Saturday, August 13, 2011

Japan Through The Looking Glass by Alan Macfarlane

As you probably know by now, I've a deep interest in Japan, and no, it's not limited to pop culture. In fact, I'm terrible lacking in knowledge of JPop or anime or manga (ok, maybe it's not that applicable to the other two). But I do like to read on society and politics and such, making me sound boring. But that's ok, it's my interest. Which is why, on a previous trip to the library, I borrowed a book called Japan Through The Looking Glass.

It's actually really interesting. Because it's written from an anthropologist's point of view, it covers things like "Power", "Beliefs" etc. In fact, there are few chapters, but each chapter is quite long. The purpose is to actually show what Japanese society is like, and compare it to American society. I didn't think it was a dry/academic read, because the author used a lot of personal stories, about when he was in Japan ( and I was happy to hear him quote Shusaku Endo once).

But me being me, went on the to check the reviews. It's probably a terrible habit, but when it comes to books, I do get very influenced by reviews, most likely because there were times where I regretted ignoring the reviews. But the reviews here were mostly negative, which quite surprised me because I liked the book. But after thinking it over, I do see how the reviews make sense, although I'm not as negative as them.

The biggest criticism (which, I think, is valid) is that Japan doesn't seem to be very realistically portrayed. I have to admit, there were times reading it where I didn't recognise Japan. But then again, as I tell myself, I'm not Japanese. And I can barely understand Chinese culture (I'm referring to traditional culture, not what's going on in China now, although that's equally mystifying to me). Hmm.... it doesn't seem like I'm cut out to be an anthropologist.

I suppose I really have no way to see if the book is true until I actually go to Japan and immerse myself in its society. Which, by the way, I'm working really hard towards. But one good thing, at least, came of reading the reviews: I was introduced to a book called The Chrysanthemum and The Sword, which is apparently a classic on Japan. When I went to the library to borrow it today, I noticed that it was a book that I had previously ignored and rejected. So in this way, I'm introduced to another (potentially) good book. (:

No comments :

Post a Comment

I really do appreciate all comments, and I'll try my best to reply within 24 hours!