The Land of the Rising Sun is shining brightly across the American cultural landscape. Recent films such as Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha seem to have made everyone an expert on Japan, even if they've never been there. But the only way for a Westerner to get to know the real Japan is to become a part of it. Kate T. Williamson did just that, spending a year experiencing, studying, and reﬂecting on her adopted home. She brings her keen observations to us in A Year in Japan, a dramatically different look at a delightfully different way of life. Avoiding the usual clichés--Japan's polite society, its unusual fashion trends, its crowded subways--Williamson focuses on some lesser-known aspects of the country and culture. In stunning watercolors and piquant texts, she explains the terms used to order various amounts of tofu, the electric rugs found in many Japanese homes, and how to distinguish a maiko from a geisha. She observes sumo wrestlers in traditional garb as they use ATMs, the wonders of "Santaful World" at a Kyoto department store, and the temple carpenters who spend each Sunday dancing to rockabilly. A Year in Japan is a colorful journey to the beauty, poetry, and quirkiness of modern Japana book not just to look at but to experience.
A few weeks later, I had heart surgery and used this book to calm me down while I waited in the waiting rooms at the hospital prior to the operation. I have been to Japan two times before, and reading this book reminded me of the wonderful times I’ve had there, and really helped clam me with it’s beautiful watercolors.
Kate captures Japan wonderfully with all her little notes on the culture and what’s it’s like to simply walk around a Japanese town. It’s a very short read, but a great book to have in your collection, and use as coffee table book or even as decoration in an Asian-inspired room.
I'm planning on living in Japan for at least one year once I'm through with college, and reading this book makes me want to jump on a plane this instant.
"If only I could show them to someone who knows / This moon, these flowers, this night that should not be wasted."
These charming little observations are accompanied by bright, beautiful watercolor illustrations. Some of the accompanying wording is short and brilliant enough to be poetry. This won't take you long to read, but it's a good example of "less is more" -- I felt I had more of an insight into Japan from this quick read than from my weeklong visit there a couple of years ago.