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The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto…

The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto (edition 1992)

by Pico Iyer

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Title:The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto
Authors:Pico Iyer
Info:Vintage (1992), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Japan, travel

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The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto by Pico Iyer

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The allure and ultimately futile pursuit to obtain the core understanding of OTHER, on the part of a a travel writer and a married japanese woman ( )
  tuliene | Oct 9, 2010 |
Iyer moves to Kyoto, Japan to write. While there, he meets a young Japanese wife and mother, as anxious to practice her English as he was to practice his Japanese. Thus a relationship was born, between the two cultures. Fascinating book. ( )
  debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |

In the late 1980s, Pico Iyer came to Kyoto for a year, to try his hand at learning more about the Japanese culture. What he learns, and what any person who has spent a significant chunk of time in the country will likely corroborate, is that Japan is a country of contradictions, a country pushing relentlessly into the future while still holding particular ties to many of its traditional cultural and religious roots.

Iyer doesn't learn this by contemplating in front of a Zen rock garden, however. His guide turns out to be the most unlikely person, a petite, 20-something mother of two called Sachiko. She is small and superbly naive, but she dreams big, sharing her thoughts and ideas in her devil-may-care English.

This was quite a lovely book, though I sometimes found it strange and jarring to be reading it while in Japan. I'm not sure why that was. Perhaps it was that the Japan that I was reading about was all too much like the Japan in which I was actually living. While perhaps that seems strange, it isn't. Iyer's Japan is magical and mundane, steeped in culture and completely removed from the outside world at the same time. This is entirely too much like the Japan I know. If you've never been to Japan, Sachiko's character might seem overly precocious and naive, a cute character sketch from the late 1980s, but not possibly a real person...but once you come here, you realize that not much has changed, and people are really like this.

That aside, it was a great read and I recommend it to anyone who has the slightest interest in Japan. It's a nice, little romance, but can also be taken as much more.
  pixxiefish | Mar 17, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679738347, Paperback)

When Pico Iyer decided to go to Kyoto and live in a monastery, he did so to learn about Zen Buddhism from the inside, to get to know Kyoto, one of the loveliest old cities in the world, and to find out something about Japanese culture today -- not the world of businessmen and production lines, but the traditional world of changing seasons and the silence of temples, of the images woven through literature, of the lunar Japan that still lives on behind the rising sun of geopolitical power.

All this he did. And then he met Sachiko.

Vivacious, attractive, thoroughly educated, speaking English enthusiastically if eccentrically, the wife of a Japanese "salaryman" who seldom left the office before 10 P.M., Sachiko was as conversant with tea ceremony and classical Japanese literature as with rock music, Goethe, and Vivaldi. With the lightness of touch that made Video Night in Kathmandu so captivating, Pico Iyer fashions from their relationship a marvelously ironic yet heartfelt book that is at once a portrait of cross-cultural infatuation -- and misunderstanding -- and a delightfully fresh way of seeing both the old Japan and the very new.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:31 -0400)

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