Japan Through Writers' Eyes, Edited by Elizabeth Ingrams

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The Independent Culture

Just as Lost In Translation extracts humour from present-day culture shock in Tokyo, so did the Dutch voyager Engelbert Kaempfer in the 17th century. He had to approach the Shogun "crouching with head to the floor like a lobster" before "performing innumerable monkey tricks".

Sampling a Zen monastery in Kyoto in 1990, Pico Iyer found a more familiar milieu: "The cold showers at dawn, the sense of hierarchy, the beatings, the all-male rites" were "eerily the same" as "school in England". Visiting a pottery, Kipling was astounded to see a man "who had been a month polishing one little vase. He would go on for two months." This lively anthology will be equally enjoyed by Japanophiles and the merely curious.