Sunday, 1 July 2012

I had a thought this weekend.  I was gearing up to write another blog about commuting distractions and usually this involves rereading the previous commuting distractions bog.  In one of them, I asked for book recommendations.  This blog is relatively new, so I only got one.  I felt pretty good about the one, but I realized I would need to be patient.

Rather than sit idly by, I decided that I could (hopefully) write one blog a week recommending books.  I am not sure how this will go over, but any feedback is welcome.

I am not entirely sure of what type of books I am going to review.  Considering this blog, and considering my previous posts, you can bet it will include:

1.         books about Japan (the obsession boils close to the surface)

2.         science fiction (that was a given)

3.         unusual books

4.         books about trains, and hobbies

5.         books that I like quite a bit and feel like recommending

For my first book, I have decided to write about Cathy N. Davidson's 36 Views of Mount Fuji.  This was probably the first book about someone teaching, or travelling in Japan that I read. It was rather ironic, since I was living in Japan when I stumbled across the book.  It was amongst a bunch of books teachers (I suppose) had left at the school in the teacher's room.  There were about 30 of them, and they comprised an unofficial lending library.

I don't know what drew me to the book, but as I didn't live in Tokyo, and there wasn't any online shopping,  getting my hands on an English book, while not impossible, was a pretty mean feat.

I wouldn't call this book a masterpiece.  I like it more for sentimental reasons.  Since that day I have read quite a few books in the genre, but this one will always be the first.  The story in no way resembles my own experience--but then again, I have yet to find a book which does. (I guess I should write that one.  If blogging goes well, maybe I will rekindle that dream)  I have reread this book a couple of times, though more for sentiment, rather than any desire to probe between the lines.  I have found things I have missed, but the effect is not that profound.

This book chronicles the three extended stays the author had in Japan.  It spans her days as a professor at an elite women's university to lazy days spent in a fishing village on an island.  In between we get the classic stages of cultural adaptation (I know there is a better way to express this, but for the life of me I can not think of it as I type this). 

There is less explanation of the Japanese way of life in this book than there is in other books of the genre.  There are fewer stories of overwork and cram schools. 

That being said, there are still judgements about Japan, and explanations of cultural phenomenon which many other reviewers found lacking.  Other reviewers criticized her for her unfair treatment of foreigners like herself.  It is true that she seems to have only two characterizations--ugly tourists who don't fit in, and those that have gone completely native.  This is a fair criticism.  It would be fair to say the author spends a lot of time looking outward, when perhaps more introspection would have helped.

Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile read, if only as an introduction to the genre.  The writing is decent and the story flows well enough.  Check your library, and you might find it there.

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