Best parts of "Dave Barry Does Japan": Dave trying, and failing, to learn Japanese on the plane...Dave and his family getting completely lost in Tokyo...Dave trying to blend in at a traditional Japanese resort. I also really enjoyed the chapter about Hiroshima, even though it wasn't funny. This guy can write serious stuff too, it appears--not only that, but he can write it well.
Dave manages to make a journey into an extremely foreign culture incredibly funny without being racist or offensive in any way. And believe it or not, I actually learned a lot about Japan by reading this book. Of course, you have to take everything said in any Dave Barry book with a grain of salt, but one of my favorite things about his writing is his ability to point out the absurdities of everyday life, which I would imagine become even more apparent when one is watching them from an entirely different cultural perspective. Plus, you gotta love the booger jokes.
I started off enjoying this book a great deal. And I finished the book enjoying it a great deal. And I highly suggest it for anyone living in Japan or anyone who's remotely interested in travel. Its hilarious. The best moment for me was Chapter 2. I shared this chapter with the English Club I teach once a week and it was refreshing to find that the Japanese are also befuddled by the "Elevator Ladies."
3 Weeks in a place where you've suddenly stepped off of the plane and become illiterate can be extremely alienating, and Dave Barry has done the best to exemplify that alienation. I have read enough complaints from people living in Japan; Barry was refreshingly funny. Definitely a good read if you want to wallow in a spirit of I-Hate-Japan.
I was nearly in tears while reading about becoming accustomed to bowing. And his assesment of Japanese driving is right on the money.
In a country where you shouldn't stick out, I got quite the number of stares from my coworkers as I laughed out loud.
Then there's the Hiroshima chapter, which is definitely a step into a different book. I paid particular attention to it as I am taking a trip to Hiroshima this weekend. I agree with his assessment of August 5 becoming like Memorial Day, though other reviewers have made comments about his rant about "WHY" so I will leave that alone. It definitely ruined what was shaping up to be a five-star review.
In a nutshell, I really enjoyed the book and will probably find myself reading it repeatedly, though there were moments when I felt like, "Geeze broaden your horizons a little" Though if the entire book were about how much he loved Japanese culture and couldn't get enough squid, octopus and raw fish complete with eyes, then the book wouldn't be nearly as entertaining.
His final assessment is an astute one. Nobody's perfect. We have a lot to learn and centuries of improvement to affect in the US, but Japan has some wacky hangups too.
I hope you can tell from this review whether or not you'd enjoy the book. It has its gems, but if you're like me, you will find yourself getting tired of his demeanor at certain points. Overall, its worth it.