Looking For the Lost : Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan

by Alan Booth

Hardcover, 1995




New York : Kodansha International, 1995.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mrtall
Alan Booth’s Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan comprises travel writing of a very high order.

Actually, though, calling an in-depth exploration like this one ‘travel writing’ is to insult its author: Booth was a long-term expatriate in Japan, fluent in the language and well-versed in the peculiarities of Japanese custom and culture. His observations are wry, telling and sometimes deep.

The book’s structure is simple: Booth narrates three long walks he has taken through rather obscure parts of Japan. On the first he follows the trail of a famous local boy from the northern tip of Honshu who ‘made good’ as an author in his own right. The second takes Booth into the steamy backcountry of Kyushu, as he traces the sad retreat of a 19th-century revolutionary general.

On the third – well, here I must pause and make confession: I stopped reading this book after part 2. It’s not that it wasn’t good; on the contrary, Booth is erudite, funny, insightful and eloquent throughout.

No, the problem was the tone of the narrative. There is a sense of grey melancholy and remorseless foreboding that pervades Booth’s travels. Perhaps knowing that the third walk ends in Booth first noting the illness that ultimately killed him colored my perceptions in a way that precluded me maintaining a disinterested perspective. But as much as enjoyed Booth’s skill as an observer, critic and writer, I found the two-thirds of the book I read heavy and hard to return to at times.

Recommended, but with some reservations.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Alan Booth's book is fantastic. I was sold anyway, as I am a true Japanophile, but I especially love the way that Booth shows both his deep understanding of Japanese culture, and his difficulties even so of grasping what it means to be Japanese, and the Japanese interaction with the world. Though now several decades old, this is still an indispensable guide to Japan and its people, as experienced by a man both inside and outside of Japanese society.… (more)



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