Subjective, albeit detached (even alienated), reflections from a gaijin who returned to Japan as much in search of himself as the soul of his host country. A British barrister who had traveled through and written about war-torn Afghanistan, Hodson (Under a Sickle Moon, 1987) was seconded as a securities trader to the Tokyo branch of the London- based bank for which he had worked a couple of years back. While in Japan, the vaguely discontented, thirtysomething author (who had visited Japan as a youth in pursuit of enlightenment) kept a journal, which he draws on here to offer allusive and episodic impressions of his not-altogether-happy stay. Although fluent in Japanese, for example, Hodson experienced great difficulty communicating in a self-absorbed, status-conscious society where urban materialism had all but vanquished traditional values. After constant contact with Japanese colleagues and European friends, in fact, he concluded that money is ``the one-word language everyone understands.'' Notwithstanding cultural and spiritual shocks, Hodson (who seems to have led a notably active night life during his 12-month sojourn) provides vivid examples of the joyless hedonism, sexual license, violence, and other of affluence's less appealing excesses that have undermined the consensual harmony if not moral fiber of an economic superpower. For a variety of reasons (a lost love, office politics, a new flame, existential angst), the author eventually decided to return home, thereby completing his ``circle round the sun.'' Though Hodson largely lets his observations speak for themselves, he occasionally lapses into fortune-cookie wisdom: ``In the yoga of the direct path, one life is enough. But it depends on the trajectory.'' That cavil apart: a different and rewarding appreciation of modern Japan.