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Best Book on Japan?

Charlie

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Just read a great book about Japan (which also has a clue about the relationships within Murakami's Kafka on the Shore).
The book is called Extremes: Contradictions in Contemporary Japan by a guy called G M Thomas.
(So fas I know available in the UK, Japan, France but not the US.)
It's a book about life in Japan, and in it, the real life Johnnie Walker is revealed.
Anyway, I liked it but I wonder if anyone else has any recommendations for good books. (I've read Alex Kerr - so so - and Donald Richie - who I greatly admire.
 

Timsan

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A great book about Japan's seedy underworld of sex, drugs, porn, and mafia is 'Speed Tribes'

Really entertaining read

Another really entertaining read is the book 'Confessions of a Yakuza'

i am too lazy to browse my book shelf for these two and get the authors sorry
 

Mike Cash

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Charlie said:
Just read a great book about Japan (which also has a clue about the relationships within Murakami's Kafka on the Shore).
The book is called Extremes: Contradictions in Contemporary Japan by a guy called G M Thomas.
(So fas I know available in the UK, Japan, France but not the US.)
It's a book about life in Japan, and in it, the real life Johnnie Walker is revealed.
Anyway, I liked it but I wonder if anyone else has any recommendations for good books. (I've read Alex Kerr - so so - and Donald Richie - who I greatly admire.

You wouldn't happen to be G.M. Thomas, would you?

The reason I ask is that recently the author was plugging the book on usenet, while pretending to be someone else.
 

GaijinPunch

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There's another one called "The Ugly American" which is about expat bankers in Tokyo. The guy they modelled the book around has said (not only that was it not based on him) but that it was a vast exagerration... there's still a bit of truth to it though.
 

Glenn

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I enjoyed Noel Perrin's Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879. It was an interesting read, even if some people find that it wasn't comprehensive enough. I thought it covered the topic very well, and gave some good ancillary information.
 

goofy2feet

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how about...

I'm surprised noone has mentioned Inazo Nitobe's 'Bushido' ; ok, it's old and you need an elephantine vocabulary to understand it, but it is classic stuff.

I read other books when I first came to Japan to try to get a feel for the place but that is the only one I really remember. My ambition is to be able to read it in Japanese one day.

I have also relatively recently enjoyed 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (can't remember author's name - pls google it) which is quite well-known and I think is being made into a Hollywood movie...

http://www.bdbtjapan.com
 

Pachipro

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Memoirs of a Geisha is an excellent read. Confessions of a Yakuza was written by Junichi Saga and is an excellent book on the Yakuza. It was written by a doctor who had a Yakuza for a patient. It chronicals his life from the 1920's when he was a teenager, how he got in and his rise through the ranks. It also gives a great insight into the Japan of that era. Excellent book.

However, the most definitive book on Japan is still, to me, James Clavell's Shogun. It gives excellent insight into the culture, Samurai culture, and the thinking of the Japanese people even though it was set in the 1600's. I don't know how Clavell did it, but he really nailed it. The mini-series and movie, although good, do not do justice to the book where Clavell takes great pains to tell you what the characters are thinking. The mini-series could not do this.

Another good book is Japan's Longest Day by The Pacific Research Society, which chronicles the last 24 hours before Japan surrendered and what the major players in the Japanese government and military were thinking and saying before they agreed to surrender.
 
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phelonious

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a good one is japan: a reinterpretation, though at times smith (the author) is kind of overly pessimistic. many things some one who has lived in japan for a while will notice.
 
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