Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reading List

Our trip to Japan is coming up in just 8 weeks. There’s still lots of time to make plans, etc., but it’s also time to start figuring out just how we’re going to structure this trip, start booking hotels and train tickets, and basically start getting our trip in order. I don’t think Japan is the place to make plans on the fly, calling hotels from the side of the road as we decide at the last minute what town to stay in overnight. This was easy enough to do in Spain, with Andrew’s language skills; not so easy, I’d imagine, in Japan.

Along with studying guidebooks, we’ve begun reading books that are either set in Japan or written by Japanese authors. David Sedaris’s new book, If You Are Engulfed in Flames, was a good place to start—much of his quitting-smoking section takes place in Japan. I read a couple of light mysteries set in Japan, by a writer named Sujata Massey. Yesterday I finished a memoir, Learning to Bow, by Bruce Feiler, writing about his year spent teaching in rural Japan. I’ve just started Untangling My Chopsticks, a memoir about learning the art of tea kaiseki in Kyoto, by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. I read Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, which I liked; but couldn’t make it all the way through Amrita. I have books lined up by Laura Joh Rowland, Nakano Makiko, and Junichiro Tanizaki. If I’m in a dark enough mood I could revisit some Kenzaburo Oe.

Of course I’m interested in quality literature…but I’m actually more interested right now in getting glimpses of what makes up life in Japan—details about dining etiquette, the procedures of bathing in an onsen, the repertoire of greeting and bowing, arriving and departing. I know I’ll see all of this first-hand in just two months, but reading these books is a way to calm my impatience a little. I cannot wait to get there!

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