí, esa pequeña tienda de segunda mano como telón de fondo de las idas y venidas de los personajes me ha conquistado completamente. Realmente parece un personaje más con vida propia. Las descripciones que se hacía de la habitación o de los objetos que allí iban entrando o saliendo, ha sido una de las cosas que más me han gustado. De hecho el nombre original de la obra hace referencia a la tienda, no a las mujeres del señor Nakano. Eso ha sido una licencia de la traducción española algo fuera de lugar, aunque llamativa, debo admitir. En definitiva, no es la mejor obra de Kawakami, pero también es recomendable.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,030 reviews1,046 followers
March 22, 2021
3.5 stars

The story managed to be engaging and delightful despite the repeated setting and the little number of characters. Thank goodness! I really needed this after Girl, Woman, Other.

It's probably because of the introverted characters and the main setting which is a thrift shop, my favorite kind of shop that I was able to relate to the story. In fact 90 percent of my books are from thrift shops, some of which are featured here in this photo.

Takeo and Hitomi's love story is weird and funny but believable while the relationship of the Nakano siblings is too endearing. As a quartet, they form an unusual family unit.

The plot basically revolves around the everyday basic but very human relationships of these four characters but I find their easy conversations and interactions heartwarming. I wasn't even bothered by the occasional disjointed dialogue, some with quotation marks, some without, though I admit I was bothered a little by the abundant discussions on that unspeakable thing that couples do.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,496 reviews962 followers
August 28, 2022

Ours was a strange world, in which whatever was new and neat and tidy diminished in value.

When life gives you lemons, you open a lemonade stand and sell whatever you can salvage from the shambles.
This is the story of a small thrift shop in Tokyo, a sort of Aladdin’s Cave of cheap wonders, a place that sells the odds and ends that people no longer need and would rather sell for a penny than throw to the garbage dump. Not exactly an antique shop, Mr. Nakano’s little place has all sorts of second-hand stuff that may have a sentimental value for old timers or may be a real bargain for the budget conscious clients.

The owner, Haruo Nakano, is a middle aged womanizer with a good eye for a deal and fine bargain skills at estate sales. His sister Masayo, who often helps in the shop, is an independent artist with a line in dolls and scarves. At the sales counter is young Hitomi, a shy girl of modest means who one day wandered into the shop and stayed on. For transport, delivery and stock handling there is Takeo, a young man of few words and odd talents.

We follow them around for a year or so, as they try to keep the business afloat, meet all sort of weird clients, have endless conversations about any subject that comes to mind and order local food from the neighbourhood restaurants. Mr. Nakano, Masayo, Hitomi and Takeo are also all entangled in various love complications that more often than not come up in conversation on the shop floor.

... don’t you ever feel like a paper being held down by a paperweight?

The quirky, charming characters and their modern life issues coupled with a very weird and very Japanese sense of humour remind me in the best possible way of those indie movies where a few friends meet in bars and have endless conversations about love and modern living. In particular, this book made me think of Nick Hornby and his stock in trade of the slacker with a sharp mind and a kind heart who somehow manages to laugh at his own misfortune. Replace the vinyl shop from ‘High Fidelity’ with a dollar store and move everything to Tokyo and you get Hiromi Kawakami.
This is my first foray into her novels, and I had such a delightful visit that I am keen to continue reading them.

“How does one go about having a carefree conversation with a boy?”
“If you can get them into bed, they tend to relax a bit.”

Most of the story is narrated by Hitomi, an introvert who tries to branch out of her shell, with mixed success, especially in regard to Takeo, who is even more of a cypher than the young girl. The older generation isn’t much wiser in the ways of the heart, as both brother and sister have their own misadventures in the big city, and are often quite ready to gossip about it:

‘You take a quick look behind you and ahead of you, and then you dart inside. And that’s about all there is to it,’ Mr. Nakano said as he looked straight at me. He wore a serious expression.

