36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan - Cathy N. Davidson SPOULER FREE!!!


ON COMPLETION: Below I state that the author was teaching on all of her trips. This is not trueI She returned for other reasons, which you will find out by reading the book.Furthermore, Cathy, in fact returns a fifth time in 2005, 10 years after the the earthquake in Kobe on January 17, 1995. This final trip is chronicled in the Afterword. The book has a dictionary of useful terms and an Acknowledgments chapter at the very end. The acknowledgements are essential reading. She states which characters are true and have retained their proper names. Many of the other characters and even the name of the school where she taught are composites. She has done this to protect the privacy of the places and people involved.

What is most important to point out is that this book is clearly not just about the Japanese culture. It focuses on many other topics too - national identity, learning capabilities, self-doubt, individualism versus conformity, privacy and death too. This book is personal and the author is not trying to come up with a pat solution that explains all the congruities of Japanese, American, Canadian or French people's behaviors. She looks at the different behavior patterns and sees the differences, overlaps, the pluses and minuses of each. From there she has to resolve where she fits. I found this aspect of the book very interesting since I too have lived in different countries for years. I too never know quite where I fit. However the first half of the book is predominantly about Japanese culture. The second half is her search to sort out where she belongs, albeit still teaching the reader about curious Japanese cultures that few tourist have access to.

At the end of the book the author explains why she has chosen the the given title. In brief it is beause what the book focuses upon is personal and does not attempt to find solutions to behavioral disparities. She accepts and shows us that people do act differently in different circumstances. This was the message in Hokusai's book, to which she is refering. You shouldn't be to quick to judge others and assume that the behavior you see one day is a clear definition of that person's personality. I have always had difficulty putting together the horric history of Japanese in war with the kindness, empathy and goodwill you feel when you meet them. This has always troubled me.

Sometimes I felt the book was longwinded.

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AFTER 48%:
This is a memoir of the author's experiences teaching English literature in Japan. She makes four trips. The first trip occurs in 1980 and the last in 1990. Her husband follows her and also teaches in Japan. On the first trip, they live in Nigawa, between Kobe and Osaki.

I am learning a lot. You get to experience with the author how she comes to understand the Japanese on an intimate level. She learns their customs and their habits. She is accepted by them as their friends. What I most appreciate is her open and searching quest to understand the psyche of particularly Japanese women. She works at the Kansai Women's University. She experiences great sorrow on this trip and you learn how the Japanese helped her. You learn it through their small actions. I feel I understand the Japanese psyche much better from reading this book. They have cultural rules, but they also have instances when these rules are discarded! They can behave in what seems completely contradictory/ manners in different situations.

In addition, you will learn more traditional facts about Japanese life. You maybe already knew that Chrysanthenums are the flower of Japan, used for commemorations, but did you know that yellow and orange are colors of life?

She travels to Kudakajima, an island of Okinawa. This is the last surving matriarchal culture. She does not travel there as a tourist, but with her Japanese friends. She is invited to see that which is not on display for tourists.

From reading tthis book you will learn more than the ordinary facts about Japan. from reading this book. You are given a personal glimpse into the culture of Japan.

Please see the comments below. There are some criticisms voiced.

ETA: OK I forgot to add an excerpt. Given what has happened there is no reason to laugh. Cathy and her husband Ted spend a New Year's celebration with their friends Maryvonne (French) and her Japanese husband, Ichiro. Out of respect to Japanese customs they had declined participation, but in the end they did come:

Maryvonne has the deep ├╣elancholy voice of a French cabaret singer. She has not sung a solo tonight. I know, because her Piaf style can coax tears from a stone - and this is not a time for tears. We've Tennessee Waltzed, Mashed Potatoed, and Twisted the night away (after the traditional Japanese celebration). We are in a house in Nigawa, Japan, singing, dancing, and miraculously, Ted and I are laughing.(48%)

You have to read the book to know what has happened.