Lost Japan: Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan (英語) ペーパーバック – 2015/10/13
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An enchanting and fascinating insight into Japanese landscape, culture, history and future. Originally written in Japanese, this passionate, vividly personal book draws on the author's experiences in Japan over thirty years. Alex Kerr brings to life the ritualized world of Kabuki, retraces his initiation into Tokyo's boardrooms during the heady Bubble Years, and tells the story of the hidden valley that became his home. But the book is not just a love letter. Haunted throughout by nostalgia for the Japan of old, Kerr's book is part paean to that great country and culture, part epitaph in the face of contemporary Japan's environmental and cultural destruction. Winner of Japan's Shincho Gakugei Literature Prize, and now with a new preface. Alex Kerr is an American writer, antiques collector and Japanologist. Lost Japan is his most famous work. He was the first foreigner to be awarded the Shincho Gakugei Literature Prize for the best work of non-fiction published in Japan.
One of the finest books about Japan written in decades (Insight Japan)商品の説明をすべて表示する
What impressed me the most with this book is how well Kerr was able to avoid falling into the easy traps of Japan Bashing or Japan Worship. It is obvious that he loves Japan, but at the same time his vision is clear enough so that he can view Japan objectively and speak hard truths. Most likely, any reader of this book who has been to Japan for any period of time found themselves nodding along to many parts of this book that were both critical of and in praise of modern Japan. Kerr says so many things that seem so obvious, and yet they feel so novel because the Japanese themselves have not publicly admitted that there are serious, fundamental problems in contemporary society. The sad thing is that it has been about a decade since Kerr's essays were published in Japan and it is questionable whether Japan has made any real progress in that time. To that end, I look forward to reading Dogs and Demons to see how Kerr's thoughts have changed in the interim after writing Lost Japan.
I did not agree with everything Kerr had to say, but I found his arguments and ideas stimulating and fresh. I hope Japan pulls itself out of its cultural and economic recession soon, but as Kerr hints at, a mere decade is no cause for panic in a country where events are measured in centuries and millennia. Japan has suffered worse destruction in its past; here's hoping that the difficulties of the past decade will be made worth it with the rebirth of a new Japan that is able to combine features of its past with the realities of the present.
Having been born in Honolulu, with similar problems such as ugly, sprawling hotel districts and a kidnapped culture, I'm extremely sympathetic to Alex Kerr's anger at the uglification and cultural deadening of Japan. However, his attitude towards modern Japan is one of instant revulsion. The revulsion lends the book a bitter-old-man sentimentality, that everything has gotten worse. That's not a minor gripe - the author has made it his goal, both in this book and in personal life, to prove that the traditional ways of Japan should be more a part of modern Japanese life. Waxing on about Japan's traditional arts, while unilaterally rejecting modern Japan, just furthers the book's counter-thesis: that the modern and traditional aren't compatible.
Perhaps I'm being too negative, and for those interested in the current state of the traditional in Japan, Alex Kerr knows the subject well. Regardless, I found myself disheartened that the book has such a strong thesis, has such an intelligent and undeniably knowledgable author, makes so many good points, but still ends up being an extended bitter rant.
Kerr has a talent for phrasing, metaphor, and humor that makes the reading a delightful breeze. Clearly his Japanese publisher felt it was a subject that would appeal to Nihonjin. I have recommended it to a couple of Japanese friends myself.
Even if you're not especially interested in Japanese culture, many of the essays in this little book are great fun to read.