Lost Japan (1993), Alex Kerr
Follow this link to the Japan 2020 pages of CyclingEurope.org
This is the first book I’ve read about Japan (aside from delving into sections of the Rough Guide) and I’ll be honest; I only understood probably about a third of the detail. The themes, fine, but with much of the text making reference to concepts about which I remain unfamiliar, a difficult read. The glossary of Japanese terms at the end of the book is useful (as are relatively frequent detours to Wikipedia and my map of Japan), but much of what Alex Kerr has written escapes me at the moment. Perhaps if I return to read this book once my journey through Japan is complete, I may find myself nodding my head more and scratching it less. That said, I’ve still learnt much about the traditions of Japan and, in the opinion of Kerr, their decline. He manages to write in a manner that just about keeps him on the right side of the ‘things-were-much-better-in-my-day’ line, but he is close. It’s a book unlikely to ever be endorsed by the Japanese tourist board but that in itself is no bad thing. That said, in an unexpected twist, he pulls back from the brink on the very last page declaring the following:
“Today, just at the moment when Japan has lost much of its appeal in both natural landscape and culture, it is its artists… and the ferment of creativity surrounding them which draws me back. The present time, it turns out, is the best of all times to be in Japan. The changes taking place in the cultural world, the rumblings of revolution in the bureaucracy and in business – all of this is exciting in a way in which Japan has not been exciting for decades.“
Categories: Cycling, Japan 2020, Travel
What do you think?