On page two of Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase, when narrator Tsukiko is explaining how her story begins and how she became. This week at Necessary Fiction I reviewed Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase, which was published last spring by Counterpoint Press. I had a lot. Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase (translated by Allison Markin Powell) is a brief but powerful novel about the development of a rather unusual.

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This is a book that has been made into a Japanese tv series and a stage show A quick search of the internet ,I found a clip showing pics from the stage show. The narrative style—which is an easy straightforward first person—in The Briefcase is worth mentioning mainly because this is a translation, and translations tend to invite certain comparisons and criticisms.

It isn’t long before Tsukiko begins to question her true feelings for Sensei, and the story explores their deepening affection and increasing need for one another. In a sense, the ending with its bittersweet tone was a relief, even if it was clear from the get go that brieefcase world Tsukiko and sensei’s inhabited was a sort of temporary refuge, which could not possibly last for long. His back seemed somehow cold and remote.

Oct 30, I.

Join 5, other followers. There is also a magical allure to his unexpected appearances whenever Tsukiko calls out his name.

In any case the story unfolds slowly with the coming and going of the seasons. Interestingly there is a sort of dream sequence in the middle the reminded me of some of Haruki Murakami’s surreal scenes, blurring the line between reality.

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

View all 6 comments. Out of the characters in the limited number of Japanese novels I’ve read, Tsukiko is furthest from the traditional idea of a Japanese woman, though she doesn’t seem to have set out to reject it; she isn’t intellectual, she simply sees herself as not “old-fashioned”, and is a solitary person in a communal society. Loneliness is symbolised through many seemingly trivial instances in the story.


Each an experimental and incremental step in a casual relationship full of stops and starts. Both Tsukiko and Sensei are functional, polite, and to some extent even social beings, and aside from rather impressive drinking abilities, their emotional isolation is nearly undetectable.

This isn’t a great romance; there are no fanfares and dramatic gestures, it just exists. The Briefcase is less a study of an unconventional relationship and more a query of what happens when two resolutely lonely individuals find that when they are together, their loneliness is eased. In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful.

Hiromi Kawakami – The Briefcase

On another, we see Sensei responding uncharacteristically when Tsukiko is insulted by a drunk at a bar. Her trivial involvement with a prospective like-minded lover Kojima ends due to his excessive advances to win her heart blatantly. Given enough time, platonic veracity transforms into tacit love and fondness for the all too functional and perfunctory Tsukiko and her Sensei. Sensei is much older than Tsukiko but as they are both consumed by loneliness they begin to seek comfort from their time spent together.

I tried to revive that indefinite sense of Sensei without much success. She sees other people but finds men her brieccase age shallow and uninteresting. And I think that different cultures have different tolerances for how the first-person is handled—all based on literary tradition and current publishing trends.

Hiromi Kawakami – The Briefcase – Michelle Bailat-Jones

Their meetings are often fortuitous, running into one another on the street whilst going about their own personal business — but every chance encounter leads to drinking and dining together. Each time a little higher than before. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts birefcase email.


Similarly, their notions on maturity and immaturity differ jawakami. Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator living in Switzerland. Beautiful and poignant, this little story stole my heart. Once they had gone by, we would resume walking closely side by side.

I rode the bus alone, I walked around the city alone, I did my shopping alone, and I drank alone. This vision really speaks to the kind of loneliness Kawakami is addressing in the novel and how fleetingly it may be soothed, how subtly it lingers.


Gradually, the two begin to trust each other, though they remain independent, with neither willing to give up personal autonomy. Does this book have a similar vibe to the film Lost in Translation? If someone were walking toward us, we would each break off to the left or to the right to make room for the person to pass.

I could relate to her thinking of buying a huge saucepan to use when there are lots of guests – probably imagining a Sunday supplement sort of life – then realising she practically never has that many guests. I loved the idea of this book, an initially I was very caught up in it. From that JapaneseJune Book 1. The last line – my favourite quote – is heartbreaking in context. She is the Reviews Editor here at Necessary Fiction.