Mr. Nakano describes here a visit to a love hotel in Tokyo with a woman who is not his wife, but his advice could be expanded to cover most of the situations that arise in the pursuit of love. The younger generations is well advised to take the plunge and deal with the consequences than to sit on the sidelines.
I may find of less usefulness Mr. Nakano's lectures on women, but they do spice up the narrative in a colourful way:

The air conditioner is definitely female, Mr. Nakano had said one day. It flies into sudden rages, you know. And with all that clanging – once it says what it needs to say, then it goes quiet. But just when you think it’s done, there it goes again. With no warning, suddenly it flies into another rage.

Even if the story is a familiar one for the movie goer who likes to go to indie productions or to watch a sitcom like ‘Friends’ or ‘Cheeers’ on a lazy evening, the author has somehow transformed the subject into a sort of poem for the lonely hearts, not an easy task in my opinion, given the pitfalls of mawkish sentimentality and cheap, easy jokes that she avoids like a true pro. A little restraint, a few key symbolic images and the right dose of weirdness go a long way for me into raising the story to the literary gem quality.
The city and its people truly come alive from the pen of Hiromi Kawakami and by the end of the lecture I cared deeply about her characters and the way they helped each other along through some difficult times.

Even petroleum is in limited supply, I thought, to say nothing of the terribly meagre resources of my love. How could it be expected to sustain this level of silent treatment?

My last bookmark is not so much about what happens in the story, as about my feelings as I read it, putting aside the three or four other books I have started in parallel with Nakano:

He was like a child who has just been given a wind-up toy and insists on playing with it immediately.

I have now put the toy away on a bookshelf, but I hope to be able to go out into the city and try to find another one like it soon. Or at least phone some friends and invite them over for a bottle of wine or two and some conversation about anything and everything. I might mention Hitomi and Takeo, Haruo and Masayo as my new imaginary friends.
Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
February 7, 2019
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

The Nakano Thrift Shop is home to many secrets... found in their customers, staff and many objects. Hitomi, the inexperienced young woman who works the register at Mr. Nakano's thrift shop, has fallen for her coworker, the oddly reserved Takeo. Unsure of how to attract his attention, she seeks advice from her employer's sister, Masayo.

The short review...

This was an odd and unexpected read for me... I kind of expected the sweetness of Sweet Bean Paste and the wonderful humor of Convenience Store Woman... both written by Japanese authors and translated into English like The Nakano Thrift Shop. What I found was a socially awkward slice of life romance between two 20 year olds filled with the life of the customers and owners. Slice of life is quite popular in Japan and this was that and so much more. It really gives you a sense of the everyday in Japan for the common person.

Hitomi and Takeo are both awkward people who act like characters from the latest YA high school romance except they are a LOT older, NOT in college and dealing with adulting. The pacing is quite slow and you aren't sure what the point is... though I will tell you up front it's totally a romance! I found it charming, puzzling, dreamy, awkward, challenging and ultimately fascinating. it ended in a satisfying way even though i was doubtful at times I would get there!

Romance readers who are looking for something a little different or readers who enjoy culture and especially Japanese slice of life will find lots to explore here.

Cover & Title grade -> C+

I'm not a total fan of this cover or really any of the covers... I think a vector drawing of the front of the thrift store would have worked better. A photograph of a neighborhood would have also sufficed. This red monstrosity did attract my eye doing its job and for that I am grateful, but its too historical Asia when that has nothing to do with the story.

What did The Nakano Thrift Shop say about Japan?

-Love is a VERY confusing state of affairs!
This romance is like no romance you've ever read... okay, okay... think socially awkward and times that by 10. Yeah if you've ever read a YA romance with social awkwardness then you can relate to this narrative. It's awkward in quite a realistic way and I was fascinated in how the story progressed. It isn't your typical romance and I think that makes it quite a worthwhile read even if it doesn't end up a 5 star.

-The rat race gives you direction and drive! So what about everyone else?
Nakano the owner of the shop left the corporate rat race to open this thrift shop. At the end another big change comes around for him and by extension Hitomi and Takeo. These are regular people yes, but in Japan the goal is to be a part of the big machine. They have been out of that circle and its effected the way they interact with their life. It's all quite fascinating to think about!

