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Thank You and Okay: An American Zen Failure in Japan

by David Chadwick

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2096129,276 (3.98)5
David Chadwick, a Texas-raised wanderer, college dropout, bumbling social activist, and hobbyhorse musician, began his study under Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in 1966. In 1988 Chadwick flew to Japan to begin a four-year period of voluntary exile and remedial Zen education. In Thank You and OK! he recounts his experiences both inside and beyond the monastery walls and offers insightful portraits of the characters he knew in that world--the bickering monks, the patient abbot, the trotting housewives, the ominous insects, the bewildered bureaucrats, and the frustrating English-language students--as they worked inexorably toward initiating him into the mysterious ways of Japan. Whether you're interested in Japan, Buddhism, or exotic travel writing, this book is great fun.… (more)
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From LibraryThing Review:

Easily one of the best books on the subject written thus far. Chadwick has an easy writing style, an eye for characterization & description, and detail.

The world that Chadwick describes - both the world of Zen and the world of modern Japan - are alien enough to most people to come right from a science fiction novel. Indeed, while Chadwick takes great pains to describe unfamiliar situations for his audience, a passing familiarity with Zen makes the book more enjoyable. Given that caveat, however, the reader can prepare for an uncommonly detailed world.

In the tradition of both Mark Twain and Armistead Maupin, Chadwick's chapters are small and lightly written. His keen observations of day-to-day life both inside the monastery and in the larger community make the book come alive. Some chapters will make you laugh out loud at the antics of the monks at Hogo-ji. Some chapters, as Chadwick remembers one of his lost teachers Katagiri Roshi, will make you cry. And you'll be shocked (or at least I was) at what some of the current Japanese think of their social framework, government, and imperial system.

Chadwick has given us a "slice-of-life" book covering life and the environment
  TallyChan5 | Oct 4, 2022 |
I love how Chadwick opens his preface. It all starts with not getting a calendar for Christmas one year and feeling lost come New Year's day. In that case, why not go to Japan? In truth, Chadwick had been studying the Zen life since the 60s. He went back to Japan in the mid 80s to reestablish his training.
Thank You and OK! covers a four year period in Texan Chadwick's life and there are two threads to his story: his stay at Hogoji monastery and his life with his second wife Elin in modern Japan. As an aside, one needs to pay attention to dates to orientate oneself to each story but it isn't hard to do.
My biggest take-away from reading Thank You and OK! is just how different are the details when the bigger picture is the same. What I mean by that is Japan and the United States both have vending machines, but you can buy hot sake out of one in Japan. Japan and the United States both have weird insects, but in Japan their centipedes are over a foot long and are poisonous. Counting the months of pregnancy even differ. In the States we start with zero. In Japan they start with one. That's oversimplifying the case, but you get the idea. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Sep 23, 2019 |
A wonderful book that describe the author's time in Japan, much of it centered in a small Zen Buddhist temple. Many of the essays are also about his hijinx around teaching English without a permit and staying at inns with his future wife. It describes his encounters there in a wry, humorous and fond voice. It is a great description of the encounter between two cultures that would prove helpful I think to a Western traveler there even if they are not interested in Buddhism. most enjoyable read. ( )
  danhammang | Aug 31, 2019 |
This book is great for two different kinds of readers. First, it is a very funny look at the clash between cultures, as one of the other reviewers put it, almost like a science fiction novel. The other group of readers are folks who like stories from the cloister, tales about what happens to messed up human beings when they try to band together for a higher purpose. This book was a joy. I highly recommend it. ( )
  aulsmith | Mar 15, 2008 |
THIS IS THE BOOK. THIS IS THE BOOK. If you have ever wanted to know what it is like to live in Japan, READ THIS BOOK. READ. IT. The DMV. "Internationalization." The immigration office. The postal system. "We Japanese are not [xxx]." "Americans are lazy. Japanese are hard workers." Eikaiwa. Japanese husbands. Japanese "vacation" days. Engrish. "That which cannot be helped"--all the golden oldies are here. This is literally, literally the best book I have ever encountered in terms of explaining the gaijin experience. I finished it days ago and yet I'm still not able to think about it without squeeing like a teenage fangirl over its awesomeness. Once more--this is the book to read if you want to understand the living-abroad-in-Japan experience. All that and it's damn funny, too. ( )
2 vote Trismegistus | Dec 23, 2007 |
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I was reminded that cultural conflict would be swinging its aggravating tail, and each additional day I was there, comparison, that lowly beast that prowls around the edges of pure experience, would be waiting to barge in and smell up the place.
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David Chadwick, a Texas-raised wanderer, college dropout, bumbling social activist, and hobbyhorse musician, began his study under Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in 1966. In 1988 Chadwick flew to Japan to begin a four-year period of voluntary exile and remedial Zen education. In Thank You and OK! he recounts his experiences both inside and beyond the monastery walls and offers insightful portraits of the characters he knew in that world--the bickering monks, the patient abbot, the trotting housewives, the ominous insects, the bewildered bureaucrats, and the frustrating English-language students--as they worked inexorably toward initiating him into the mysterious ways of Japan. Whether you're interested in Japan, Buddhism, or exotic travel writing, this book is great fun.

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