A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations

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Plenty of countries feel foreign to newcomers but rarely does a country retain that feeling of foreignness quite as Japan does. It is a unique, sometimes baffling, but forever intriguing place that operates by rules all its own. Even Pico Iyer, a man who has lived in Japan for decades, married a Japanese woman and is raising Japanese children, sometimes struggles to navigate the country effectively.

Still, he offers his experiences and hard-won expertise in the elusive island nation to readers in A Beginner’s Guide to Japan. This collection of facts, factoids, anecdotes, and quotations explores the traditions and the contradictions that are part of the fabric of the country that has given the world the samurai, karaoke, giant robots, Godzilla, pop stars, and so much more.

Cleverly, Iyer doesn’t stick to just the facts, instead opting to employ famous quotations and historical texts that he feels describe Japan in helpful ways, even if those quotes weren’t originally describing Japan at all. But by using them, he helps bring Japan home to the reader in unexpected ways, couching it in familiar ideas and concepts.

I’ve read a lot of guidebooks and information guides about Japan, but this is the first book that made me feel like I understood the country, even in some small way. That is an accomplishment in itself.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 240 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 03-Sep-2019
ISBN 9780451493958
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue November 2019
Category Travel


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