A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir

Download (21)Christopher Ross at Literary Review:

Anyone seriously interested in contemporary Japan, in particular its theatre, cinema and struggles with national identity since the American occupation, will most likely have at some time read Ian Buruma. There are only a few scholars, journalists, critics and commentators writing about Japan in English worth reading, and Buruma is one. So I wondered what I might find in this short book, subtitled ‘A Memoir’ presumably to distinguish it from strict autobiography. Buruma can be very funny: his novel about cricket, Playing the Game, contains an unforgettable character employed by an exceedingly fat maharaja whose sole and unlikely job is, when signalled, to raise a buttock of the prone prince so he might fart more comfortably. There are many comparably improbable images, usually sexual, often harrowing, in this account of Buruma’s six years in Japan, from 1975 until 1981. It might be an unwise choice of gift for your maiden aunt.

Buruma was twenty-four when he arrived in Tokyo in 1975, having by this time rejected a legal career. After acquiring a Japanese girlfriend in Amsterdam, he became interested in avant-garde theatre and cinema (his uncle was the director John Schlesinger) and decided to try his luck in Japan, obtaining a grant to study film at Nichidai in Ekoda.

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