Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.
I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
This week we are visiting the country of Japan. Click on the titles of the books to go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com to read reviews and/or purchase the book.
Here is an easy to see map of Japan:
To learn more about Japan and Japanese Culture, click here.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
An epic on an intimate scale, Memoirs of a Geisha takes the reader behind the rice-paper screens of the geisha house to a vanished floating world of beauty and cruelty, from a poor fishing village in 1929 to the decadence of 1940s Kyoto, through the chaos of World War II to the towers of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the gray-eyed geisha Sayuri unfolds the remarkable story of her life. Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria. Genre: Fiction Publisher: Random House
Sixteen-year-old Takeo's village has been massacred by an evil warlord, and he is about to be slain by the men who murdered his parents and neighbors. At the last moment, his life is saved by a nobleman, who claims the boy as his kin and begins his education. But nothing is as it seems. Takeo discovers that he has rare powers that are useful to those around him. As he grows into manhood, he must decide where his loyalties lie: with his noble master and adoptive father; with the Hidden, a secret, spiritual sect whose beliefs are forbidden; or with the Tribe, the assassins and spies who consider him one of their own. A story of treachery, political intrigue, and the intensity of first love, set in a world ruled by formal ritual and codes of honor, Across the Nightingale Floor crosses genres, generations, and genders to captivate fans of all ages. Genre: Fiction, Mystery; Series Publisher: Penguin Group
Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple by Kaoru Nonomura
At the age of thirty, Kaoru Nonomura left his family, his girlfriend, and his job as a designer to undertake a year of ascetic training at Eiheiji, one of the most rigorous Zen training temples in Japan. This book is Nonomura's account of his experiences. He skillfully describes every aspect of training, including how to meditate, how to eat, how to wash, and even how to use the toilet, in a way that is easy to understand even for readers with no knowledge of Zen Buddhism. This first-person account also describes Nonomura's struggles in the face of beatings, hunger, exhaustion, fear, and loneliness, the comfort he draws from his friendships with the other trainees, and his quiet determination to give his life spiritual meaning. After writing Eat Sleep Sit, Kaoru Nonomura returned to his normal life as a designer, but his book has maintained its popularity in Japan, selling more than 100,000 copies since its first printing in 1996. Beautifully written, and a fascinating insight into a lifestyle of hardships that few people could endure, this is a book that will appeal to all those with an interest in Zen Buddhism and to anyone with an interest in the quest for spiritual growth. Genre: Travel, Spirituality Publisher: Kodansha International
A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson
This delicately crafted artist's journal offers colorful impressions of a young woman's extended visit in Kyoto, Japan. Williamson's watercolors are playful, bright and spare, and each section illustrates a theme or topic that has inspired the artist/author over her travels to a country devoted to attention to detail. For example, Williamson explores numerous rituals of dining, such as offering a guest green tea accompanied by a piece of wagashi, or bean paste confection, and illustrates over two pages the elegant lunch she ordered at a temple serving shojin ryori, the vegetarian cuisine of Zen Buddhist monks. The sacred rope that unites the "male" and "female" rocks of the Shinto site Meoto-Iwa warrants both an intimate view (the rope) and a full, breathtaking seascape of the wedded rocks. Williamson renders eye-catching holidays from August's O'bon, featuring a trio of three white-socked and sandaled feet under pink kimonos, to April's stately sakura (cherry blossom) season. Some of the people Williamson depicts are sumo wrestlers wearing headphones and riding the subway, and two geishas side by side in full regalia—one apprentice, the other professional. For travelers to Japan, and those who treasure their visit, this is a splendid record. 350 color illustrations. Genre: Japanese History, Travel Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa by Karin Muller
At age 34, American documentary filmmaker, writer, and judo maven Muller spent a year in Japan searching for the meaning of life. Her narrative account is both raucous and revelatory, full of piquant observations of Japanese culture, from sumo wrestlers and samurai warriors to a 1,400-year-old ascetic mountain cult known for walking on hot coals. Muller's renderings of her Japanese host family, who lived in the Tokyo suburb of Fugisawa, are wonderfully edgy: tall, salt-and-pepper-haired judo master Genji, whose stern manner is offset by a mellifluous laugh; frosty-hearted Yukiko, the Japanese equivalent of a Stepford wife; and single 28-year-old daughter Junko, who, much to her family's chagrin, shows no signs of settling down. The author, who headed to Japan in pursuit of wa (the Japanese word for harmony), returned with a reverence for geishas, an appetite for sauteed crickets, and an appreciation for the contradictions that suffuse life in Japan. A companion PBS documentary, Japanland Memoir , will provide another avenue of sharp commentary from Muller, whose previous books and films have documented her adventures in South America and Vietnam. Genre:Publisher: Rodale Books
The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu
This is widely considered to be the world's first novel. I am reading this book now as part of a read along with other bloggers. Click here to see my first post about it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you know of some books that take place in Japan that you want to share? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!
Be sure to check back next week for a trip in books to Spain!
The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:
create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide