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A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir

A classic memoir of self-invention in a strange land: Ian Buruma's unflinching account of his amazing journey into the heart of Tokyo's underground culture as a young man in the 1970'sWhen Ian Buruma arrived in Tokyo in 1975, Japan was little more than an idea in his mind, a fantasy of a distant land. A sensitive misfit in the world of his upper middleclass youth, what he longed for wasn't so much the exotic as the raw, unfiltered humanity he had experienced in Japanese theater performances and films, witnessed in Amsterdam and Paris. One particular theater troupe, directed by a poet of runaways, outsiders, and eccentrics, was especially alluring, more than a little frightening, and completely unforgettable. If Tokyo was anything like his plays, Buruma knew that he had to join the circus as soon as possible.Tokyo was an astonishment. Callow and unformed, Buruma found a feverish and surreal metropolis where nothing was understated, and everything shouted for attention--neon lights, crimson lanterns, Japanese pop, advertising jingles, cabarets, and PA systems. He encountered a city in the midst of an economic boom where everything seemed new, aside from the isolated temple or shrine that had survived the firestorms and earthquakes that had levelled the city during the past century. History remained in fragments: the shapes of wounded World War Two veterans in white kimonos, murky old bars that Mishima had cruised in, and the narrow alleys where street girls had once flitted. Buruma's Tokyo, though, was a city engaged in a radical transformation. And through his adventures in the world of avant garde theater, his encounters with carnival acts, fashion photographers, and moments on-set with Akira Kurosawa, Buruma underwent a radical transformation of his own. For an outsider, unattached to the cultural burdens placed on the Japanese, this was a place to be truly free. A Tokyo Romance is a portrait of a young artist and the fantastical city that shaped him. With his signature acuity, Ian Buruma brilliantly captures the historical tensions between east and west, the clash of conflicting cultures, and the dilemma of the gaijin in Japanese society, constantly free, yet always on the outside. The result is a timeless story about the desire to transgress boundaries: cultural, artistic, and sexual....

Title : A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir
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ISBN : 9781101981412
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 pages
Url Type : Home » Download » A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir
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A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir Reviews

  • Stephen Douglas Rowland

    Uninspired. And at least 60% of the material here can be found in other (better) books by Buruma.

  • Jenny

    This is a memoir about a "gaijin" (a white person) in Japan in the late '70s. I was surprised at the contemporary films, theater, and art scene described (at times reminiscent of what I've read about the Andy Warhol scene at the Factory in its outrageousness). Ultimately everything had a foreign feel, but what resonated for me was the attempted immersion into another culture described in this book.

    Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

  • Marjan Kloosterman



    Gaijn, buitenstaander zijn en blijven in Japan. Als Gaijn kan je het leven met kalme onthechting observeren zonder aan iemand iets verplicht te zijn, vertelt Donald Richie, een Amerikaan die jaren in Japan woont, en Buruma inwijdt in de Japanse cultuur en kunstwereld. Ian Buruma vertrok op jongen leeftijd naar Japan om zich los te maken van het eigen milieu en kennis te maken met een totaal andere wereld als Japan was en is.

    Hij schrijft zich in als student bij een filmacademie waar hij niet vaa
    ...more

  • Mboconnor31

    Fascinating tale, memoir. It starts off with a privileged baby boomer from Holland, albeit his mother is a Jewish woman from a England whose brother was John Schlesinger, director of the iconic 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. The description of the upheaval of the 60s was interesting mainly because it showed how similar the scene was in Europe and US. The author is drawn to Japan, having a Japanese girlfriend, where he remains for six years.

    He is involved in the underground art world in Japan, dance,
    ...more

  • Riet

    In dit boek een heel andere kant van de schrijver Buruma. Als jonge student woont hij 6 jaar in Japan, van 1975 tot 1981. Dat is de tijd van het surrealistische theater en film. Hij dompelt zich onder in het milieu van acteurs, schrijvers en filmmakers. De intentie is om helemaal thuis te raken tussen de Japanners, maar dat blijkt een illusie. Een vreemdeling (gaijin) wordt in Japan nooit helemaal geaccepteerd. Waar wel trouwens? Buruma beschrijft dit goed. Hij heeft soms hilarische avonturen, a ...more

  • Gayle Zawilla

    West meets East and past meets future in this somewhat self-indulgent retrospective into the “gaijin” author’s foray into the creative, if sometimes seedy, underground culture of 1970s Tokyo. It reads like an ethnography in parts, which I guess it is. I was given an advance copy courtesy of LitHub First Readers’ Club Book Giveaway (thank you).

  • Jim Coughenour

    An unfinished book that regularly reappears on my bedside table is The Donald Richie Reader: 50 Years of Writing on Japan, or its alternate, The Japan Journals: 1947-2004. Richie arrived in Japan in 1947 and ended up enjoying the rest of his life there – the journals, writings on Japanese cinema and culture (not to mention, The Inland Sea), never lose their charm for me. Richie appears in the first sentence of Buruma’s new book, and I was guilty of expecting a modulation of the same, the insider ...more