-Our elders are our examples! But are they showing us the right way?!
Nakano and his sister, Masayo, are the older generation to Hitomi and Takeo and they spend a lot of time with the siblings. They become friends and witnesses to each of their romances and how they advance. They also see how each deals with their work ambitions. Hitomi and Takeo are soaking in these examples through the entire book and we see their transformation at the end...

As a Writer...

As a writer myself I enjoy being exposed to other cultures... especially through translations like The Nakano Thrift Shop. #ownvoices in America are all find and good (I enjoy them quite a lot) but distilled through the melting pot of American culture. When we get culture straight from the source it can provide a view that is quite pure and while perhaps not as relatable can be even more intriguing and inspiring.

I really loved how this didn't seem like a romance (I forgot it was because I didn't read the premise again before starting) at first and in the middle I though wow... where is this going?! How will this end? And at the end I was like... I get it! It really fits with what I know about japan and felt truly authentic to me. Sure the pace is slow for American readers with out short attention spans but I felt like it suited the story perfectly.

The Nakano Thrift Shop is perfectly imperfect! It's a slice of life romance that gives you a true taste of Japanese culture and way of life when one is NOT caught up in the corporate rat race. I was so pleased with Hitomi and Takeo and am so glad that I read and experienced their story with Nakano and Masayo!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

You can find this review and many others on my book blog @ Perspective of a Writer. See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...

Please like this review if you enjoyed it! *bow* *bow* It helps me out a ton!!
Profile Image for Tim.
476 reviews616 followers
February 18, 2018
This is the type of book that pretty much all my friends would expect me to hate, but that I always love. A slice of life novel, more on the humorous than serious side and with little to no plot. Strange for someone who is usually found reading horror or fantasy…

What got me started into Japanese literature in the first place was a love of anime, and while yes, when I was younger I delighted in Dragon Ball Z and Cowboy Bebop as much as pretty much as all my teenage friends did, the sort of anime that stuck with me the longest were things like Azumanga Daioh and Genshiken. Both of those could be argued to have a plot in a loose sense (Genshiken more so than Azumanga), but both were pretty much just 20 minute snippets into the lives of these characters.

This book is pretty much the same thing, and I love that. It is very train of thought, borderline rambling at times, but always following a cohesive thought process… some of these thought processes are just wonderful. This is a book that is filled with great and truly genuine moments. For example, there is a scene where our narrator thinks that cellphones are a curse in terms of romance. We’re given technology to allow us instant communication at any time, but when texts aren’t responded to immediately, or the phone isn’t picked up during a call, what sort of excuses run through our heads?

There is another great moment where a jerk of a landlord places near impossible to remove stickers on the doors of his renters whenever they park or go near his garden. It is the sort of humorous small pettiness that is both ridiculous and completely believable.

The structure of the book is very episodic. Each chapter could be a short story (or to keep with my earlier reminiscing, an episode of an anime), in which focuses on a different object that comes into the store, and how our cast reacts to it and the story tied to it. We do get character development from these moments, but to say that it follows a true story would be more than a slight exaggeration.

The characters are of the love it or hate it variety. Some readers will be truly annoyed by their vague responses and rather shallow moments. Frankly it reminded me uncomfortably of my 20s (although our narrator is apparently in her early 30s), in that they don't know where they are going or what they want from life. They are directionless and to an extent trying not to grow up. One character even openly refers to herself as a girl rather than a woman, much to the amusement of one of the older ladies, who asks her when the age cutoff for such a term is. As I said, to some their vagueness will be annoying (Drinking game idea! Every time a character vaguely says "I see" rather than actually responding take a shot... no wait, don't do that, you will probably die), but it seemed a little too close to home at times for me.

All in all, this is a great slice of life novel. Warm-hearted, funny and with those little moments that you shake your head and wonder if they are based on real life. Not truly a great novel, and certainly not for everyone, but highly satisfactory in my mind. A solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Kate.
1,233 reviews2,208 followers
November 24, 2017

Hiromi Kawakami's books intrigued me. This is the second of hers I've read and it remains that it's like nothing I've read before, and I'm not even necessarily why I keep coming back for more. Her books are more like collections of short stories, except that they follow the same characters and all the stories connect to each other - but each chapter basically has its own thing going on and happening. And, her books are almost boring, but not in a bad way? I'm not sure how to explain it, but her books are about such HUMAN things and humans are notoriously boring.

