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36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan Paperback – October 25, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

English professor Davidson recounts her travels in Japan in the 1980s; BOMC selection in cloth.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

One of America's most significant exports is the English language and the culture that accompanies it. Thousands of Americans have gone abroad to teach English, and hundreds of them have written books about their experiences. These books tend to reveal as much about their authors--and thus our shared American culture--as they do about the host culture in which they find themselves. A professor at Duke who has visited Japan four times, Davidson writes perceptively, frankly, and personally about her struggles to understand Japanese ways. She also attempts to reconcile those ways with her own life. Davidson has much to say about the role of women in both cultures and of the problems of trying to live in both worlds, but, unlike most authors of this genre, she is nonjudgmental and fair. This is one of the best "explanations" of Japanese culture, and our problems in understanding it, that has come along in years. Highly recommended.
- Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (October 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822339137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822339137
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cathy Davidson teaches at Duke and writes for the Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Inside Higher Ed, and has been featured in Fast Company, the New York Times, and on blogs and in tweets the world over! She is the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and has published over twenty books on technology, education, and the history of reading,writing, and printing. She is currently on a 50-stop international author tour for Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press), which Publishers Weekly has named "one of the top ten science books" of the Fall 2011 season. With the team at a nonprofit she cofounded called HASTAC ("haystack"), she administers the annual $2 million MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions. You can find out more at www.cathydavidson.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By James R. Hoadley on July 30, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
...but I just didn't like this book.

I live in Japan, and the Japan the author describes just doesn't jibe with what I see around me every day. The author claims that her status as a university professor do not make her experiences special or unique. However as someone who has been in a similiar situation and now leads a more normal life, I say that it MUST. I also found her criticism of other foreigners unfair and prone to caricaturization. While there is value in observing the "ugly tourists" and those who have "gone native," it is also important to look inside to see if we can find any of those people inside ourselves. The author chooses not to, and comes across as somewhat elitist as a result.

I was confused by the author's representation of her linguistic skills. She often claims to have little language ability, but then she also claims to have complex communications with people who do not speak English. I had great difficulty justifying the two ideas, as my own experience has been that even when you think you know what is going on, you probably don't. And I speak, read and write Japanese quite well.

I had difficulty with her presentation of a Japanese man who has an outspoken, artistic, independent French wife as typical. I have known a few people like that, and while I'm glad they are my friends, I wouldn't dare try to pass any of them off as typical.

Finally, I got the feeling that the author wasn't really "going to" Japan as much as she was "running away" from America. In her book, Japan generally receives favorable treatment, while America is often criticized. The author seems to have a thinly-veiled Lafcadio Hearn complex, where she wants to replace her American identity with a Japanese one.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am currently living in a small seaside city off the coast of the Japan Sea and have been living in Japan for approximately the same amount of time that Davidson lived here. I read Davidson's book when I first arrived here, when I was just as enamored with Japan as she was. Everything here was new, exciting and exotic. But now, a number of months later, I can't relate to this optimistic, sugar-coated view of Japan. This book is perfect for the tourist of Japan. But for anyone wishing to stay longer than three months here, this book presents a wholly unrealistic view of life abroad. Life in Japan is just that: life. Some days I want to stay here forever; other days I would leave in an instant, if I could. I would like to relate to the Davidson in the book who, despite her inability to learn the language and her rather short stay here, was able to create bonding relationships and form a complete, expert-like opinion of Japan. Yet I found this view of Japan (and all of the 36 other views) totally unrealistic and helplessly romantic.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jimmy P on March 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an excellent book. It should be required reading for anyone interested in living in Japan and for all foreigners currently living there. Ms. Davidson portrays the Japanese people with insight and "dead-on" accuracy. You'll come away with a better understanding of Japan and Japanese culture. It was both humorous and though provoking. This is the best book I've ever read about what it's like to be a "gaijin" in Japan. I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By jeanne-scott on November 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful story that gives insight into Japanese culture. Cathy N. Davidson opens her heart and soul to share her experience of living in Japan in a University town. She leaves behind the stereotypes and misconceptions about who the Japanese people are and what the Japanese are about. The experience of being a gaijin, a foreigner, in Japan is a fascinating experience. She uses her own personal experiences and friendships as the backdrop to develop an understanding of the differences that exist culturally and how she copes with the misunderstandings and indulgences that come together to create interpersonal relationships. The interesting aspect in this situation is that each side has a different perspective and the rules of engagement are not clear. She handles the differences with understanding and an inquisitiveness that is open and honest in seeking out the similarities that are below the surface and the culturally ingrained realities that drive the Japanese. The overworked and driven businessmen, the stressful educational system, childhood indulgence phenomenon, along with a difficult language and a written language that takes years to comprehend are all a part of the tale.
She also brings some deep personal insights into her own life into the story that make this book so much more than a travelogue!!
This book was a treasure for me to read after just returning from another trip to Tokyo and having experienced many similar situation and discussions.
Ms. Davidson's love and appreciation of a culture and country that is so different from her own shines through out her writing. Her delight in new experiences, different ideas and her open, honest heart make this book a discerning and perceptive narrative.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SHILMOTU on November 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Davidson Sensei's book is worthwhile just for the vignettes and anecdotes about a gaijin living in Japan in the 1980's. The book is even better as a discourse and commentary on the relative merits of egalitarian and elitist cultures.

For many gaijin, Japan is a middleclass paradise... safe, clean, polite, orderly, full of giri (reciprocity); an egalitarian meritocracy. The ultimate middle class experience. At first, Davidson falls in love with Japan but by her fourth visit, she sees it as a sad, depressing place. Her discomfort reaches a peak during a stay at her former host University's Practice House, an ersatz model Western home designed to be a laboratory for teaching young Japanese women Western manners, practices and protocols.

The Western, and particularly the American elite's disdain, if not outright contempt for what's left of the middle class is well known. Academic elites, in particular, loath their middle class students (while craving the middle class tuition dollars that pay their salaries). Davidson tells us about her family's failed efforts to participate in the middle class Chicagoland suburbia of the 1950's. She hates all of the mid-20th century middle class symbolism in her Japanese host's Western Practice House.

Davidson moves on to a job at an elite East Coast University, builds a fabulous Japanese house on a beautiful lakeside setting in the country, and leads a live that most Americans can only imagine. Ultimately, the author chooses to participate in the upmarket options that are only available to her in Elitist America instead of the living in middle class Japan. She makes the decision after a blinding flash of insight gained while vacationing in Paris.
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