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At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman's Journey of Discovery Hardcover – May 10, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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"Pungent with sounds, tastes, colors and village and family lore&HELLIP;Otowa gives us a book of celebration, radiance, and renewal." —Japan Times
"A wonderful book about an old Japanese house, a resourceful American woman, and how they come together to honor the past and forge a bright future. What Frances Mayes did for Tuscany, Rebecca Otowa just might have done for the Japanese countryside. Bravo!" —Leza Lowitz, author of Green Tea to Go: Stories from Tokyo
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Top Customer Reviews
There are many books about Westerners living unique lives in Japan, but this account is different in that it is written by a Western woman who knowingly gave up a great deal of her original self to become a very different and probably far more satisfied person. Certainly the sacrifices that Ms. Otowa made would be impossible for many women or men born in societies placing great importance on individuality. This makes the stories relayed in this book so interesting. Chapter after chapter I was reminded of many of the thigs that I too have given up (knowingly or subconsciously) and then shown how each of those 'losses' have been replaced by at least twice as many gains.
My house, like the Otowa Family's has a very long history and though I bought mine (rather than marrying into it), the descriptions and care shown by Ms. Otowa for her 'new' home and surroundings ring true. Readers who have never spent time in rural Japan may find some of the stories a bit hard to visualize through text alone. However, the author's hand-drawn illustrations and personal photographs go a long way to filling any gaps in perception.
Hopefully a Japanese translation will follow in the near future in order that Japanese who are so quickly losing touch with their cultural heritage can realize what is being lost before it is too late.
Instead, her small gem-like meditations hint at a vast transformation based on seasons and rhythms of existence that even I, who live in the country, can only guess at. While we American women were creating prickly self-identities and fighting (we think) for our own place, Rebecca has been busy voluntarily subsuming herself into a graceful and very difficult stasis with a culture entirely antithetical to American sensibilities. That she's even half-succeeded is a miracle.
From her hard-won perch she observes this war--a war within herself. We know very little about Toshiro, her husband, or her two boys, and we don't need to. Unlike most Westerners, Rebecca knows her failings are her own. The book's beauty is--perhaps a little self-consciously--like "wabi sabi", the Japanese aesthetic of the irregular, impoverished or plain.
Interestingly, the result of her undated pieces--almost wholly without reference to the outside past, without a narrative chronological order--is a strange suspension: like a Japanese garden, her life could have been built yesterday, or 500 years ago. This beautiful antiquity is buttressed by Otowa's language: OUR ancestors, OUR house, OUR garden. I found myself shocked a little, and thrilled--in America, to claim ancestry of a race or group you patently are not of is....rude, disrespectful. But there I go again, thinking of the individual experience. See? I wouldn't last one day in Japan!Read more ›
Anyone who has spent time in Japan and who appreciates both its good and bad points will identify strongly, at some point or another, with Rebecca's account.
Her illustrations really bring the book to life--I only wish I could see the original full-color versions. (Hmmm, is there a web site, perhaps?)
The simplicity of this book's language and serial, "short story" style of organization give it a grace and pace that echos the nature and depth of this author's journey. It is a fascinating personal account written with frank dignity, love and understanding.
This memoir, filled with poetic writing and descriptions, chronicles Otowa's progress in assimilating into Japanese society. About cherry blossoms in spring, she says, "The sweet five-petaled, papery whitish flowers, sewn together in the center with a cross-stitch of pink, nod and shimmer on long, fragile green bunches of stems standing out against the rough and flaky bark with its characteristic horizontal bands." Without cynicism, criticism, or whining, Otowa embarks on a journey of discovery, raising two sons in the process. She includes lovely pencil sketches of her home, gardens, tea sets, Japanese written characters with translations, flowers, and friends. In addition, there are photographs of Otowa's environment, family, wedding, and children.
Otawa writes about how she volunteers to help others adjust to Japanese life and compares it to the bed of seedlings that she transplanted from a small crowded flat to the big field: "I like to think that I have helped some of them too, as they put down their roots.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an amazing book. I know a lot about Japan, but Rebeccas definitely knows more! Really a lovely, positive book.Published 22 days ago by Happy in Japan
Beautifully written, insightful and delicate book about one women's journey through cultural adaptation and appreciation. I loved it and read it in preparation to a trip to Japan. Read morePublished 9 months ago by miaOC
It is amazing how a person who was born in a country like the USA fully integrated in the Japanese society, a society that differs so much from the American. Read morePublished 11 months ago by M.G.Oliveira
Mrs. Otowa lets the reader experience what it's like to travel to a very different country and to commit to a very different life away from loving parents and sisters. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Helen Lederer
Very wonderful story. Happy to have this used edition. In fairly good shape too.Published 17 months ago by Sheri B.
Good read as as an American wife honors her husband by adapt to his Japanese culture. Pictures of her, their farmhouse, along with her husband and children make the book come... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Mary Karen McClelland
This book is the thoughts and reflections of a western woman that was born in the US, raised in Australia, and completed Asian studies in Japan. Read morePublished 19 months ago by D. C. Richard
In reading this book, I found learning about old fashioned customs from rural Japan of interest. The personal story line was flat however.Published 20 months ago by Rosanne Kaplan
it seemed like prose written by someone who has gone trough trials and tribulations of making their way in a different culture, coming out on the other end and deciding not to... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Monika Agnes