Japan 2020: Books & Links

Japan 2020

Books

Publication  dates are sometimes a little hazy…

  • Lost Japan (1993), Alex Kerr – READ: 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.
  • ‘Tokyo to Tokyo’ by Daniel Doughty appears to be the most recent book written about cycling in Japan. The writer sets off to cycle through all 47 of Japan’s prefectures. The author’s website is Travel Bloke but the sections relating to the Japan cycle direct to this website.
  • The Rough Guide recommends Cycling Japan‘ by Brian Harrell, but it was published in 1993(!) and has withering reviews.
  • Bentos, Bicycles and Bathhouses (2018), Seven Herrick
  • Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1881), Isabella Bird
  • The Roads to Sata (1985) / Looking for the Lost (1995), Alan Booth, recounting travels in 1977
  • A Ride in the Neon Sun (2000) / The Sun in my Eyes (2002), Josie Dew
  • Hokkaido Highway Blues (2003), Will Ferguson – READING
  • The Lady and the Monk (1992), Pico Iyer
  • Japanland (2006), Karin Muller
  • Raining Sushi and Donuts (?), John Chapman
  • Culture Shock! Japan (2012), P Sean Bramble
  • The Inland Sea (2015), Donald Richie’s
  • Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan (2002), Alex Kerr

  • Wanderlust book recommendations
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The Japanese expression Tsundoku, meaning “leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books”, has offered reassurance to book hoarders. One forum allows avid readers to join if they have more than 1000 books – Sanders claims that “the Tsundoku scale can range from just one unread book to a serious hoard”. (bbc.co.uk)

Recommended by Rough Guides ‘Cycling’ Section

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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