"You see, Japan does not actually rest atop an infinite pile of turtles, but on the back of a giant carp ..."
In his mid-thirties, Australian freelance writer and PhD English literature graduate Michael Guest headed for Japan on a whim, worked as Professor in a national university, and stayed fifteen years. Memoir and cultural reflection, his captivating story is one of growth, adaptation, and an ever-deepening appreciation of an enchanting, at times perplexing, society.
The author is an expert on modern literature and humanities, with many academic and media articles to his credit, alongside international academic conference lectures. Tatami Days takes an intellectual step beyond other books on culture and the expatriate experience, providing a uniquely rich and witty read. In this original take on the creative non-fiction memoir, we pursue the elusive spirit of the country. Notably, the book offers an insider’s view of the nuances of professional college and university cultures, and the challenges and opportunities encountered in a career in Japan.
Anyone fascinated with Japan and its people, or contemplating spending time there, will find this book to be particularly delightful and valuable.
"Rarely is a reader granted such enlightened insights into the people and culture of Japan. Guest navigates the unfamiliar society and employment hierarchy to obtain a university professorship. His intellectual disciplines of language and semiotics serve him well. Engaging and amusing vignettes of his interactions illustrate the character of the people brilliantly. Entrancing pictures of scenery, historic places and city life are superbly executed, complete with underlying context.
“A very human account of a stranger in a strange land, Tatami Days is a series of adventures coming to grips with Japanese people and their culture. From everyday customs such as sake and chopstick etiquette; through temple practices, pachinko halls, and wonderful foods; to Noh, Kabuki and avant-garde theatre, Guest takes us right into the Japanese psyche. Social mores, conventions, historical background, and the underlying meanings of simple actions are explored and reflected upon.
"We are with the author, an honest, sensitive and insightful observer, for every faux pas humorous or otherwise, that anyone might make – stepping into the unknown, discovering tools for understanding and connection. For him it is also a journey of self-discovery, enforced by isolation and the consciousness of being forever discerned as an outsider." -- Brian Armour, Author of Future Crime (2013) and The Eagle and the Dodo (forthcoming)
“I had a delightful time revisiting places I have read about in the great popularizer of Japan, Lafcadio Hearn’s, works in this text. No reader who truly loves Japanese culture will find any false notes here. The narrative pace and flow reflect subtleties reminiscent of a film director like Yasujirō Ozu, and Michael Guest draws his tight literary portraits from his experiences living and tertiary teaching in Japan for fifteen years.
“I was enchanted to learn the micro-details of a culture of micro-details. Many of these are so minute that most writers rarely describe them as fully. You become steeped in this memoir the way tea is brewed. Best not to read Tatami Days in too much of a rush, but savour the sights, sounds, and tastes as they appear.” -- Gloria Lee McMillan, PhD, Lecturer, University of Arizona. Editor of Children of Steel (forthcoming)