Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa
  • Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa
  • Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa

Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa

3.6 3
by Karin Muller
     
 

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During a year spent in Japan on a personal quest to deepen her appreciation for such Eastern ideals as commitment and devotion, documentary filmmaker Karin Muller discovered just how maddeningly complicated it is being Japanese. In this book Muller invites the reader along for a uniquely American odyssey into the ancient heart of modern Japan. Broad in scope and

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Overview

During a year spent in Japan on a personal quest to deepen her appreciation for such Eastern ideals as commitment and devotion, documentary filmmaker Karin Muller discovered just how maddeningly complicated it is being Japanese. In this book Muller invites the reader along for a uniquely American odyssey into the ancient heart of modern Japan. Broad in scope and deftly observed by an author with a rich visual sense of people and place, Japanland is as beguiling as this colorful country of contradictions.

Editorial Reviews

NPR senior correspondent and author of Daughter of Jacki Lyden
Karin Muller achieves a kind of harmonic 'wa' in this year in Japan by following that most intense journey, that of the self, in extremity. Whether challenged by the rigors of living in the hermetic world of a Japanese family, or flung about with an island cult, she maintains her composure and delight, and so do we.
The New York Times Book Review
Muller is brash, intrepid . . . She's determined not only to track down what remains of traditional Japan but also to experience it herself—perhaps not the best way to find harmony, but certainly a better route to an entertaining book.
Publishers Weekly
Having previously traversed the Ho Chi Minh trail and the Inca path, Muller retains an engaging freshness as she goes about "prying open the doors to traditional Japan." She observes some well-known traditional communities (geishas, samurai), some less familiar (taiko drummers, pachinko parlors) and some more recent (the criminal yakuza, the gay community). A keen listener, Muller lets an ensemble of voices speak, among them a swordmaker and a crab fisherman. She's also a participatory learner, taking on tasks like harvesting rice. The diverse activities and excursions to far-flung places make this a fine travel memoir, but it's the backbone of Muller's voyage that gives her book resonance and richness. The deterioration of her relationship with her host family is a looming presence; even as it collapses, Muller acquires an intimate sense of customary values from the urbane Genji Tanaka and his conservative wife, Yukiko. Muller's search for the traditional, culminating in her participation in a 900-mile trek to 88 sacred Buddhist temples, also shapes the narrative. Muller went to Japan to find wa: a quality of dedication, inner strength and spiritual peace. Her memoir isn't an account of achieving those goals, but it is an engrossing, rewarding record of her travel toward them. Agent, Jodie Rhodes. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wa, roughly translated as "harmony," is a Japanese term that many foreigners try to come to terms with while attempting to understand and "explain" the Japanese. Muller, an American documentary filmmaker with a specific interest in judo, spent a year in Japan exploring various aspects of Japanese culture, including the more archaic ones like sword-making, fire-walking, sumo, and taiko; she even undertakes what turns out to be a disastrous pilgrimage to the 88 sacred places of the Shikoku Pilgrimage (on Japan's Shikoku island). While she provides sometimes provocative and entertaining vignettes of contemporary society on such topics as the homeless, the expats who have washed ashore in Japan for various reasons, and her attempts to "lose" an unwanted umbrella, she is prone to generalizations ("Japan is a shame culture, and I am ashamed of who I am") and complains too much about her problems with her host family and other self-imposed discomforts. The book release will be tied into a fall PBS companion documentary. Of the many books of this type, this is a mid-range choice for larger public libraries.-Harold M. Otness, formerly with Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594865237
Publisher:
Rodale Press, Inc.
Publication date:
10/31/2006
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
873,050
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.81(d)

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