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Books to read before going to Japan

Melbourne, Australia
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Books to read before going to Japan

Hi all

I usually like to read a book or two before I travel to a country that I have never been to before.

Can anyone recognise a book about Japan (not a huge historical like textbook though)? Something on Japanese modern history or how Tokyo has developed to what it is today would be preferable.

On the fiction front, I've read a couple of Murakmi's books and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Thank you.

Zomp.

Edited: 23 June 2014, 12:51
Tokyo, Japan
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1. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm not looking for a travel guide.

I would like to read a couple of books that would give me some context to understanding Japanese history, culture and/or customs.

Tokyo, Japan
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3. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

In addition to reading, how about check many kinds of Japanese culture and history by Youtube??

I strongry suggest you to watch NHK's "BEGIN JAPOLOGY" series. They have English narrations. Some people are uploaded.

After arrival, visiting Edo-Tokyo Museum is good to know the developments/history of Tokyo (Edo).

Edited: 23 June 2014, 16:25
Massachusetts
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4. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

Edward Seidensticker's "Low City, High City" (Meiji Restoration to the 1923 Earthquake) and "Tokyo Rising" (post 1923 earthquake). History, but they don't read like history (to me anyway). T.R. Reid's "Confucius Lives Next Door." May not be quite what you're looking for, but it's a good book.

London, England
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5. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

I found The Japanese Mind, edited by Roger Davies and Osamu Ikeno fascinating. It is a series of essays on key concepts in Japanese culture by Japanese university students enrolled in senior seminars in cross cultural communication.

I also loved The Tale of Genji by Muraski Shikibu written in the early years of the 11th century.

Both books are available for Kindles. In the case of The Tale of Genji, that is the only way you could carry it. It is huge, but I understand that every Japanese school child is (was?) required to read it.

Edited: 23 June 2014, 16:47
London, England
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6. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

BTW, the history and culture section of the Lonely Planet Japan Guide are quite a useful overview.

Nara, Japan
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7. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

Occupation by John Toland:

http://www.amazon.com/Occupation-John-Toland/dp/0385198191/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403537240&sr=1-1&keywords=occupation+by+john+toland

Max Danger by Robet J. Collins:

http://www.amazon.com/Max-Danger-Adventures-Expat-Tokyo-ebook/dp/B006T3ITFK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403537365&sr=1-1&keywords=max+danger

(Tale of) John Manjiro by Donald R. Bernard:

squidoo.com/donald-r-bernard-book-john-manji…

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino:

http://www.amazon.com/Devotion-Suspect-Detective-Galileo-Novel/dp/1250002699/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403537921&sr=1-1&keywords=devotion+of+suspect+x

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro:

amazon.com/Pale-View-Hills-Kazuo-Ishiguro/dp…

The Barren Zone by Toyoko Yamazaki:

goodreads.com/book/…3894278-the-barren-zone

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima:

amazon.co.jp/gp/…

Nara, Japan
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8. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

If by any chance you are a Michener fan then see:

bookdepository.com/Hawaii-Michener/978044921…

It's quite lengthy, based on missionaries and their ascendants in Hawaii, but it'll shed some light for sure on the Japanese mentality. Yes, I know pros and cons abound in what he describes, yet all the more intriguing for that.

Leagle, good boys and good girls begin to read classics while in primary schools here, yes, but not in archaic forms. They just read only well-known parts of the novels and that in rewritten or adopted forms, not skimming under the surface yet catching the essence of them. Not sure how many adults on earth can read through a Shakespeare in original, but many here cannot when they try tackling (original) Tale of Genji, which is a shame, I admit...

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9. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

Shot,

Actually Shakespeare is read in the original here in school and performances use the original language. Even the Baz Lurman film of Romeo and Juliet, while edited, and with a modern setting, used the 16/17th century language. My daughter started doing scenes from Macbeth in class when they were all about 9 years old. The meaning of archaic words were explained by the teacher and the children seem to have taken the language in their stride.

But of course Shakespeare is only 400 years or so old, The Tale of Genji is over 1,000 years old.

I did finally read it all, but only in translation.

But we have all omitted poetry from our list of books:

How can you go to Japan without the haiku of Matsuo Basho?

Edited: 23 June 2014, 18:56
Melbourne, Australia
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10. Re: Books to read before going to Japan

I have the Tale of Genji. I have attempted to read it several times and never get past the first 300 pages but I can read Shakespeare front to back.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.