Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan by Bruce Feiler

By Bruce Feiler

Learning to Bow has been heralded as one of many funniest, liveliest, and such a lot insightful books ever written in regards to the conflict of cultures among the United States and Japan. With heat and candor, Bruce Feiler recounts the 12 months he spent as a instructor in a small rural city. starting with a ritual outdoors tub and culminating in an all-night trek to the head of Mt. Fuji, Feiler teaches his scholars approximately American tradition, whereas they train him every little thing from find out how to appropriately tackle an envelope to tips to date a eastern girl.

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His abrupt, angry and violent decision to resign from the professorship at Tokyo University might lead one to question this. On the other hand, its sudden tempestuousness is 'almost Japanese'- perhaps he really had 'gone native'. Whatever the truth was regarding the degree and nature of any true satisfaction he found in Japan, all hints were lost with his premature death, soon after the resignation. He died at the age offifty-four, leaving his Japanese widow, Setsuko, and four children. Elizabeth Bisland quotes the following in the second volume of her Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn: To Mrs Wetmore; Tokyo, January 1903 In the mean time, I have been treated very cruelly by the Japanese Government, and forced out of the service by intrigues, - in spite of protests from the press, and from my students, who stood by me as long as they dared.

He thus tried to approach the well-known journalist Laurens Vander Post to reduce racial prejudice and promote a much more favourable attitude towards the Japanese in the country. He had persuaded Vander Post to come and observe Japanese prosperity so that he could give the South African people some assurance that Japan would be a worthwhile trading partner. Vander Post in return recruited William Plomer whom he met and befriended in South Africa. In part he was worried that Plomer would become homeless unless he accompanied him to Japan.

37 In the core of his Japaneseness Sado desperately needed Lucas to understand implicitly. Plomer interestingly seems to identify vivacity with the male and the West whereas he compares the simple and commonplace to the female and the East. He associates the diversity, richness, depth, power, originality and exuberance of Western art with masculine dynamism, and subsequently the stylised conventionalised elegance and quickness of Eastern art with the feminine lightness. In his mind the West and the male represent a superior power of decisiveness and freedom while the feminine East symbolises the dominated and transitory.

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