SOCIAL SCIENCES

A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir

Penguin Pr. Mar. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781101981412. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101981429. MEMOIR
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By his own admission, Buruma longed from childhood to escape the dull security of his middle-class upbringing in Holland. Drawn to Japan by a chance encounter with the plays of poet and filmmaker Shuji Terayama, Buruma decamped to Tokyo in 1975, where he studied cinema and photography and formed connections with people such as author and film critic Donald Richie and avant-garde actor/director/playwright Kara Juro. He also experienced both the pleasures and despairs that come with being a cultural outsider. This book draws from the well of those encounters, mingling the author's attempts at self-transformation with observations on the art, culture, and society of a Japan that was in the midst of radical change.
VERDICT Buruma's meditations on his place as a foreigner in Japanese society achieve some depth, but the descriptions of the various personalities and the lurid slices of 1970s Tokyo's underground scene are this memoir's strongest feature. Readers interested in 20th-century Japanese cinema and avant-garde theater will find a particular appeal in Buruma's anecdotes.

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