Books for learning about Japan - List of books discussed

Started by HunterZero, June 06, 2016, 06:34:49 PM

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As promised, below are my notes from my panel on Books for learning about Japan:

Japanmanship - James Kay
Probably the only book ever written for foreigners who want to get into game development in Japan. Explains a lot about contracts, terms of employment. Very specific, but good information about working in Japan and corporate culture.

Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen - Barak Kushner
   Gives a very long history of overall food in Japan, which leads into Ramen. I would say it gives more information about overall development of food in Japan than just about Ramen.

Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road - Alisa Freedman
   Reads more like a thesis than a normal book. Very interesting analysis about how railroads were presented in Japanese Culture and how they represented concerns and fears during their time.

Samurai The Last Warrior - John Man
   A very interesting read about the life of Saigo Takamori, who was involved in the Boshin War, and eventually the Satsuma Rebellion.

The Story of Sushi - Trevor Corson
   Excellent history about the development of sushi, from its early days of being a method of preserving Sushi to its development as Tokyo-mae sushi, which is where much of modern sushi comes from

Sumo: A thinking fan's guide to Japan's National Sport - David Benjamin
   A humorous guide to understanding sumo, and enough basics for many to get into the sport. Includes basic groupings such as "butterballs", "athletes" and others.

Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan - William E. Deal
   Essentially an encyclopedia on all sorts of Japanese concepts. Excellent resource for learning about various topics when you don't understand something specific.

The Roads to Sata - Alan Booth
   Interesting book about a man's trip walking from the northern part of Hokkaido to Sata, the southern point in Kyushu. This was back in early 1980s, so think very low tech, walking with some spare clothes and a sleeping bag.

Looking for the Lost - Alan Booth
   Second and final book by Alan Booth. His journey trying to find the routes taken by Saigo Takamori back when he was fighting in the Satsuma Rebellion.

Embracing Defeat - John W. Dower
   Extremely dense and well-written volume on Japan after defeat and surrender in WW2. Explains the difficulty faced by most people just to survive, including food and shelter.

The Inland Sea - Donald Richie
   Travel journal about hopping between the various communities on the inland sea.

Butterflies of the Night - Lisa Louis
   Interesting first-hand account of a caucasian woman who entered the hostess industry in Tokyo, and how it swept her up into doing more.

Hagakure - Yamamoto Tsunetomo
   Considered one of the defining books for Bushido in the 1930's, it was written by a man who served his lord for more than 30 years as a clerk. Very interesting thoughts on what a Samurai should be from a man who never fought in combat.

Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld - David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro
   A heavy expose on the Yakuza and how embedded they are in Japan. Somewhat depressing when you realize how much power and influence they have in Japan and in Politics.

Tokyo Vice - Jake Adelstein
   A very unique story of a caucasian man who entered the journalism field in Japan and ended up covering organized crime. Sometimes he talks a little too much about his personal affairs, but overall a good tale. Never been able to finish because his actions lead to the death of someone.

Mind Over Muscle - Jigoro Kano
   Compiled collection of writings by founder of Judo. Explains how it is more of a philosophy than just a martial art. Explains the concepts of mutual welfare and benefit.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword - Ruth Benedict
   Even though it is dated, this is one of the best books ever written about Japanese Culture by a western scholar. Does the best job of explaining the concepts of obligation, face, personal honor. Written during the later years of WW2 and the years after to help the military understand how the Japanese would react.

Oishinbo - Testu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki
   Only manga listed here, but it is almost more of a book than a manga due to the massive amount of text. Gives more information on food and food culture than anything else, and can help to explain concepts of sushi, rice, sake, pub food and many more.
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