When Shifra Horn traveled across the world from her native Israel to join her diplomat husband in Japan for a five-year stay, East met West in remarkable and often humorous ways. From the surprising conviviality of communal baths to a system of policing neighborhoods that makes Japan's crime rate among the world's lowest...from rituals of courtship and arranged marriages tWhen Shifra Horn traveled across the world from her native Israel to join her diplomat husband in Japan for a five-year stay, East met West in remarkable and often humorous ways. From the surprising conviviality of communal baths to a system of policing neighborhoods that makes Japan's crime rate among the world's lowest...from rituals of courtship and arranged marriages to the festival of the fertility god Kanamara - which includes a lifelike replica of a certain part of his anatomy being paraded through the town of Kawasaki, Shifra Horn's Shalom, Japan captures the many moods and unique spirit of Japan. A stranger in a strange land, Horn would greet each day with an open mind, a sense of humor, and her own brand of chutzpah. Sharing an Embassy apartment with her husband, her young son and a spoiled Himalayan tomcat, she learned first-hand the rules, restrictions and outright taboos of Japan. In the supremely important art of gift-giving, for example, Horn discovered how the wrong wrapping or ribbons could offend; and how the principle of disposability is crucial in a land that simply has no room for trash. When it comes to the pleasures of bathing, she discovered, the Japanese know no bounds. And there are onsens or communal baths of many kinds: outdoor baths, beneath a canopy of trees on a starry night; and baths reminiscent of the milk baths of ancient Rome. There are mud baths, coffee baths, tea baths, baths filled with rice wine, and baths where the bather is buried in sand. There are baths on rivers and baths in moving cable cars. Nothing, however, can compare to the shock of diving - literally - into a bath that also includes the men and women of the Yakuza, or Japanese Mafia.Usually a closed event that no Japanese national ever sees, Horn not only participated, she was fortunate to escape with her life! Horn's informative, delightful anecdotes offer a window into Japanese daily life and culture. There are the charms of the Oxygen Bar - a three-minute...
|Title||:||Shalom Japan: A Sabra's Five Years in the Land of the Rising Sun|
|Number of Pages||:||336 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Shalom Japan: A Sabra's Five Years in the Land of the Rising Sun Reviews
My impressions of Japan are that while I'd always be a "gaijin," there is much in common with my upbringing. The chapters related to body language and negotiation struck a familiar chord with me as I read of this commonality. I was surprised at how my conversant style (for lack of a better term) turns out to be somewhat "Japanese." I like long pauses and expressive silence, and I may say "yes," but not necessarily in agreement with whatever you just said. It's a sort of formality that is congenial and relaxed.My impressions of the affinity between Jews and Japan seems to be that we both understand tradition, not as an unchanging set of rules, but a living and evolving home that works when it works, and changes when it ceases to work. Still, Japan is a closed society when compared to most "Western" cultures, and any relationship between Japanese people and Jewish people remains to be explored by both. (Side note: Jewish Civilization is "Eastern" more than "Western" despite what your Comparative Religion professor may have told you.)I was struck by the honesty of this book. When speaking of the country and people, the author didn't present sentiment or flowery descriptions. When my spouse consulted a dear Japanese friend, she learned that the author had been as close to the truth as a non Japanese person could get. In the present period of cultural drift, I'd recommend this for a safe primer into Japanese culture. Of course, time will change everything.
My housemate lent me this book after we started playing some Japanese video games. I was curious about a lot of the seemingly strange symbols in the game Kikikaikai. I was introduced to some of the spirits involved in Shinto including tinuke which is one of the characters in Kikikaikai. Each short chapter in this book describes the author's personal interactions and observations while she was in Japan working for the Israeli embassy. She casually uses outside sources for general information to support some of her observations. She does an admirable job of describing some of the more negative aspects without becoming condemning and she is never condescending. The sweetness of this book is that the author's voice is frequently present so it does not get too dry. She also has a section devoted to her experience teaching Hebrew to Japanese students. In one chapter Horn describes how two students felt comfortable to ask very direct personal questions to each other in Hebrew that they would never ask in Japanese because of the strict formality of Japanese and the simple directness of Hebrew. The book was a quick and fascinating read.
On one hand, I loved this book. I lived in Japan for 6 months in the 80s and loved reading about the ways in which the place had changed and stayed the same from the viewpoint of the shell-shocked gaijin (foreigner). I also enjoyed the Israeli/Jewish angle on the culture, which was new to me.On the other hand, it was not all that well-written. I think it must have originated as columns for a periodical or something. There were chapters that revisited an idea from earlier in the book as though it had never been mentioned before. That got annoying. Within a chapter, at times a topic would seem to be headed somewhere and then just stop. This was less likely to happen in a vignette about her life, and more likely to happen when discussing some cultural topic. These factors definitely detracted from the pleasure of the book, but not enough that I wouldn't recommend it, especially to someone who has lived in Japan or will live there in the future. For someone who has spent time there, the book was full of "oh, man, I had forgotten about THAT!" moments that brought back the fun of being a stranger in a strange land!
I've read a fair amount of expat-in-Japan books, as well as a few on Japanese culture, over the years, so there wasn't a lot new for me in this one. However, Horn's adventures were often funny, including inadvertently crashing a Yakuza retreat, and her depiction of being shown the proper way to eat a grape (with a knife and fork of course!), after she and her family had barbarously eaten theirs whole (unpeeled!) at a fancy dinner. I had thought the final section of Japan and the Jews would be the least interesting, but it turned out to be rather well done.
With the experience gained from living in Japan for 5 years, and with humour and humility, Shifra Horn gives her insights into the Japanese way of life. Some of the book is descriptive, but the best bits are those where she tells of her own misunderstandings and mistakes in a culture where knowing how to do the right thing can be mystifying for a gaijin. Hope I can remember some of this when I get there!
Now that I've read the entire book, I'm not sure I'd really classify it as a memoir. Each chapter covered some aspect of Japan or the Japanese language. There wasn't much information about the author herself or about her acclimation to Japan. The book was interesting but I didn't read much that I didn't already know about the country.
Fascinating read, and often funny, but it made me less interested in visiting Japan. Certainly, if I ever go I'll have to bring food with me!
Wife of a diplomat describes Japanese life from her Jewish perspective.
Favorite kinds of books have people explore societies that are Forgein to them. It would be intresting to see how much things have changed since technology has advanced.
Very funny though might be somewhat out of date in terms of facts