I did enjoy this, it's just such a strange enjoyment lol
Profile Image for Canon.
638 reviews64 followers
August 25, 2022
"It was as if everyone doled themselves out in such small portions. Never completely open, not all at once," (247)

This was exactly the sort of quirky-introverted-nostalgic literary lo-fi ambient jam I wanted from Kawakami, you know what I mean?

Extremely heartwarming, funny, and poignant. Every character is uniquely lovable; together, they make up a delightful ensemble. "Very strange indeed — everyone in this shop, Masayo shrugged her shoulders."

Hitomi and Takeo's relationship, which is one of the arcs tying together the little entertaining episodes that occur in the thrift shop and neighborhood — with evocative references to the passing of time and the seasons, as in Strange Weather in Tokyo — is pitch-perfect and relatable, particularly their fight (Mr. Nakano is right to call it this, with its connotation of elementary school kids) and the fearful intimacy underlying it.

So: I loved it. I also thought it was a great late-summer read, which is already an affecting and exquisitely melancholy time of year for me.
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,254 reviews630 followers
January 22, 2016
Mr. Nakano's Trinkets Shop

"On a commercial street in a suburb of Tokyo, there was a seemingly trivial trinkets shop. But here, in a space with nostalgic scent, a succession of betrayed or unfulfilled love stories are weaved with refinement and subtlety. Nakano a late middle age man, owner of the shop, currently in his third marriage and third child with third wife, longs for something undefined and divides his life between his beloved shop and his temporary lovers he meets at the standard Japanese "love hotels". His sister Masayo, is also looking for love, while young Hitomi, hired by Nakano and at the same time, the novel's narrator, has a strange relationship, marked by advances and retreats, with Takeo, another shop employee. All these stories of contemporary life in Japan, are imbued with melancholy and delicate world building which is for the European reader both strange and familiar, because beyond local color, they talk about what is deeply human in all of us"

An easy but enchanting and entertaining novel about the travails of a few characters connected to the title store as noted in the blurb; the naive and somewhat otherworldly narrator Hitomi is really enchanting and through her voice we meet the always entertaining Nakano, the sullen, shy and confused Takeo (the on and off love story between Takeo and Hitomi is maybe the weakest part of the book as Hitomi's insistence in pursuing Takeo after a few dates becomes a bit annoying, though by the epilogue several years later when they both mature, things get to a sort of conclusion), the boisterous Masayo, Nakano's sister and co-owner and her recent beau, the "retirement divorced" Maruyama (in Japan quite a few couples divorce when the man retires as the wife finds out she cannot stand having her husband always at home), Nakao's strong willed and elegant current lover Sakiko, a used books store owner, a few regulars and always the objects that come into the store, their stories and owners.

The book is structured in chapters generally about an object - the bowl, the paper weight, the envelope, the sewing machine - that comes into the store or is related to it, though they are chronological and form a coherent story not a vignette like one.

Another book I couldn't put down when I started it, very different from the other two books i read from the author - if Manazuru is a very emotional book which will disturb, this one is an enchanting one which will ease one's spirit - but quite highly recommended and one to pick when it will hopefully get translated into English too
Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books323 followers
December 15, 2020
The quiet beauty of a store interior. The intentionality of the setting. The sincere dignity of a retail worker. The cyclical expanse of such a life, confined within shrinking walls, hemmed in by the minutiae of the commercial products of everyday life. Constant exposure to these mundane implements imbues them with chimerical, mystic qualities, and reminds us that a dioramic life can still be a rich one.

Very similar to the set up of Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Nakano Thrift Shop takes place in a store in Japan. The employee who narrates our story lives the repetitive rhythms of most retail workers, yet in this manner, exposes the hidden beauties to be found in minimalist lifestyles. That is not to say she is not also fraught with worry, shame, jealousy, loneliness and anxiety. In fact, her experience proves to be both boring and enlightening.

