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Japan Dreams: notes from an unreal country Paperback – December 7, 2010
A traveller comes to Japan and is slowly absorbed into a complex and increasingly unnerving interplay of reality, representation, substitution, the virtual, the artificial, the counterfeit and the unreal. In form, 'Japan Dreams' is loosely modelled on 'Pillow Book' by Sei Shonagon and 'As I crossed a bridge of dreams' by Lady Sarashina, both written c. 1000 AD. The narrative moves between travelogue, meditation, exploration of ideas, discourse on various subjects, dreams, lists, and introspection. Fact and fiction become harder to separate as the story unfolds. What starts as straightforward documentary metamorphoses into chaotic self-absorption, and the reader is left examining the very same question examined by the narrator: is this real?
A very personal first-person account, 'Japan Dreams' touches on numerous aspects of Japanese culture: arts and heritage, attitudes to time and space, sexuality, language, technology, media, entertainment, identity and self, values, family, city and country life, and religion.
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Whereas many books look at and comment on either 'Japan' or 'the Japanese', Peters interprets the country through the personal relationships which he forms with the Japanese people who he meets. Of necessity, this approach is at the same time both more idiosyncratic and more revealing than the rather impersonal technique of the more standard texts which I have read. The ending is both abrupt and intriguing, and I was left wondering 'why?, perhaps a sequel might tell us.
If you have an interest in understanding something of Japan, through the Japanese people, then you should read this book, both for what it says, and for the context which it provides.