Thatta – Penetration

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Hokkaido in Autumn


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50 Non-Fiction Books About Japan

The other day I was sorting through my book cupboard and getting things organised and I began leafing through some of the books about Japan I have read over the years.  As I am always looking for new books about Japan, I thought maybe others  would be, too. So here’s a list of 50 that were in my collection – mostly paper, but a couple of ebooks thrown in, too. Most I enjoyed, a few not so much, but included them anyway as we all have different tastes. I hope maybe you find something you didn’t know about and fancy reading. If you have any other non-fiction books about Japan you would recommend feel free to leave their titles in the comments. So here they are, in no particular order: 50 non-fiction books about Japan:

1. Hokkaido Highway Blues – Will Ferguson

2. The Blue-Eyed Salaryman – Niall Murtagh

3. The Accidental Office Lady – Laura J. Kriska

4. The Inland Sea – Donald Richie

5. Village Japan – Malcolm Ritchie

6. Looking For The Lost – Alan Booth

7. Geisha of Gion – Mineko Iwasaki

8. Speed Tribes – Karl Greenfield

9. A Ride In The Neon Sun – Josie Dew

10. The Sun In My Eyes – Josie Dew

11. The Japan Journals – Donald Richie

12. Pictures From the Water Trade – John David Morley

13. Kicking – Following the Fans To The Orient – David Willem

14. Wrong About Japan – Peter Carey

15. Lost Japan – Alex Kerr

16. Dogs and Demons – Alex Kerr

17. The Land Of the Rising Yen – George Mikes

18. The Roads To Sata – Alan Booth

19. Four Pairs of Boots – Craig Mclachlan

20. Underground – Haruki Murakami

21. Angry White Pyjamas – Robert Twigger

22. Getting Wet: Adventures In The Japanese Bath – Eric Talmadge

23. Tales Of A Summer Henro – Craig McLachlan

24. Against The Wind: Pedalling For a Pint From Japan to Ireland – Yasuyuki Ozeki

25. 6,000 Miles On A Bicycle – Leigh Norrie

26. Learning To Bow – Bruce Feiler

27. Turning Japanese – David Galef

28. Tokyo Vice – Jake Adelstein

29. Sushi and Beyond – Michael Booth

30. 2:46 Aftershocks – Various (compiled by Our Man In Abiko)

31. Confessions of a Yakuza – Junichi Saga

32. For Fukui’s Sake – Sam Baldwin

33. Unbeaten Tracks in Japan – Isabella Lucy Bird

34. My Name Is Loco and I am a Racist – Baye McNeil

35. Welcome To Sawanoya – Isao Sawa

36. Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal – Kevin O’Shea

37. The Teas That Bind -J.C. Greenway

38. Reconstructing 311 – Various

39. The People That Eat Darkness – Richard Lloyd Parry

40. 36 Views of Mount Fuji – Cathy N. Davidson

41. Long Road Hard Lessons – Mark Swain

42. Loco In Yokohama – Baye McNeil

43. Chasing the Cherry Blossoms – Lowell Sheppard

44. Marshmallow-Go – Matt Keighley

45. Deep Kyoto Walks – Various (Edited by Michael Lambe)

46. Bending Adversity – David Pilling

47. Gaijin Story – Michael Gillan Peckitt

48. Running The Shikoku Pilgrimage – Amy Chavez

49. Children of the Tsunami – Patrick Sherriff

50. Sado – Japan’s Island in Exile – Angus Waycott

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Lizard vs Cicada


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Power Rangers Taking a Selfie


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Children Of The Tsunami

Since publishing has become digital, I have on occasion bought individual essays or short stories online rather than forking out for an entire anthology. A single as opposed to an album, you might say. I did so this morning. It cost me less than a dollar and I read the entire thing over my lunch break, but it was worth every cent.

The book, if it can still be called such, is Children of The Tsunami by Patrick Sherriff, and it is the tale of the author and his family taking a short trip into the disaster zone of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, four years on.

Early in the story, the author expresses concern that he may be engaging in some sort of disaster voyeurism, but his fears are unfounded. He strikes the right tone in his storytelling. He tells the facts as they were on his trip and he does so without being maudlin or overly dramatic. That’s not to say the story doesn’t have power. It does. He talks with people who survived; teenagers who have lost parents, a mother who lost her young child, a grandmother who lives alone in a tiny prefabricated house hundreds of miles from any remaining family members. You can’t help but be moved by their stories and indeed the kindness that the author’s family, particularly his wife, appears to have shown to the victims of the quake and tsunami since that dreadful day.

As the author drives through the disaster area, the polite female voice of the car’s satellite navigation system urges him to turn left at petrol stations that are no longer there. It demands he turn right onto roads that are now just figments of a ghostly computerised memory. It is a reminder that the area is not what it used to be.

And the story is a reminder, too. It is a reminder that while we are back to shopping in fully lit convenience stores with working automatic doors, while we have long ceased feeling guilty at switching on the air conditioners or heaters, and while we have resumed living reasonably comfortable lives, there remain many who have not. I am sitting with my wife and a beer watching television in my snug living room. Elsewhere, a pensioner is sitting alone in a tiny cramped room of just 7.5 square metres with paper-thin walls. She once had a living room ten times that size. Things aren’t like they used to be, though.  Not for those who were there.

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Lake Towada

The rather lovely Lake Towada at sundown.


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