At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman's Journey of Discovery

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Overview

"This portrait of Japanese country life reminds us that at its core, a happy and healthy life is based on the bonds of food, family, tradition, community, and the richness of nature"—John Einarsen, Founding Editor and Art Director of Kyoto Journal

What would it be like to move to Japan, leaving everyone you know behind, to become part of a traditional Japanese household? At Home in Japan tells an extraordinary true story of a foreign woman who goes through an amazing ...

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At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman's Journey of Discovery

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Overview

"This portrait of Japanese country life reminds us that at its core, a happy and healthy life is based on the bonds of food, family, tradition, community, and the richness of nature"—John Einarsen, Founding Editor and Art Director of Kyoto Journal

What would it be like to move to Japan, leaving everyone you know behind, to become part of a traditional Japanese household? At Home in Japan tells an extraordinary true story of a foreign woman who goes through an amazing transformation, as she makes a move from a suburban lifestyle in California to a new life, living in Japan. She dedicates 30 years of her life as a housewife, custodian and chatelaine of a 350–year–old farmhouse in rural Japan. This astonishing book traces a circular path from were Rebecca began, to living under Japanese customs, from the basic day to day details of life in the house and village, through relationships with family, neighbors and the natural and supernatural entities with which the family shares the house. Rebecca Otowa then focuses on her inner life, touching on some of the pivotal memories of her time in Japan, the lessons in perception that Japan has taught her and the ways in which she has been changed by living in Japan.

An insightful and compelling read, At Home in Japan is a beautifully written and illustrated reminiscence of a once simple life made extraordinary.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“For almost three decades I have been the housewife, custodian, and chatelaine of a 350-year-old farmhouse in rural Japan,” writes Otowa in her informative and delightfully illustrated memoir. In 1978, American-born Otowa came to Japan as a university student, filled “with an exaggerated confidence in my paltry store of knowledge, undercut with a pervading suspicion that I didn't know as much as I thought I did.” Four years later she married into a traditional Japanese family. The short but engaging chapters (none is longer than four pages) explore one aspect of her adopted life. But like any good essayist, Otowa wanders into wider country. In “Comfort,” she recounts the snuggly family comforts obtained from the continued use of the traditional kotatsu, a “low table with a blanket or quilt spread over it and a heating device inside.” In “Sweets,” she delves into the complex obligations attached to the “painstakingly shaped, delicately colored, beautifully presented and ritually consumed edible forms.” And in “Bamboo,” Otowa reveals the special spot, “exotic as a unicorn, and as common as mud,” the plant holds in her heart. Filled with personal insights garnered from years spent learning to fit into a radically different culture, Otowa gently illuminates what it means to discover your identity in a foreign land. (May)
From the Publisher
"Anyone interested in knowing what it is like to become fully immersed in another culture—yet always as an outsider—will enjoy this thoughtful account immensely."—Library Journal

"Pungent with sounds, tastes, colors and village and family lore…Otowa gives us a book of celebration, radiance, and renewal."—Japan Times

"A wonderful book about an old Japanese house, a resourceful American woman, and how they come together to honor the past and forge a bright future. What Frances Mayes did for Tuscany, Rebecca Otowa just might have done for the Japanese countryside. Bravo!"—Leza Lowitz, author of Green Tea to Go: Stories from Tokyo

Library Journal
This wonderful emic work offers readers a rare look into the life of a foreigner—or gaijin in Japanese—living in a rural village outside of the storied and ancient city of Kyoto, Japan. The book is a meditation on the author's experiences, beginning in 1981, addressing the many themes and tensions of living in a foreign country, including the different language and traditions, as well as more universal struggles such as those between the capricious and the elderly, men and women, and society and the individual. These issues are set against the backdrop of a magnificent Japanese farmhouse that the author and her husband inherited and that has been in the husband's family since the 1600s. The book is divided into short, themed chapters focusing on seasonal events, village happenings, and personal triumphs and failures—the house itself even has a chapter written from its own historical perspective. This book can easily rest alongside Margaret Mead's The Chrysanthemum and the Rose as an examination of Japanese culture. VERDICT Anyone interested in knowing what it is like to become fully immersed in another culture—yet always as an outsider—will enjoy this thoughtful account immensely.—Poppy Johnson-Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll. Lib., Tucumeari, NM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9784805310786
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/10/2010
  • Edition description: Hardcover with Jacket
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,384,883
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca Otowa has lived in Japan for thirty years, leaving her California home in 1967, and her adopted home of Brisbane, Australia in 1978, to strike out in this new life direction. She and her husband Toshiro live in a rural area near Kyoto, in a farmhouse that has been in her husband's family since it was built in the 1600s. This is her first book.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 24, 2011

    While the content of the book is great, I don't recommend buying this as an ebook on the nook. Unless you can read the font on the free sample easily, save your money; you cannot change the font size on the purchased file.

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    Posted October 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted July 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted February 7, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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