Japan (2) – Lost Japan

July 9, 2009

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Alex Kerr, Lost Japan. Melbourne, Lonely Planet, 1996. Lonely Planet Journeys series. ISBN 0864423705.

Absolutely essential reading for anyone travelling to Japan. A highly recommended study of the mix of traditional and modern that makes up contemporaryJapan, from the perspective of a foreigner deeply embedded in traditional Japan. Every time I dip into it – and I’ve read the chapters on Osaka, Kyoto and Nara dozens of times – I find something new and surprising.

This is not just a readable bunch of essays devoted to kabuki, calligraphy, ink painting and traditional cultural centres Kyoto and Nara. It is essential reading both before and after visiting Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and the Yamato Plain. Kerr describes his foray into traditional architecture in Shikoku, far off the beaten track. His deep affection for kabuki and sumi is infectious and his descriptions of Kyoto and Nara are uncanny in their perceptiveness: the forests of Fushimi-Inari, the borrowed landscape at Ryoanji, Byodoin, the temple gate sculptures at Nara.

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