Coming to Japan can be quite a shock for Americans. These books and other media are a starter guide for some of the many topics newly PCS'd members will have upon their arrival at our base, from local information to detailed cultural practices. Happy reading and welcome to Japan.
The History of Fussa. (2010). Fussa City Board of Education. Location: 952.135, FUS.
A startlingly in-depth look at the history of Fussa starting from literally the birth of the human species. (That’s actually the title of the first chapter, too.) For anyone wanting to understand how the culture of Japan has evolved from the microcosm of your host city, this book is a richly detailed and invaluable source.
Foreign Resident Guide to Living in Fussa City. (2006). Location: 351, FOR.
This is a very basic guide to living in Fussa put out by the city. There is information on emergency services and disaster preparedness, counseling services for foreigners, healthcare information, bicycle regulations, utility contact information, and more. Also useful is the guide to local public buildings, including the local community center and libraries, as well as local athletic clubs. The guide is multilingual, and includes Spanish and Portuguese.
How to Japan: A Tokyo Correspondent’s Take. (2009). Joyce, C. Location: 306.0952, JOY.
A British correspondent in Japan for over a decade, Joyce analyzes (and often reanalyzes) his experience living in the country. His take is oftentimes humorous, charting cultural incongruities and language difficulties in this collection of essays. While some of the anecdotes are a little out of date (Joyce left Japan in the late 00s), there remains a wealth of experience here that can help set the reader towards new discoveries.
Begin Japanology. Kawaike, Y., Nagano, S., Yamada, M., Sasahara, T., Hattori, M., & Kaneda, S. (producers).
This English language television series produced by Japanese broadcaster NHK delves exhaustively into every aspect of Japanese culture and history. With over 240 episodes, the series has touched on things of particular curiosity for tourists and residents, all done with a great sense of respect and intelligence.
Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa. (2005). Muller, K. Location: 306.095, MUL.
An American woman seeks out inner harmony by living in Japan for a year. Muller moves in with a host family and runs into a colorful cast of characters, each with a different connection to both Japanese tradition and modernity. A lighthearted book that was followed by a documentary for public broadcasting.
The Good Shufu. (2015). Slater, T. Location 305.3, SLA.
This is the story of a woman who fell in love with a Japanese man and found herself living in Osaka with very little support. This tale is romantic, comic and tragic all in one package. The book does a great job explaining her initial culture shock as well as how she transitioned out of it. It’s an excellent book for new arrivals who may be intimidated or unprepared for their new surroundings.
With Perry to Japan. (1990). Heine, W. Location: 915.204, HEI.
A first person account of Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1854 to ‘open it’ to the outside world. Heine, an illustrator and writer, dutifully reports on this historic meeting that kicked off Japan’s modernization and furthered America’s own ambitions.
Being A Broad in Japan. (2004). Powers, C. Location: 306, POV.
A guide to Japan from a woman’s perspective, this functions as a guidebook as well as a phone book, filled with phone numbers and advertisements that are relevant to women’s needs. This includes health services in Tokyo, etiquette tips for work, dating and friendships, and job/career suggestions. While it’s a little dated, it still has a good deal of rarely discussed information here.
An Introduction to Japanese Society. (2005). Sugimoto, Y. Location: 306.095, SUG.
This statistical overview of Japan gives a good number of hard facts about class, education and the country’s workforce. While much more of an academic read than most of the other titles here, it does give solid statistical evidence for its conclusions as well as dispel some persistent myths about the country.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony. (2008). Sadler, A.L. Location: 394.15, SAD.
They often say that there is a great deal of subtlety and nuance in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and this book proves that’s undeniably true. Going from the geometry of the tea house including the arrangement of the gardens into the history of tea, this meticulously detailed book will answer questions about the tea ceremony you never knew you had.
You Gotta Have Wa. (2009). Whiting, R. Location: 796.357, WHI.
There are 12 professional Japanese baseball teams, and the experience of attending a game, compared to their American counterparts, is startling. This richly detailed book goes into the cultural differences between Japanese and American baseball traditions as well as their continued rivalry over the decades. The book covers everything from Babe Ruth in Tokyo to the real life Mr. Baseball and in doing so it subtly examines the differences in American and Japanese culture.
Yurei Attack! The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide. (2012). Yoda, H. & Alt, M. Location: 133.1, YOD.
