The Japanese Chronicles, By Nicolas Bouvier

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The Independent Culture

Part history, part notebook, the reports of this Swiss photographer who travelled in Japan for three decades are transporting, beguiling and often amusing: One shouldn't dismiss Japanese music "until one has been subjected to it for at least six or seven hours."

In the Fifties, Bouvier set up home in an oddly rustic suburb of Tokyo where the only English-based words were "kissu (from 'kiss') and stenko (from 'stinky')". Bouvier describes a cluttered world, where poverty was common but begging unknown and cleanliness scrupulously observed. Bathing was particularly important for foreigners who "have the reputation of being easily tracked by their odour".

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