What this short novel does well is portray the feeling and nuance of its setting. It lacks dramatic twists and startling lyricism, but possesses the sophisticated clarity and restraint characteristic of the author's other books, all of which I enjoyed to some degree. This is for fans of Banana Yoshimoto and for those who can appreciate the subtleties of a Japan frozen in a state of perpetual unrest and gender tension. This genre is often called Slice of Life. In small doses, it offers a refreshing reprieve from one's own often underwhelming existence.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,022 reviews461 followers
December 31, 2019
Japanese version, 2005. I truly liked these people. Each chapter was sort of like a different story. I wanted the protagonist and Takeo to get together in the end, and they did. I can't believe I gave this an A+ and I gave her last book an F.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
428 reviews184 followers
November 7, 2017
I have nothing against slice-of-life type novels, especially translated ones (because who isn't curious about what other people in different countries eat and do and think?), but The Nakano Thrift Shop took me well over a week to get through. Sleeping was always more attractive than reading a few more pages. Each chapter centers around a different object that comes into the thrift store (a life-sized cardboard cut out of a former star, a celadon bowl, a lighter shaped like a pistol), but the storyline with the shop's employees is continuous. The problem is that none of them - especially the narrator Hitomi - is very interesting. They have love affairs. They fall out of them. They eat noodles. They wait for people to come into the store. They venture into the foreign land of online auctions.

There were a couple of things I liked a lot in here. In one scene, Hitomi curses cell phones because they enable instant communication...and are stubbornly silent when a lover fails to call or text (and one can only make up so many excuses why). In another, an overzealous landlord protecting his garden has pre-printed, difficult to remove stickers to plaster upon the bikes of anyone who dares leave one in the garden. Alas, these moments of quirky wisdom and keen observation are sandwiched between lots of shop talk and emotional waffling.

I finished it. I guess that says something.
Profile Image for Phoenix2.
807 reviews98 followers
June 13, 2020
The Nakano Thrift Shop is just my cup of tea when it comes to japanese stories: a slice of life story, a problematic, dysfunctional relationship, a sense of coziness and simplicity.

The story revolves around the two young employees of the Nakano shop, as their relationship goes from colleagues, to somewhat lovers, to awkward exes. The author uses that story as the axes from which the rest of the small stories started blooming. And she did an excellent job blending small thrift stories, with the main romance, as well as the two siblings' stories.

However, the main one got a bit tiring, as the girl was too hung up on the boy, and he, for his part, was just a brute, not talking to her even when they were a couple. The ending, still, was pretty good and more realistic than I was expecting it to be. The author did an amazing job with the portrayal of the unique characters and their growth through time.

So, overall, it was a nice pretty interesting book with some good writing and authentic characters.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mobyskine.
906 reviews114 followers
December 19, 2018
A daily slice of life story surrounding the thrift shop owned by Haruo Nakano, told by a narrator Hitomi Suganuma-- the shop assistant. Pretty daring, like just how Mr Nakano said about Tadokoro and Sumiko. The narrative feels so nostalgic and classic, portraying the Nakanos sibling aura-- they love things with tradition.

The story telling was fun to read. Hitomi's way of saying things and expressing thoughts were kind of naive but I find it very charming. I like the part when Hitomi imagining stuff on why Takeo did not answer her calls-- she sounded so innocent. The siblings-- Masayo Nakano, she was like the apple for the plot, she completes the team. And Haruo Nakano-- his way of telling story was my favorite moment. He usually never finished it all at once, always half of it and Hitomi needs to wait for another time to know the ending. I like how his relationship goes with both Hitomi and Takeo. He seems so caring but also quite strict. Takeo Kiryu was a bit mysterious-- stagnant, seems emotionless, sensitive, a kind that will make you worried about hurting his feelings. The combination of them all four really complementing each other.

The flow of story captured in shot of chapters that feels like reading a short story in between a novel. Unique and quirky. It was structured well from first to last chapter, loving the writing style and phrases-- I found it very melodious and calm, even at certain hectic scene it was still so simple yet extraordinary. It might be a bit lascivious, few part written with lustful intention so one might feels a bit uncomfortable with it. But I think it helps the development of the plot cause it relates with both relationship and love story of each characters.

