In Windows on Japan, a New Zealander walks across rural Japan and ponders centuries-old perceptions about the country that is still prisoner to an isolationist past. In a deeply insightful commentary, the author surveys cultural, social and political mores, explores the wellspring of racial perception and the problem of the memory of war. Windows on Japan alternates chapters of physical travel with travel through perception about Japan, and challenges the logic of much Western thought about the country that perplexes as much as it pleases.
The author walked a route that connects the ports of Niigata and Yokohama and from these windows on the world considers perceptions of people and place. He also assesses the effect of Japan on writers from Jonathan Swift to Oscar Wilde, Shirley MacLaine and Paul Theroux with surprising results.
The trading entity that wraps its tentacles around the globe, converses in most languages and understands most customs, is perceptive and urbane and none appears more capable or cosmopolitan. Yet the individuals who inhabit these islands take refuge in their language as a private habitat, resent intrusions, and are captured by a cultural particularism that distances them from others. The author discusses this paradox, as well as environmental and linguistic issues and topics of history and literature. Along the way, he lifts a veil on the life of a snow country geisha, discusses current events with a priest and a reporter, and takes advice on becoming a Japanese. Though he is understood, it is only on return visits to places he has come to love that he wins acceptance.
Notes on music delightfully enrich the narrative.