Look, I’m as hacked off as the next man by the tendency for every Japanese author translated into English to get compared to Haruki Murakami, as if he’s the only author from the 10th most populous country in the world. Here, however, I think it might actually be justified.
It’s a May to December love story, basically, in which a detached thirty-something reconnects and falls in love with her old high school Japanese teacher. Quite a lot of “Why won’t
sensei notice me?” type angst, but all in all quite touching. Can’t say I loved
it, but there’s definitely something going on here which makes it worth
reading. The heroine hates the Tokyo Giants, which is always a good start, and
manages to stubborn and slightly irrational without being annoying about it,
which is also a difficult trick to pull off.
Basically this book manages to fall just the right side of a lot of lines it might otherwise have crossed. The title could have come across as an annoying promotional tactic, desperately trying to make the Japan connection without really being justified, but even that works, especially when you realise that the original American edition was titled The Briefcase, which is awful, and the original Japanese title was sensei no kaban—Sensei’s Bag—which is even worse. There are definitely worse ways to spend a two or three hours.