Reading this honestly making me hungry sometimes-- lemon pie, cherry pie, chicken bento, yakisoba even a bowl of rice that Takeo polished it off with crispy vinegar-ed chicken skin and pickles making me sighed hungrily. Towards the end the plot shifted to melancholy mode, though a bit sadness occurred yet the memories of the thrift shop playing a big role in making me sticking till the end. It was so beautifully lyrical, pulling me inside each phrases like I was there as well being a part of the shop throughout its journey. I love the last chapter a lot. Hug her tightly, Takeo!
Profile Image for Claire.
834 reviews21 followers
September 4, 2016
I absolutely adored how this was written. It was described in the bookshop as a Japanese 'Amelie', and that was so right. I love how episodic it was, and how Kawakami introduced the characters and took the narrative along.

It reminded me of 'This Should be Written in the Present Tense' by Helle Helle, and I'd really like to read more Kawakami and translated lit.
Profile Image for JenniferD.
1,006 reviews359 followers
October 15, 2017
hmm... so, while this story had its moments, overall it all felt very flat to me, the story and the characters. i did quite like masayo - sister of the thrift shop owner, mr. nakano. masayo was layered, and interesting; the story was more lively when she was in any scene.
Profile Image for Karmologyclinic.
248 reviews32 followers
July 10, 2018
Naturalism is nothing new nor is slice of life genre. But leave it to Japan to take something and make it its own. Slice of life anime is my favorite type of anime, I can get lost in no action, under the magnifying lens of the genre that focuses so much on the quotidian that makes it look unreal.

The same is achieved with Kawakami's book. It's a brilliant slice of life of The Nakano Thrift Shop (nothing hiding in the title, I love when things are literal). The low page count doesn't mean you should read it fast, I didn't, though you can. But, time is essential here, time to think and meditate on the subtleties of empty space, of unspoken words, of inaction, of no-extraordinary characters. More things are hidden in what is not being said, than shown here. And more feeling can come out through the use of language by Kawakami, than by explaining the aforementioned feelings (you will not get explanations for anything in this book, you'll have to infer content based on Hitomi, the main character's narration). For example, in this book I have found the best descriptions of awkwardness, otherwordliness and feeling like you don't belong in the moment, and yet, not described, inferred by the narration of what is going on in Hitomi's mind.

Mechanically I nodded. Mechanically I took the croissants out of the bag, mechanically I made some black tea, mechanically I brought the croissants to my lips, mechanically I chewed and swallowed. Takeo must have really been angry, I murmured into the air. But why—what was he angry about? I could keep muttering, there would be no answer. Without my noticing, Mr. Nakano and Masayo had disappeared. A customer came in and I called out a greeting. Mechanically the sun went down. When I checked the record on the register, it said the total for the day had been 53,750 yen. I had no memory of ringing up that much in sales. Cold air blew in from the entrance to the shop. I went to close the glass door, mechanically moving towards the front.

The writing reminded me of embroidery. Words and themes picked carefully and stitched together. Each chapter has the title of an item, for example paperweight (brilliant chapter by the way) and the word is assigned an embroidery thread and is stitched all over the chapter, literally, metaphorically, symbolically. Mundane actions, like fingering the faded pink fringe that was glued to the belt of the dress are so focused on that they become powerful actions equal to screaming.
Screaming is something a japanese person would avoid at any cost in his everyday life. Instead there are the assertive soudesunes and the sousous and the nes and the hontous that fill up what is never being said. I found myself trying to translate what they said in japanese and that didn't improve my reading speed at all, obviously, but it also made me think that so many details are lost in translation and to someone not accustomed with japanese formal and informal speaking and would leave someone puzzled over the difference between responding to someone with a hai (formal yes) instead with a soudesune (that's so, isn'tit) and why would the writer include that. Digression aside, I think a little bit of understanding of japanese culture would help to comprehend the book, but is not obligatory.
What is obligatory though, is doing some work as a reader, let the bland characters (are they really that bland? so many things happen in Hitomi's mind), the silence (filled with thoughts), the absence of action (as important as action) tell the story. Let Kawakami tell the story through her meditative writing:

