Book: The Little Book of Japan by Charlotte Anderson with Photography by Gorazd Vilhar (NEW September 2013)
One of the very precise and spiritual arts of Japan that has made its way to the western world is bonsai ( the pronunciation, bone-sigh, was pounded into my skull by a book I once read). This little Japan guidebook strikes me as a kind of literary/photographic bonsai.
Charlotte Anderson has taken on the subject of Japan, including culture, religion, history, geography, and covers it all in concise paragraphs lavishly illustrated by the photos of Gorazd Vilhar. The pair have written seven other books on Japan, where they live.
Normally, a book with so many stunning images would be a coffee table extravaganza, but in bonsai style, The Little Book of Japan, contains its essence in 191 pages that fit within a bright red cover that is just six inches by six inches. The size makes it an easy book for the traveler to take along as a Japan guidebook, even though it is not the traditional guide to places to sleep and eat.
The section on places gives condensed descriptions of the major cities and attractions, to whet your appetite for travel. The subject matter, divided into four major categories: Cultural Icons, Traditions, Places, and Spiritual Life will prepare the traveler to understand and fit into a very different culture.
If you read about foreign places to learn something new–to get a feel for the culture, rather than planning travel–you will still get good value from The Little Book of Japan. I must confess that Japan has never been on my wannagothere list, even though I have read several very good books about the country. And because I have only been to Japan through books and movies, I still do not know much about the culture. So I was fascinated to see that I knew more than I thought I knew about Japan, but this tiny Japan guidebook taught me many new things as well.
I developed a new appreciation for the wide variety and artistry of bento boxes, even though I rarely eat Japanese food, let alone prepare it. I laughed out loud to learn about the Japanese fondness for good luck amulets when I saw one that you attach to your computer keyboard. (Now there’s something that might come in handy!) How interesting to see how future-oriented the Japanese are, and how puzzled by other’s interest in “old things.” Nevertheless, they have adapted to the world’s view that historic buildings and places are important and preserve some of their heritage which makes travelers happy.
Of course I know about the manga culture (a higher form of comic book and animation), and the impact it has had on our own literature (the growth of illustrated novels, for example) but I had not heard of Otaku, a slang word referring to obsessive fandom for many types of fantasy and play-acting. Like going to “Maid cafes” where the servers dress in Victorian black dresses and ruffled aprons and serve tea from English porcelain; or collecting fantasy figure dolls; or getting together with friends and dressing in fantasy costumes.
Flower arranging, tea ceremonies, architecture, shoes–every angle of Japanese art and culture are explored in this beautiful little Japan guidebook that isn’t really a routine tourism guidebook, but really is a guide to the culture of Japan.
The book was provided by the publisher for review. My opinions are always my own. Sometimes I insert links to Amazon so you can find a book easily. Although it costs you no more, you are supporting A Traveler’s Library when you purchase through our links. Thanks!