The post below was one of my diary entries I wrote yesterday. Hopefully I can write something that day and post it at night, although I recognize that may not be possible. But it's a goal. So, in my ample free time and while riding the train to work, I've been reading like a fiend.
The first has nothing to do with Japan, but is great nonetheless. It's The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric. Ana's on a Nobel Prize author hunt, and she loaned this one to me. It has one of the most graphic depictions of a torture and execution. I nearly threw up reading it and eventually had to skip that part. But it's a very vivid historical novel based around a bridge in Bosnia. Very good if all you know about the area is what you think you learned from watching the news.
The second is a great book called Beyond Sushi: A Year in Japan, by Kenneth Januszewski. It's about a guy who goes on the JET program back in the mid-90s to a very small backwater town in southern Japan. It's basically the same kind of job I do, and I relate to a lot of his interactions with the teachers and students. But he and I live in different areas, so I can only dream of attaining some of his experiences. A great book for anyone who wants to know about today's Japan.
The third is by Robert Twygger called Angry White Pyjamas. This book is about a guy living in Tokyo who decides to do a one-year ultra-intensive aikido course, the same course that Japan's Riot Police train in. It's fascinating because it tells about a part of Japan that was rather dominant up until WWII, and one that has been subdued and redirected into other ways, from kimono and katana to business suit and briefcase. It also touches lightly on the latent authoritarianism that still exists even today. But mostly it's about pushing your body to the limits and beyond. I've had the same feeling now and again, am I actually tough, what would i do in a dangerous situation. This guy pushed himself to find out. Makes me want to take up aikido.
A final observation: while walking to work this morning I ended up walking next to a Buddhist monk with a shaved head, traditional robe and briefcase. Just when you get lulled into thinking here is just like home, this happens.