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Lonely Planet Journeys: Lost Japan Paperback – April 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0864423705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0864423702
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

one of the finest books about Japan written in decades' -- Insight Japan

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

Customer Reviews

If you have any interest at all in Japan, this is a must read book.
Dennis A. Murphy
Reading this book has given me more cultural insight into this country, both good & bad, than a whole year living in this socially impenetrable society.
Ant
Alex Kerr has authored the best book I've read on contemporary Japan.
Erika

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
When Alex Kerr talks about "Lost Japan," it is clearly his own personal Japan that is being lost. He speaks fondly of the "literati" of old Japan, a group of well-off leisure class who whistled their days away creating art and appreciating beauty, free of toil or earthly constraints. Oxford and Yale educated, coming from money, Kerr firmly sees himself as the last vanguard of the literati, and his lifestyle is leaving him. The lifestyle of the educated elite.
Composed of a series of unrelated articles, the book tells the tale of Kerr's life, of things that happen to capture his fancy, and of the intersecting lives of wealthy art dealers, artists and artisans. Everyone in the book is a genius. Everyone, the last embodiment of their vanishing breed. The world has become too cold to appreciate them. This is the Japan that is lost.
The book is incredibly well-written, and Kerr sees with the eyes of an artist. He has insights into parts of Japanese culture that would normally be closed, such as the back stage scene of Kabuki theater. His writing is strong enough to make you long for that vanishing Japan. Secret places and unappreciated nooks will appear as interesting as the most famous temple in Kyoto.
Worth reading and enjoyable, but ultimately a grain of salt is needed. Kerr's elitism leaves him blind to anything modern, any new artistic innovation or art form. He sees only the past, and wants to capture Japan like a photograph, and preserve it forever.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Stevens VINE VOICE on May 5, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was hooked by "Lost Japan" immediately and could not put it down until I finished the last page. This book should be required reading for anyone who's lived in Japan, anyone who's interested in Japan, or even anyone who thinks all there is to Japan is samurai and geisha (or alternatively, anime and Pokemon). Lost Japan is very reminiscent of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's "In Praise of Shadows": they are both works lamenting a disappearing Japan, and both are told in a series of seemingly unrelated essays and anecdotes. Unfortunately, as several reviewers have mentioned already, sometimes Kerr goes to the point that his stories are so self-focused that they detract from the big picture. The entire chapter on literati, for example, did not add much to the story for me at least. However, overall Kerr's style is a success.
What impressed me the most with this book is how well Kerr was able to avoid falling into the easy traps of Japan Bashing or Japan Worship. It is obvious that he loves Japan, but at the same time his vision is clear enough so that he can view Japan objectively and speak hard truths. Most likely, any reader of this book who has been to Japan for any period of time found themselves nodding along to many parts of this book that were both critical of and in praise of modern Japan. Kerr says so many things that seem so obvious, and yet they feel so novel because the Japanese themselves have not publicly admitted that there are serious, fundamental problems in contemporary society. The sad thing is that it has been about a decade since Kerr's essays were published in Japan and it is questionable whether Japan has made any real progress in that time.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Erika on January 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Alex Kerr has authored the best book I've read on contemporary Japan. I lived in Osaka from 1992-1994. Mr. Kerr's observations on everything from the arts and environment to business and education struck familiar chords. This book is excellent for foreign nationals currently living in Japan, and for anyone who's ever lived there. The book was originally written for a Japanese audience so some points may be lost on readers who've never made the trip. However, if you're planning to go to Japan and want to learn about more than cultural stereotypes, Lost Japan is your ticket.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 22, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have mixed feelings about this book. There is a central thesis to the book - that Japan's culture is "lost," and worth saving. However, the episodic nature of the book, and the fact that his most impassioned writing comes at the beginning, distracts from the thesis. Instead, the book comes off as an extended one-way conversation with the author, which I must admit wasn't entirely a good thing. While he's obviously intelligent and sensitive, and intimately involved with what he writes about, I found myself a little turned off by the constant name-dropping, claims that anybody mentioned anywhere in the book is a genius, and the tangential anecdotes and facts which seemed entirely self-serving. At one point, he mentions being accepted into an Oxford school society so elite that undergraduates haven't been allowed in for two hundred years. Impressive, but it doesn't have anything to do with the book, and comes off as posturing.
Having been born in Honolulu, with similar problems such as ugly, sprawling hotel districts and a kidnapped culture, I'm extremely sympathetic to Alex Kerr's anger at the uglification and cultural deadening of Japan. However, his attitude towards modern Japan is one of instant revulsion. The revulsion lends the book a bitter-old-man sentimentality, that everything has gotten worse. That's not a minor gripe - the author has made it his goal, both in this book and in personal life, to prove that the traditional ways of Japan should be more a part of modern Japanese life. Waxing on about Japan's traditional arts, while unilaterally rejecting modern Japan, just furthers the book's counter-thesis: that the modern and traditional aren't compatible.
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