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Lonely Planet Journeys: Lost Japan Paperback – April 1, 1996
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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. To that end, I look forward to reading Dogs and Demons to see how Kerr's thoughts have changed in the interim after writing Lost Japan.
I did not agree with everything Kerr had to say, but I found his arguments and ideas stimulating and fresh. I hope Japan pulls itself out of its cultural and economic recession soon, but as Kerr hints at, a mere decade is no cause for panic in a country where events are measured in centuries and millennia. Japan has suffered worse destruction in its past; here's hoping that the difficulties of the past decade will be made worth it with the rebirth of a new Japan that is able to combine features of its past with the realities of the present.