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Kyoto: A Cultural History (Cityscapes) Paperback – February 16, 2006

7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'an engaging work of cultural geography'; 'carefully crafted structure''; 'a pensive work that is historical, literary, and a cultural profile' -- Japan Times, June 4, 2006 (Stephen Mansfield)

About the Author

John Dougill is Associate Professor of English at Ryukoku University in Kyoto. He is the author of Oxford in English Literature.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cityscapes
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195301382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195301380
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.7 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on August 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
When you write a book in praise of Kyoto, it's hard to go wrong by me. This fine and refined metropolis--formerly Japan's political capital and (sorry Tokyo) always and ever its cultural capital--is in all honesty one of my favorite places on earth, and back when I lived in Japan nary a month would go by that I wouldn't visit it at least once. Back here in the States that's not really possible, unfortunately, and so it's quite a delight to at least be able to revisit Kyoto through the pages of this brief but heartfelt cultural history.

The author has lived and worked in Kyoto for a long time as a professor of British Studies at Ryukoku University, and so has a deft first-hand familiarity with the city along with an obvious deep affection and enthusiasm for the place, all of which he unselfishly shares with the reader. On the other hand, since this is not his primary scholarly field, he has taken a vast store of variously scattered expert studies and translated primary sources and weaved these together with his own anecdotal accounts, memories, and impressions; some might dismiss this as "unoriginal" but to read so widely and then handpick the relevant portions and craft them into a coherent narrative that's personal, personable, entertaining, and informative all in one is no mean feat and is nothing to sneeze at. That said, the parts where he digressed to discuss his own experiences of Kyoto were often the parts that really shone for me as a reader, as these were often perceptive and thought-provoking as well as sometimes funny--and speaking of funny, the author has a wonderful penchant for lame puns and silly jokes that add a certain fatherly charm to the prose.
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For a one-book introduction to a city whose history spans at least 1,200 years, this somewhat idiosyncratic historical and cultural jaunt is pretty good. I use it as an introductory text for students travelling to Kyoto for a study abroad experience. I provides just enough historical background to allow those not deeply steeped in Japanese history a few hooks upon which to hang their experiences. As a bonus, it offers a great number of recommendations (implicitly) of things to see and do over the course of one's study-abroad experience that will add significantly to the depth of that residence.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Well-written overview of Japanese cultural concepts particular to Kyoto, such as the various Buddhist sects, Tea Ceremony, Noh, Geisha, etc. Each concept is woven into a relevant historical period, with many important personalities introduced. Before going to Japan, it helped me tremendously to understand both the "big picture" of Kyoto history, and to decide which of the many Kyoto temples and shrines to visit. The book is not a traditional guide, however - it's more of a narrative history, with some personal reflections and recommendations of the author.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an academic who specializes in Kyoto's history, I can say without reserve that this is one of the best cultural histories of Kyoto written in modern times. It has a style immediately accessible to general readers and undergraduates, yet also a level of sophistication that will appeal to scholars alike. Travellers interested in getting much more from Japan's ancient capital than a travel guide could ever provide should also check out this book. Highly recommended.
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