Tatami Days: Getting a Life in Japan (Paperback)
"You see, Japan does not actually rest atop an infinite pile of turtles, but on the back of a giant carp . . ."
In his mid-thirties, Australian freelance writer and PhD graduate Michael Guest headed for Japan on a whim, worked as tenured Professor in a national university, and stayed fifteen years. Memoir and cultural reflection, his captivating story is one of growth, adaptation and an ever-deepening appreciation of an enchanting, at times perplexing, society.
The author is a specialist in modern literature and humanities, with many academic and media articles to his credit, alongside international academic conference lectures. Guest takes an intellectual step beyond other books on culture and the expatriate experience in producing a rich and witty read. In his original take on the creative non-fiction memoir, we pursue the elusive spirit of the country. Notably, the book offers an insider's view of the nuances of university and professional college cultures, and the challenges and opportunities encountered in a career in Japan.
A very human account of a stranger in a strange land, Tatami Days is a series of adventures coming to grips with Japanese people and their culture. From everyday customs such as sake and chopstick etiquette; through temple practices, pachinko halls, and wonderful foods; to Noh, Kabuki and avant-garde theatre, we are taken right into the Japanese psyche. Social mores, conventions, historical background, and the underlying meanings of everyday actions are explored and reflected upon. Interactions with the Japanese are engaging, at times amusing, and illustrate the character of the people brilliantly.
The Japanese have great reverence for the natural world, and the entrancing pictures Guest paints of scenery, historic places and city life are superbly executed, complete with underlying context. We are with the author, an honest, sensitive and insightful observer, for every faux pas, humorous or otherwise, that anyone might make, stepping into the unknown, discovering tools for understanding and connection. His journey is also one of self-discovery, enforced by isolation and the consciousness of being forever discerned as an outsider.
Anyone fascinated with Japan and its people, or contemplating spending time there, will find this book to be particularly delightful and valuable. As a lived study in cross-cultural communication, Tatami Days offers insightful perspectives on developing cultural awareness, understanding and sensitivity. The book would make an excellent discussion raiser if used in an educational context, such as courses on Japanese life, or cultural awareness for international training and development.