At Home in Japan, by Rebecca Otowa

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) At Home in Japan tells the true story of a foreign woman who has been, for 30 years, the housewife, custodian and chatelaine of a 350-year-old farmhouse in rural Japan. This astonishing book traces a circular path, from the basic physical details of life in the house and village, through relationships with family, neighbors and the natural and supernatural entities with whom 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, finally, 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 simple life made extraordinary.

Thoughts: I wanted to rate this book higher, I really did. Really, it doesn’t have any faults or flaws that I can point out as such, at least not that can leigitmately extend beyond the matter of personal taste. I found the prose a bit dry at home, but stylistically, that isn’t enough to condemn a book entirely.

It took me longer than it ought to have to get through this book, and I think ultimately the reason lies in the fact that it wasn’t what I was expecting. From the description online, I had expected something written in the style of a person’s memoirs, details of their life in a different culture. What I got instead was a collection of short articles.

Now, this is where opinions can easily differ. Reading short articles or stories can make a book easy to get through for some, because each section requires only a small amount of committment. For others, such as myself, constantly stopping and started makes me feel disjointed, thrown out of the groove, and I find myself quick to put the book down quite often. It drags out the reading time, and makes the book seem longer and more tedious than perhaps it really was.

It did, I will admit, have some interesting information on Japanese culture, history, and language, and for that, I’m glad I bought it. It’s rare now that I come across a book written about Japan that contains information that I haven’t read a hundred times elsewhere. This book accomplished what few others have in that it presented new information to me, which I greatly enjoyed absorbing.

I can’t say I’d recommend this book to many people. If you enjoy your information coming at you in the form of articles, then by all means, pick up a copy. If you simply must have any and all books on Japanese life and culture, then order it from Amazon. But otherwise, I’d say that most people can give this book a miss without losing out on too much.

One comment on “At Home in Japan, by Rebecca Otowa

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