Nonfiction November 2020: Expert on Japan



Click on the logo to see the detailed schedule

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

hosted by Rennie of What’s Nonfiction

Three ways to join in this week!
You can either share 3 or more books
on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert),
you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic
that you have been dying to read (ask the expert),
or you can create your own list of books
on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

This year, two of the nonfiction books I have read are about Japan.
I would love to go there one day, plus I have a couple of friends living there, which would help navigate in a country with a totally different language.
Alas, I’m too old to learn Japanese.
And with Covid and other things, I will probably never be able to visit.

So, it’s the perfect time to ask experts here about Japan.
Please share with me any nonfiction title you have read about Japan:
its landscapes, birds, history, culture, food, whatever, I want them all!




64 thoughts on “Nonfiction November 2020: Expert on Japan

  1. Great post! This is such a great idea to swap book titles on Japan. I also would love to know what others would recommend. I love Japan and dream of going there too one day. It has such a fascinating culture. I am not sure if you read, but I recommend the books by Alex Kerr. He goes into all the nuances of the culture, and I particularly enjoyed his book Another Kyoto. Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows is a slim “must-read” essay on Japanese aesthetics too. Recently, I have also finished Home Life in Tokyo by Jukichi Inouye. This is very old and dense book, but it was totally fascinating to read how families lived in Tokyo in 1910.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope you get some good suggestions! I’m racking my brain but I really have a blind spot on Japan. The only thing that came to mind right away was The Hare with the Amber Eyes, but it’s a tenuous connection, just through the ceramic figurines that lead the author back to researching the family history. They’re a form of Japanese culture called netsuke. It’s a really interesting book, but I know not exactly what you’re looking for. Fingers crossed some other bloggers come through for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like Japanese fiction, but I can’t think of any nonfiction books. I too have ambitions of going to Japan one day. Fingers crossed, you’ll find some great literature and I am sure you’ll manage to visit – the vaccine should be on its way 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We were talking about places we’d love to visit but probably never will, and my place was Japan.

    My favorite nonfiction books about Japan are:
    The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan;
    Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa; and
    A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I visited Japan (Tokyo, Mount Fuji and Kobe) in 1985. It was a fantastic trip. I am no expert though, and cannot recommend any nonfiction books on Japan. I am sure there must be a lot out there. I do hope you will have the possibility to visit it one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This sounds so so good. I added it to my TBR.
      I am in my late 50s, and currently learning Italian (for reading) and Russian, and I’m not retired lol. Can you read Japanese? It seems to me it’s harder than speaking it, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No Japanese knowledge here although my husband studied it at classes for a couple of years before I met him! I’m doing Spanish for eventually considering getting a home there (husband with SAD) and it’s not too bad as I already have OK French and there is a lot of overlap.


        • Yes Spanish grammar, conjugation, and vocabulary, have so much in common – Spanish from Spain also easier (at least to my ears) than South American variations). Good luck for your project!
          I’m currently teaching myself reading Italian. I work mostly with Duolingo, but instead of saying I speak English (or French!) and want to learn Italian, I chose: I speak Spanish and am learning Italian, so that I’m refreshing my Spanish at the same time


  6. I’ve only read a few non-fiction books on Japan or by Japanese authors. It’s interesting that it’s one of those countries like France that seem to be so culturally attractive to people. For me it’s been India and I have been there.


    • So glad you were able to go to India. I know 3 friends who’ve been there and they totally fell in love. Not sure why, but I have never been attracted by African countries nor India. Maybe because most of the novels based in India I have read were so depressing


  7. I can’t offer you very many options unfortunately. Most of my reading has been of books relating to Japanese business practices – not the kind of thing that is very entertaining!

    One I can recommend however is Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life. It’s a series of articles on different aspects of life in the city that originally appeared in Newsweek Japan. I liked them. because they are based so much on observation of just living in the city – things like the fact special maps are produced to show you where to find the best cherry trees during the blossom season, or what you can find in vending machines. I read it after I’d been to Tokyo a few times and it resonated with what I saw myself.


  8. Some of the only independently published books I’ve read and loved are a series of essay collections about Japan written by Michael Pronko. He lived in Japan for years, so he’s able to give an outsider’s perspective of lots of little details of daily life in Japan.


  9. Great topic. I’ve always been fascinated by Japan and my son went there last year (before Covid, of course, now it’s an even more impossible dream to ever get there). My chosen topic is The Tudors.

    But I doubt you’re too old to learn Japanese. You’ve learned several other languages already, right? So, they say it gets easier with every language (and that’s true as long as the languages are similar but your brain already functions in several languages, so that helps). Have you ever tried Duolingo? It’s a great programme. And it’s free.

    Anyway, Happy Reading!


  10. Pingback: Nonfiction November 2020: New on my TBR | Words And Peace

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