In 1980 Cathy N. Davidson traveled to Japan to teach English at a leading all-women’s university. It was the first of many journeys and the beginning of a deep and abiding fascination. In this extraordinary book, Davidson depicts a series of intimate moments and small epiphanies that together make up a panoramic view of Japan. With wit, candor, and a lover’s keen eye, she tells captivating stories - from that of a Buddhist funeral laden with ritual to an exhilarating evening spent touring the “Floating World,” the sensual demimonde in which salaryman meets geisha and the normal rules are suspended. On a remote island inhabited by one of the last matriarchal societies in the world, a disconcertingly down-to-earth priestess leads her to the heart of a sacred grove. And she spends a few unforgettable weeks in a quasi-Victorian residence called the Practice House, where, until recently, Japanese women were taught American customs so that they would make proper wives for husbands who might be stationed abroad. In an afterword new to this edition, Davidson tells of a poignant trip back to Japan in 2005 to visit friends who had remade their lives after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, which had devastated the city of Kobe, as well as the small town where Davidson had lived and the university where she taught.
36 Views of Mount Fuji not only transforms our image of Japan, it offers a stirring look at the very nature of culture and identity. Often funny, sometimes liltingly sad, it is as intimate and irresistible as a long-awaited letter from a good friend.
©2006 Cathy Davidson (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
The book makes me want to visit Japan.
The book discusses the author's 10 visits to Japan and how her view of the country changes over time. Because of this book, I bought another one about Japanese culture.
She described how women and men are treated differently in Japan and how an added complication arises when the woman is an American and a professional. I felt sad for the salarymen and the endless studying for students. Her description of the island of Oki sounds wonderful - swimming around collecting glass balls used in fishing. This is in contrast with the Practice House - a house associated with a women's college where women students are taught how to behave in America. The only problem is that the Practice House is stuck in the 1960's, which matches the assumption that women's role in America is to cook, clean and make crafts.
I understand that an experience in a different country is individualistic. It is not fair to criticize the book because it doesn't match another person's experience. Just appreciate it for what it is - a retelling of events that happened to that person, at that time, in the place.
I enjoyed learning about the author's experience in Japan.
As a fellow English teacher in China I could identify with the author's struggle to learn Japanese and understand the culture. I listened to this while traveling around Japan this past summer. Her description of Osaka as being quite bland is true. Mrs. Bailey makes 5 trips to Japan in all and never quite seems satisfied with her level of skill in Japanese. She begins to understand how Japanese people have similar problems like we do in America and they open up to her over time. She designs her home in America with a Japanese motif. I am not sure I could live in such a small country for a year myself, but I had a good taste of what it must be like to live there while staying in cramped quarters all over Kyushu and Kansai. I found the islands she described the most enthralling. Perhaps the best advice of all when traveling is spend as little time as possible in the big cities in order to discover the true nature of the country you are in.
After a life-long fascination with Japan, Cathy Davidson went to Osaka to teach English at a women's college. What she saw was industrialized, dingy: ugly. It wasn’t what she'd expected.
She had a disastrous first day when she took a public physical exam with her students: the tiny medical gown didn’t fit, she made multiple cultural errors, and she had to carry a sample of urine that was blue (because of UTI medications) in front of everyone.
For the rest of the semester, her students were convinced that North Americans have blue pee.
Davidson was told by her host that "the Japanese have a great appreciation for beauty, and no appreciation for ugly." In her time spent there, she too grows to find the beauty even among the warehouses. “Wabi-sabi” seeps in: that beauty lies in the irregularity and impermanence.
This book is delightful, it has a lot of humor and appreciation for Japanese culture. You can tell Davidson fell in love with her adopted country.
"Remarkable insight, wonderful writing"
I thoroughly enjoyed Cathy Davidson's thoughtful, moving and inspiring account of her time in Japan. It helped me understand Japanese culture and behavior better. Certainly it "only" contains 36 very personal Gaijin views of the country, from near and far, but each was fascinating and authentic. The reading was impeccable and I suspect the relevance to modern-day Japan remains, despite the passing of time since Cathy wrote this superb book.
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