JAPAN: In the Land of the Brokenhearted by Michael Shapiro

JAPAN: In the Land of the Brokenhearted

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bittersweet account of the ups and downs of being an American in Japan. After five years in Japan, American journalist Shapiro finds that live there "doesn't add up"--insulting one moment, open-armed the next, the Japanese seem to raise enigma to high art. Shapiro casts a wide net to sort it all out, hauling in the Japanese experiences of six Americans. An athlete, Leon Lee, does his best to play baseball as the Japanese do, developing the "wa" (harmony) and "fighto" (fighting spirit) held in such high esteem; but he is forever an outsider and a team scapegoat when things go wrong. Businessman Eugene Mathews lares a bit better, immersing himself in Think Laboratory's climate of sacred loyalty to boss and company, until he finally wins permission to open an American branch. A missionary couple, Armin and Evelyn Kroehler, bring the United Church of Christ to the Japanese countryside, but find they serve more often as local confidantes and social organizers (Evelyn sets up a Books and Tea Club). Graduate student Kathy Morikawa, from Pittsburgh, rocks the bureaucracy when, to protest the xenophobic Alien Registration Law, she refuses to be routinely fingerprinted. And expatriate author Lafcadio Hearn, disappointed by America, searches in Japan for a gossamer land no longer in existence. Much here to please Japan lovers, especially those enchanted by Japanese quirks-pasta topped with potatoes, fishing trips on which no one fishes, baseball with a floating strike zone, Christmas celebrations without Christ. Shapiro's posture--inquisitive, befuddled, wistful--seems just right. Quiet but evocative.

ISBN: 8050-0395-9
Publisher: Henry Holt
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