A colorful guide to Japanese ghosts, Yurei Attack! gives the lowdown on dozens of Japan’s most ghastly ghouls. These ghosts, usually considered the result of a seething anger or pain, are at the center of some truly morbid stories. Considering the bloody and manga-driven illustrations, it may be the perfect introduction to this may be a good introduction to the culture for teenagers out there.
Travel, Food and Exploration
The Book of Sake: A Connoisseur’s Guide. (2006). Harper, P. Location: 641.23, HAR.
Sake, as a type of alcohol, is distinctly Japanese. It is also misleadingly monomythic: ordering simply ‘sake’ can be a catch all, but the truth is much more complex. Harris’ brightly illustrated and lightly humored exploration of all of the different types of sake, the different ways to serve it, and what brand is the best for which season, is well laid out and passionate. It also gives a prefecture-by-prefecture breakdown on local specialties, making it a good read for the adventurous drinker.
Sushi and Traditional Japanese Cooking. (2008). Kazuko, E., & Fukuoka, Y. Location: 641.595, KAZ.
The beauty of Japanese cuisine is often seen as more important than its taste. This beautifully designed cookbook fits the bill, showing off Japanese food with mouthwatering accuracy. Also included is a showcase of unique Japanese vegetables and a history of the country’s cuisine. Plus: a recipe for the ever-present green tea ice cream.
Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More From the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond. (2013). Ono, T., & Salat, H. Location: 641.595, ONO.
A cookbook about dishes from all around Japan, this book offers a simple layout as well as great details on the origin of the dishes and their appeal. There are also step-by-step instructions about properly preparing vegetables and fish, as well as several tales from the co-authors travels around Japan in preparing the book. It’s a very hip tome for people who want some up-to-the-minute recipes and ideas.
Introducing Japan. (1990).Richie, D. Location: 952.04, INT.
A lavishly illustrated introduction to Japanese culture and regions, this book is a good (if a bit dated) visual guide to the country. It briefly covers a lot of topics, from religion to design to the cultures of the country’s regions. It’s a good start for anyone who wants a good overview of Japan.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. (2006). Shizuo, T. Location: 641.595, TSU.
This weighty tome is a good companion to American books such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything; both books are simply illustrated but richly detailed. The entire routine of Japanese dining is explored, from holding chopsticks to the proper seasonal vegetables to serve as appetizers. This is an excellent comprehensive resource, with the current version in our system being reissued for the original’s 25th anniversary.
The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart. (2012). Yamakage, M. Location: 299.561, YAM.
Japan’s native religion, Shinto, is closely held and intimately observed. This book, written by a Grand Master of Shinto, is a call to a reawakening of the religion as well as a discussion of dogma and contrasts to Western religions. Though this book may prove to be a bit too metaphysical for some, it’s a thorough deconstruction of a religion that is rarely enunciated upon.
Japan and The Shackles of the Past. (2014). Murphy, R.T. Location: 952, MUR.
This intimate view of Japanese history since World War II is deeply critical of American policies towards the country. It contends that Japan’s current economic anxieties have a root in their basic socioeconomic fabric, and that the future is grim for the country unless they can learn to forge their own path.
Japan Unbound. (2004). Nathan, J. Location: 320.54, NAT.
It’s often easy to see Japan as a land of contradictions, trapped in the past while embracing the future. John Nathan’s book looks at how the country’s culture in rapidly evolving in pop culture and business as an economic malaise continues to stew. This personal and expansive book will give you a new perspective on the cultural turmoil that can be difficult to pick up on for outsiders.
Contemporary Japanese Politics: Institutional Changes and Power Shifts. (2013). Shinoda, T. Location: 320.952, SHI.
Looking at the seismic shifts in the Japanese political landscape since 2001, Shinoda’s book is an extremely nuanced look into the controversies that have defined the Japanese government’s motivations this century. For anyone curious about the revolving door of Japanese government and the current concerns of the country, this is a detailed, sobering look.
Yasukuni Shrine: History, Memory, and Japan’s Unending Postwar. (2015). Takenaka, A.. Location: 299.561, TAK.
Anyone learning about current events in Japan will doubtless hear the name of the Yasukuni Shrine emerge at predetermined intervals. The shrine, dedicated to Japanese war dead, is deeply controversial to its neighbors (and former conquests) China and the Koreas. Every year, offerings are made by top Japanese ministers, setting off a new round of condemnations and bickering. This book delves into how the shrine represents the grave of Imperialist Japan while also representing a source of mourning for the many lost during its patriotic quests for greatness. This book deconstructs the contradicting meanings of the shrine and how that plays into Japan’s modern identity.
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