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My Mother is a Tractor: A Life in Rural Japan Paperback – July 6, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"My Mother is a Tractor offers a disturbingly realistic look at life as an Assistant Language Teacher... A must read for anyone pondering signing up for the JET Program or private ALT providers. The book's message, or warning, is simple: This is life in Japan. Enter at your own risk. Enjoy your stay."
Dwayne Lively, The Crazy Japan Times

"My Mother is a Tractor contains the wry insights of a former JET- Nicholas Klar who has written about his experiences. Required reading for anyone contemplating JET-hood or thinking of teaching English in Japan"
Jan Dodd, The Rough Guide to Japan

"My Mother is a Tractor is a witty and light account of one man's time in Japan. It is neither an academic tome nor the last word on the topic--and it stakes no claim to either... Never pedantic, always open: a good summer read."
C.Ogawa, Japan Visitor

About the Author

Nicholas Klar is the self proclaimed "World's worst author", although he may possibly be only the third or fourth worst (depending on which critic you read). "Least successful" may be a more appropriate term.

He is a peripatetic teacher, historian and writer originally from Adelaide, Australia - but it's highly unlikely anyone actually remembers him there. He has lived in five different countries (all with varying GDP, democratic practices and personal grooming regimes), studied in Australia and the U.S., and has travelled widely throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Apart from the above, his only other real claims to recent fame are that he once was, 1) the only person in the whole of Shanghai without a mobile phone, and 2) apparently the only non-beer drinking Australian in the whole of East Asia.

'My Mother is a Tractor', released as paperback in late 2005 and recently as a Kindle version in 2012, is his first full-length book. He has also had several short stories, travelogues, articles and essays published previously in various media such as The Japan Times, Shanghai Daily, Fukuoka-Now, Asia! and Voyage.

When previously resident in Japan he was a regular contributor to the JET Journal, Niigata JOHO and other magazines. In recent times he has put together the 'Unofficial JET Programme Guide' in addition to being editor / webmaster of the very popular 'Explore the Heart of Japan' travel and ski website.

Since departing Shanghai after six long years he is now officially listed as, "Lost somewhere between a hot spring in Kyushu and a hawker stall in S-E Asia." However, more recent blogger opinion ascribes to the theory that he has been forcibly placed on the New York Times "Author Relocation Program".

His ambition is world peace, plus to be very rich without ever having to actually work for it. And maybe also to never hear the words "Hey...let's climb Mount Fuji!" again.

For more information, please visit klarbooks.com
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Trafford Publishing (December 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1412048974
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412048972
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,739,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Before I went to Japan to study in October of 2004, I visited the internet and discovered Nicholas Klar's webpage. He told some really entertaining stories about his times in the JET program (or programme). I was not going to be a JET, but I really wanted to discoved some the "people" side of the Japanese. So I read all I could of his adventures and essays online. Then I emailed him. He was kind enough to reply. In fact, when I inquired about buying his future book he nearly fell all over himself with enthusiasm. This was probably the starving author coming out in him. In any case, I was impressed that he would remember me a year later when the book was published and I was also impressed that the book is a fun read.

I think Nicholas's JET kids were fortunate to have him in their schools. His book does indeed show the Japanese to be both quirky and fun, which many people might find unexpected. He can tell a story that brings a tear to the eye, as well as one that brings a chuckle to anyone, familiar with Japan or not.

Buy the book and have a good read.
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Format: Paperback
A friend reccomended this book to me before I begin a study abroad in Japan. I had read alot of "memoir of Japan" type of books and was prepared for something similar to "36 Views of Mt. Fuji" or "Learning to Bow". I quickly learned that Klar prefers to push copious amounts of information all into one fun book. I was taken aback at the lack of organization at first. Klar will launch into a brief, but detailed, talk of perverts in Japan and immediately jump into a Memorial Peach Park opening ceremony. However, the book has a ridiculous amount of (semi) useful information and still remains a memoir of sorts. The book will have you laughing out loud and enjoying Klar's writing style.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book. Instead, I was unable to finish it. It started on such a good note with possibly the truest line ever written about Japan: ‎"Despite its perceived contradictions, Japan is an utterly amazing place that must be experienced"
Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. Klar badly needs an editor - and some sense of writing. This isn't a blog and random notes to "check chapter 10" or "remember her, she's important later" take away from the flow rather than improve it. This might have been readable as a web diary but not as a book that I (sadly) paid money for. So much potential as a way for use to see less seen areas of Japan - like Niigata, but instead we get the gaijin stereotype of pissing away money, drinking his two years in Japan and not coming away with as much experience.

I made it past my 50 pages to give it a chance, but it didn't grab me and I'm not going to finish it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author was priviledged to be taken on this governement exchange programme and it grated on me that he didn't take it seriously enough to study Japanese, as he was given the opportunity to do, or participate wholeheartedly in the activites at the school where he was teaching.
The point of the exchange programme is very much cultural awareness and exchange, and it is funded by the Japanese government at least in part and I felt it should have got more bang for its bucks.
However Nick's accounts of his aventures seem honest and are amusing and they sound as though he were writing to his friends (he probably was and turned it into an ebook, and well done).
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Format: Paperback
A few years ago I went through literally all 130,447 Results of the nonfiction category of Amazon's Book section under the keyword "Japan". In the struggle I composed a fairly abundant reading list for books on people living in Japan including: Hokkaido Highway, Roads to Sata, Dave Barry Does Japan, Thank You and Ok, Lady and the Monk, 30 views of Mt Fuji, In Search of Wa, Rising Sons and Daughters, Learning to Bow. Klar's adventure is similar to the usual "disoriented foreigner steps into Japan for the first time and tries to use a squat toilet" formula of your typical gaijin memoir but still finds itself able to separate from the pack.

The book consists of Klar's days as a foreign teacher on the JET program. Anyone interested in becoming a JET should be sure to give it a read since the experience is recollected with chapters recounting the living conditions, working conditions, and the endless "enkai" parties. In between Klar dedicates chapters with insight into everyday Japanese society and culture covering the usual topics like love hotels, festivals, toliets, and "gomi" piles, but also reaches out to some primary sources as well with references to bizarre current events in regards to the cultural and political scene of the time.

It was a good read, with a much more relate-able narrator compared to the other authors I knew of that had found themselves in Japan. Klar also includes several pictures from his stay, which are a pleasant addition mostly absent from other Japan diaries. I would have liked to see more chapters dedicated to the experiences of the actual teaching part as a JET participate, relationships with teachers/students etc., but his endless bike adventures were rich enough to forgive that.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nicholas Klar's book took me back to my own time in the JET programme some years ago, and anyone who has lived in Japan will be able to identify with many of his experiences. This is one of many "my life in Japan" books that have been published over the years, and its no better than most of them. The chapters seem like haphazard vignettes and the text has a number of typos -- if I didn't have a thing about finishing books to the end, I probably would have abandoned it somewhere around halfway through...
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