Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan / Edition 2

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Overview

Over 50 reminiscences of pre-modern Japan-illustrations of a way of life that has virtually disappeared. Voted "Best Book of the Year" by Japan's foreign press.

This is a collective biography, based on interviews taped by a small-town doctor, recording the lives of a cotton dyer, blacksmith, tofu maker, undertaker, carter, tenant farmer, local gangster, casual laborer, horse-meat butcher, magistrate's wife, apprentice geisha, rice merchant, thatcher, carpenter, midwife, county hangman, pawnbroker, draper, fisherman, hairdresser, servant, charcoal burner, and so on-over fifty in all. Their memories are all related to a lakeside town and its rural suburbs northeast of Tokyo.

Born in the early years of this century, these people have both seen the old Japan and lived through the changes brought about by modernization and the onset of affluence. In a real sense, they provide the sole surviving links with a feudal way of life and its attitudes which have altered, in the space of fifty years or so, beyond recognition.

Through plain-spoken anecdote-their voices by turns amused, nostalgic, disturbing but unsensational-they describe their youth in a tougher world where poverty was commonplace, where unwanted children were sometimes "thinned out'' at birth, where poorer families cooked out-of-doors and fishermen in summer went almost naked. By saving their memories for posterity, the author hoped to close, just a fraction, the gap in perception between a traditional past and the Japan we know today. The result-as the distinguished anthropologist, Ronald Dore, says in his preface-is "a book to savor, and a book to learn from."

These reminiscences are accompanied by illustrationspainted by the author's father, Dr. Susumu Saga-themselves a record of an old man's past.

A collective autobiography based on interviews taped by a Japanese doctor in a small lakeside town near Tokyo. The villagers tell their simple, but fascinating stories in their own way, in this funny, but poignant picture of country life in pre-high-tech Japan.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870119880
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 6/28/1990
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

JUNICHI SAGA, is a graduate of Keio University in medicine, with a practice in Tsuchiura, Ibaragi Prefecture-the focus of this book. He began taping his older patients' reminiscences about fifteen years ago when he realized what a wealth of information their memories contained. Though this is his first book to appear in English, he has published numerous works of local history and ecology, as well as several novels. He won the NHK Prize for a documentary work on the Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. He has published numerous works of local history and ecology, two of which are available in English: Memories of Wind and Waves and Confessions of a Yakuza

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