Could Takeo have died on the side of a road?
That would serve him right! I thought at the idea of such a thing. But my smugness was soon dampened by the realization of how troublesome it was, just to feel that way—how troublesome it was, really, just to be alive. I wanted nothing to do with love! I wanted the stiffness in my shoulders to go away. I could probably put a bit of money into savings this month. These thoughts drifted by one by one, like tiny bubbles.
The flowers I had put in the vase looked as though they were artificial. And yet the ones in the mayonnaise jar looked like normal, real flowers.
I put the sketch back, under the envelope. I wondered if a computer-related company would have more computers around. Computers are rectangular. Microwaves are rectangular too. And the gas heater that we had been using when I left the Nakano shop was rectangular too, wasn’t it? These incoherent thoughts went through my mind as I took off my stockings and crumpled them into a ball.

Profile Image for Andrea Ladino.
Author 1 book132 followers
July 23, 2019
Resulta que comencé a leer este libro con 0 expectativas. Si bien me encanto El cielo es azul, la tierra blanca, tuve mis reparos con Los amores de Nishino y para qué decir con Abandonarse a la pasión. Pero El señor Nakano y las mujeres no es parecido a ninguno de ellos. Hay una frescura distinta y que no la encontré en los anteriores. Es una novela romántica, pero al estilo japonés, obviamente. No hay frases dulzonas ni cursis que den vergüenza. Al terminar de leerlo sentí que me habían dado un abrazo que necesitaba. Cosas raras que me suceden con la lectura.

Lo amé y lo recomiendo.

Escucha, Hitomi

No entiendes, Hitomi. A ti te gustan los libros y tienes una mente compleja. Yo tengo una mente simple.

Tadokoro no es un mal hombre, pero nunca debes permitir que los hombres como él te engañen, Hitomi.

Por un instante pensé que, si Takeo estuviera ahí conmigo, compartiríamos una cerveza, pero enseguida rectifiqué y me di cuenta de que prefería estar sola.

Échamos a andar tímidamente, cogidos de la mano. Me soltó antes de llegar a la estación, se despidió brevemente y entró. Lo seguí con la mirada hasta que llegó a los torniquetes, pero él no se volvió ni una sola vez.

Takeo apareció acompañado de su olor a jabón. Por un instante me arrepentí de no haberme duchado, pero luego pensé que habría parecido que estaba esperando la oportunidad. Por eso el amor es tan complicado. Pero lo más complicado es saber si quieres enamorarte o no.

Como lo veíamos todos los días, estaba convencida de que conocía un poco a Takeo, pero en ese momento me di cuenta de que no había nada más lejos de la realidad. Incluso llegué a pensar que Masayo tenía razón, y que lo que debía hacer era abalanzarme sobre él. Cuando hay sexo de por medio, todo lo demás pierde importancia.

¿A ti también se te dan mal las cosas de la vida?

Había muchas personas que no me disgustaban. Entre ellas había algunas que incluso me gustaban y otras que me inspiraban más odio que amor. Mientras me preguntaba cuánta gente había que me gustara de verdad, le cogí la mano a Takeo. Él también estaba sumido en sus pensamientos.

Este aparato es como una mujer. Se enfada de repente y empieza a regañarte. Cuando ya te ha dicho lo que quería, se tranquiliza y tú crees que todo ha terminado, pero siempre vuelve a enfadarse cuando menos te lo esperas.

¿Los adultos siempre se complican tanto la vida para hacer el amor?

-Las chicas no pretendemos hacer enfadar a nadie con las barbaridades que decimos en plena discusión.
-A los veinte años eres una chica, es verdad. Pero a los treinta ya no queda bien que te consideres una chica.

Hemos sido diferentes desde el principio, nunca hemos tenido nada en común. Supongo que esto tenía que ocurrir.

-Mucho tenía que gustarte ese chico para que te haya hecho adelgazar.
-Dicho así se podría malinterpretar, ¿no? -repuse con desgana.
-Pues lo diré de otra forma: si has adelgazado es porque el chico que salía contigo te gustaba de verdad.

Con el paso del tiempo me he vuelto más estricta con las personas.Y más condenscendiente conmigo misma.

