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Gangsters, Geishas, Monks & Me: A Memoir of Three Years in the Underbelly of Japan Paperback – November 30, 2012
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About the Author
Gordon Hutchison hit the road after Duke University in 1971 with a BA in Psychology and Religion. After four years hitchhiking America, Germany and the Virgin Islands, he landed in Japan on the first stop of a trip around the world—a 30-year first stop. After his years with the gangsters, geishas and monks, he went on to specialize in Japanese folk religions at Sophia Graduate School of International Studies, teach Hatha yoga in Japanese and log twenty-four years as a copywriter—four at the world’s largest ad agency and the rest at the smallest, his own. He lives with his nine-year-old son Evan in Cary, North Carolina.
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I wish this book was out before I started doing business in Japan; I could have made fewer mistakes and perhaps had less of a painful learning curve. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone planning a trip to Japan other than a guided tour, and even more so to anyone planning to work or do business in Japan. Though the book does not touch upon corporate Japan, please trust me when I say that Japan, Inc. does not differ in any of its behaviors, both trivial and profound from the temple and the Yakuza cultures Mr. Hutchison so eloquently and entertainingly describes.
This was a well written, well paced book. He avoided all of the traps I expected to find in this type of story. The chapter on Mari was especially well done. This is one I will re-read and recommend over and over. A surprisingly good time!
The book is written with great detail, complete with very interesting observations about Japanese culture- what a non-Japanese person could see as a rude gesture might in fact be a polite one (and vice-versa), and discovering how to get by in Japan alongside Gordon is a really exciting journey. When he gets into an awkward situation, you feel it. When he has a victory, like being able to ask, in Japanese, how much that chocolate ball costs, you feel the victory as well.
Even as he finds the unlikeliest of friends in a Yakuza mob boss, everything seems to make sense as we follow along with Gordon's logic through situation he is in. The book is feels very honest and there are a ton of great characters he meets along the way.
If you have any interest in the dark side of Japan, Japanese culture in general, or just an exciting account of an unexpected journey, this is the book for you!
The book isn't just about drinking and doing things most Westerners consider "wrong". There are lots of great interactions, interactions that still occurred as recently as the 90s, and I certainly found humor in many of the author's circumstances. (I remember walking down the road having school boys yell "Gaijin" at me in Shiga Ken.)
Great book. Highly recommended.
Well thank goodness for that, because I absolutely loved this book. Hutchison managed to do exactly what Whiting always does: offer another perspective of Japan that I either 1) never experienced or 2) overlooked. And he made it fun!
I could give lots of details about the book but it wouldn't do the story justice. Much better to go to the source. Whether you're an old Japan-hand, cultural anthropologist, or just someone who loves a great yarn, this is a wonderful read.
An impressive first book. Looking forward to Hutchison's next one.
Most recent customer reviews
Book Review by Timothy Skye (May, 2017)
Gordon Hutchinson...Read more
Time period is mid-70's. Very well recommended.