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Posts Tagged ‘  The Nakano Thrift Shop’

I got Hiromi Kawakami’sThe Nakano Thrift Shop‘ as a Christmas present from one of my favourite friends. I picked it up a couple of days back and couldn’t stop till I finished reading it.

Mr. Nakano owns a thrift shop which sells all kinds of things which others have given away, things like old furniture, a rice cooker from the ’70s, used clothes, old photographs, old plates, kitchenware, cigarette lighters, stuff like that. Nakano’s shop has a dedicated customer base, who like these things and buy them. Sometimes new customers come looking for specific things – like a plate with a particular design from the ’70s. People who are moving house or throwing away their old stuff call Mr.Nakano, and sell their stuff to him for throwaway prices, or give it to him for free, because it is cheaper than disposing them away properly, because they have to pay more if they did that. Our narrator Hitomi works in Nakano’s shop alongwith Takeo. Sometimes Nakano’s sister Masayo comes to help out. These four people are almost like family. The book follows the thrift shop adventures of these four, the interesting people they meet during the course of the day, their lives, their loves, their heartbreaks, their affairs, and everything in between. I won’t tell you more, you should read the book and discover their stories.

The Nakano Thrift Shop‘ is a charming book. I loved most of the characters in the book, especially our narrator Hitomi, Nakano’s sister Masayo, Nakano’s lover the fascinating Sakiko, Takeo who works in Nakano’s shop, and Hagiwara, a young man who tries to give an expensive, ancient bowl to the thrift shop. Hiromi Kawakami’s prose flows serenely like a river and once I started reading the book, I was taken away by this serene flow and couldn’t stop reading till I finished it. It was tranquil and serene and calming. It was like meeting your favourite person and listening to them talk.

One of the things that I loved about the book was the way it showcased Japanese culture. I love it when authors do that. I learnt many fascinating things through the book – for example, the different kinds of Japanese noodles, ramen, soba, tanmen, yakisoba, other Japanese food like katsudon, bento lunch, mochi rice cakes, something called the kotatsu (a table type thing with an attached heater – check it out in Wikipedia, it is fascinating), the Chinchirorin game, the furoshiki wrapping, Japanese actresses Kaoru Yumi and Seiko Matsuda, kazahana snow (the description in the book goes like this – “It had been snowing on and off since the morning. It’s called kazahana, when the snow is so fine like this, it seems as if it drifted in on the wind, Masayo said.“) It was fascinating reading about all this and doing research and learning more about Japanese culture.

I loved ‘The Nakano Thrift Shop‘. I look forward to reading more books by Hiromi Kawakami, especially ‘Strange Weather in Tokyo‘.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

“Over the course of an hour, three customers came in; one of them bought a pair of old glasses. I wondered why anyone wanted to buy glasses that weren’t the right prescription, but it turned out that old glasses were a sleeper bestseller at Mr.Nakano’s shop.
“People buy things exactly because they’re of no use,” Mr.Nakano liked to say. Is that how it is? I said.
“Hitomi, do you like useful things?” Mr.Nakano asked with a grin.”

“The thing is, there is always the chance that this person – the one you accused – might be dying.
When I was young, I didn’t think about people dying. But when you get to be my age, people can drop dead, just like that. In an accident. From an illness. By their own hand. By someone else’s hand. Or just naturally. People die much more easily at this age than when they are young.
They might drop dead right at the moment when you blamed them for something. They might die the very next day. Or a month later. Or smack in the middle of the following season. In any case, you never know when people of ripe age will just croak. It keeps you up at night.
Having to worry about whether someone is healthy enough to tolerate my fierce hatred or criticism before I decide to blame them – that’s what I call getting old.”

“…in contrast to the creepiness around him, Tadokoro gave off a pleasant smell. Rather than any particular cologne, the aroma seemed to have more of a warm presence, something like fragrant tea or freshly roasted rice cakes. The scent was completely different from the impression Tadokoro himself emanated.”

Have you read ‘The Nakano Thrift Shop‘? What do you think about it? Which is your favourite Hiromi Kawakami book?

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