Nunca había imaginado que pudieras encontrarte en mitad de la calle con un chico con el que tienes una relación tan complicada. Pero ocurrió de verdad, y de forma totalmente ineperada.

Sin saber por qué, me pregunté cuántas mujeres se habrían enamorado de él. Nunca he sido capaz de entender a las mujeres que se enamoran de un hombre que no les corresponde. ¿Cómo puedes amar a otro hombre si ya tienes a uno que te quiere? Por la misma razón, tampoco entiendo cómo he podido amar a hombres por los que ya no siento nada. ¿Por qué me había enamorado precisamente de ellos y no de otros?

Estoy enamorada como una idiota -pensé-. El amor es un sentimiento idiota.

Yo también tenía miedo. Miedo a Takeo. Miedo a la espera. Miedo a Tadokoro, al señor Nakano, a Masayo, a Sakiko e incluso a Don Grulla. Y por encima de todo, tenía miedo a mí misma. Era normal. Quise decírselo, pero no pude. Seguro que sus miedos eran distintos a los míos.

-Lo siento -le dije, y él puso cara de extrañeza.
-¿Por qué te disculpas?
-Porque no puedo dejar de quererte.

Odio a Takeo -pensé-. Siempre igual: él nunca se da cuenta de las necesidades de los demás, pero les exige que sean considerados con él.

"¡Odio tanto a Takeo! -pensé por segunda vez, con renovadas energías-. ¿Por qué me atormento tanto por este desgraciado?". Estaba muy enfadada conmigo misma. Olvidaría por completo a Takeo, me enamoraría de otros hombres y mi relación con él se convertiría en un bonito recuerdo; compraría hortalizas, algas, legumbres y me dedicaría a vivir una vida sana llena de luz y vitalidad.
Al pensar eso, una oleada de tristeza me invadió de nuevo, pero no tenía nada que ver con Takeo. Nada.

¿Qué tiene que ver la tristeza con el deseo? Por las experiencias que he tenido hasta ahora, cuando te deja un hombre con el estabas por el sexo no te sientes triste, sino irritada.
-¿Irritada?- repetí en un susurro.
-Al principio sí. La tristeza llega pasado un tiempo.
-¿Por ese orden?
-Sí, por ese orden -prosiguió ella-. Ahora en cambio, solo siento tristeza. Nunca me había pasado.

-No me respondas con esa voz tan triste -dijo rascándose la cabeza.
-No estoy triste -le aseguré, y él se rascó la cabeza de nuevo.
-Pues yo si que lo estoy.
-¿Por qué?
-Es por el invierno. Hace frío y no tengo dinero.

Me sobresalté al darme cuenta de que hacía siglos que no mantenía una conversación informal con él. Una oleada de felicidad me inundó en décimas de segundo. Me sentí estúpida, pero inmensamente feliz.

-Hablas como una vieja.
-Es que lo soy...
-No exageres, ¡que acabas de cumplir los treinta!
Interrumpimos la conversación para brindar.
-¡Por la tercera edad de Hitomi! ¡Salud! -dijo Masayo, y apuró su copa de sake.

-¿Lo ves Hitomi? Hablas como vieja.
-Porque soy vieja, ya se lo he dicho.
-Las viejas de verdad nunca reconocen que lo son.

Lo que más quiero en el mundo. Sin dejar de correr, pensaba que nunca le había dicho esas palabras a nadie ni había tenido la intención de hacerlo.

"A mi ritmo", repetí para mis adentros mientras caminaba por la calle con el ramo en la mano. Había pasado ocho meses trabajando con aquellas chicas. Había conocido a gente pérfida, gente amable, gente escrupulosa y gente peculiar. Y yo era la que iba " a mi ritmo".

Todo el mundo deja entrever facetas de su carácter, pero nadie se abre por completo.

Al imaginarme a Takeo muerto como un perro callejero, pensé que era lo que se merecía. Pero esa sensacióm pronto se esfumó y me dio rabia haberme sentido así. Pensé que la vida era un auténtico fastidio. No quería volver a enamorarme. "Debería tratarme el dolor de espalda. A ver si este mes puedo ahorrar un poco." Los pensamientos surgían en mi mente como pequeñas burbujas.
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