Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan - Bruce Feiler NO SPOILERS
Finsished: I enjoyed this book very much. It never dragged. It always kept you thinking. What the author learned about the Japanese mentality during his one year teaching job was clearly and humorously described. I have absolutely no complaints. He not lonly learned about the Japanese but also reached philosophical insights concerning how different people and different cultures can truly learn to understand each other and hopefully learn from each other too!

Through page 209: Chapter 17 - The Way of Love: How to Pick Up a Japanese Girl - really couldn't be funnier!!! We have all heard of "love hotels", well here you have them. The advice given by two married men is the funniest. Their logic, their reasoning and their queries! And the glint in their eyes!

Still reading: This book is an amazing eye-opener. It offers a completely different way of looking at how people can be educated. I don't mean merely "school" learning but in becoming members of society. Education is simply approached in a completely different manner. I am talking about how you teach citizens to have pride in their country, how you teach the need to take car of our environment or how you teach people to work with each other. Altthough all Japanese children are trained to respect and follow the rules of their teachers, they are also in a very natural way allowed to interact with these same leaders on a personal and equal basis. The separation of public and private selves is hair-line thin. School children don aprons and fetch and serve the lunch which they all share in their classrooms. There are no cafeterias. Then they clean everything up and change back to their normal school uniforms. During lunch their homeroom teacher eats with them in a very relaxed manner. He loosens his tie, they ask him if he has a girl friend yet. They relate to each other as equals. All duties are carried out by the students and teachers together. They clean the school, and they have fun doing it. Who can mop up the floor most efficiently and quickly? Everything is a game. You see this playfulness and group/country allegiance on any short visit to Japan. Here follows a quote about how allegiance to their country is insilled in the pupils:

"Beginning on their first day in school, students learn a familiar refrain about their country: 'Japan is a small island nation with few natural resources, which is surrounded by countries that are bigger and stronger, and out to weaken us. If we are to suceed, we Japanese must work harder and longer to overcome these odds.' In essence this has become the Japanese pledge. By stressing this code and encouraging children to sacrificetheir personal desires for the good of the country, schools have been able to achieve what is , perhaps, their highest calling: to forge allegiance to the state."

Western attidtudes are so much more focused on independence and free thinking and surviving alone. Startling!

Starting: Having finished The Ginger Tree, I now must read another book about Japan. This one is about the author's experiences when he lived in a small village, half-way between Nikko and Tokyo, teaching English to junior high students. Maybe he taught them English, but they taught him much, much more - about bathing and bowing and yes even how to date a Japanese girl. I am still laughing about some of the lines in the Ginger Tree. for example Mary's description of sushi being a soggy lump of cold rice wrapped in seaweed and raw fish. She stated that if the Japanese wanted to attract more foreigners they would simply have to do something about their food. I love sushi and maki and the pickled vegetables are my favorite. YUM!