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Coffee Life in Japan (California Studies in Food & Culture) (California Studies in Food and Culture) [Paperback]

Merry White
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

4 May 2012 California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 36)
This fascinating book - part ethnography, part memoir - traces Japan's vibrant cafe society over one hundred and thirty years. Merry White traces Japan's coffee craze from the turn of the twentieth century, when Japan helped to launch the Brazilian coffee industry, to the present day, as uniquely Japanese ways with coffee surface in Europe and America. White's book takes up themes as diverse as gender, privacy, perfectionism, and urbanism. She shows how coffee and coffee spaces have been central to the formation of Japanese notions about the uses of public space, social change, modernity, and pleasure. White describes how the cafe in Japan, from its start in 1888, has been a place to encounter new ideas and experiments in thought, behavior, sexuality , dress, and taste. It is where a person can be socially, artistically, or philosophically engaged or politically vocal. It is also, importantly, an urban oasis, where one can be private in public.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (4 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520271157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520271159
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 151,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Required reading for coffee's true believers and industry insiders." -- Oliver Strand T: The New York Times Style Magazine 20121214 "You'll find your eyes opened beyond the new and storied cafes you've heard of and into regional corners and paradoxical tastes." Serious Eats 20120829 "A fascinating 130-year illumination of Japan's deeply rooted sipping culture." LA Weekly 20121018 "This excellent book combines academic rigour with lively descriptions and compelling prose." Times Higher Education 20120726 "Provides an engaging and often personal account of Japanese coffeehouses... Highly recommended." -- R. R. Wilk, Indiana University Choice 20121201 "Merry White has whiled away many hours in cafes in Japan in her professional role as an anthropologist, and wishes to communicate the diversity and intimacy one can experience in them." Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 20121123 "Perhaps this isn't really a review, more a recommendation - all I can really say is that I enjoyed it, and ... you'll probably enjoy this too." Jimseven 20120901 "This book will certainly give you ... a lot of new knowledge and maybe a whole new perspective on Japanese culture." Yum 20121101 "Coffee Life in Japan provides a novel and significant study on contemporary Japanese life." -- Willa Zhen, Culinary Institute of America Journal Of American-East Asian Relations 20130409

About the Author

Merry White is Professor of Anthropology at Boston University and is the author of many books, including Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval (UC Press) and The Japanese Overseas.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book! 14 Dec 2012
By I. Darren TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
For some reason one tends to associate Japan with a tea culture and not coffee. Oh the misleading power of assumption. For those who shared this reviewer's ignorance of Japanese coffee culture, this could be an interesting work to peruse.

Written in an academic style but accessible to a tenacious reader, this book takes a look at the café society in Japan in the past 130 years and how coffee has helped to shape Japanese society in different ways. It might seem far-fetched yet coffee has played a much greater part in 'modern-day' Japan than you could imagine.

As befitting an academic book, the author has clearly done their homework and a multitude of reference sources and notations are provided for the reader's own reference. After a comprehensive introduction to this relatively 'obscure' subject and an interesting overview about Japan's cafés, the next chapter is the curiously-titled 'Modernity and the Passion Factory.' where jazz, modernity, empowerment of women and cultural clashes all enter the mix.

Japan embraced coffee, made its own coffee emperors and started to make a contemporary Japanese coffee and, of course, an entire coffee culture and counter culture at the same time. Rituals were formed, rules developed, traditions strengthened and no doubt Unchangeable things slowly changed. All due to the humble coffee bean and its brew.

Certainly if you have the patience and the interest, this book will certainly give you a lot of food for thought, a lot of new knowledge and maybe a whole new perceptive to Japanese culture as a whole. The book is low on fripperies like colour photographs and infographics but high on information. A book you might need to focus on - which is no bad thing - rather than casually flip through.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coffee and Japan 2 Oct 2012
By CoffeeCat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thick with clear understanding of both Japan and Coffee. Very good but long read. Read this while traveling in Japan to a Coffee Show and visiting Coffee Roasters and Cafes. I was surprised how accurate and insightful this book was on both topics.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book! 14 Dec 2012
By I. Darren - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For some reason one tends to associate Japan with a tea culture and not coffee. Oh the misleading power of assumption. For those who shared this reviewer's ignorance of Japanese coffee culture, this could be an interesting work to peruse.

Written in an academic style but accessible to a tenacious reader, this book takes a look at the café society in Japan in the past 130 years and how coffee has helped to shape Japanese society in different ways. It might seem far-fetched yet coffee has played a much greater part in 'modern-day' Japan than you could imagine.

As befitting an academic book, the author has clearly done their homework and a multitude of reference sources and notations are provided for the reader's own reference. After a comprehensive introduction to this relatively 'obscure' subject and an interesting overview about Japan's cafés, the next chapter is the curiously-titled 'Modernity and the Passion Factory.' where jazz, modernity, empowerment of women and cultural clashes all enter the mix.

Japan embraced coffee, made its own coffee emperors and started to make a contemporary Japanese coffee and, of course, an entire coffee culture and counter culture at the same time. Rituals were formed, rules developed, traditions strengthened and no doubt Unchangeable things slowly changed. All due to the humble coffee bean and its brew.

Certainly if you have the patience and the interest, this book will certainly give you a lot of food for thought, a lot of new knowledge and maybe a whole new perceptive to Japanese culture as a whole. The book is low on fripperies like colour photographs and infographics but high on information. A book you might need to focus on - which is no bad thing - rather than casually flip through. A book you might want to sit down in a comfy chair with, a cup of tea, oops, coffee at your side and a bit of time...

An interesting book, not everyone's cup of tea (oops, you don't tend to refer to everyone's cup of coffee) perhaps but worthy of a read if you are interested in society changes, history, philosophy, gastronomy or just piling in bits of knowledge to the old grey matter for good measure.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coffee and Japan 9 May 2013
By EdM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent reading material for those who are interested in the history of coffee and/or Japan. The focus is on the story of coffee and its impact in Japan and the evolution of the cafe, coffee shop. The first few chapters give a good overview of the 1930s cafes as well as the introduction of the beverage to Japan in the late seventeen hundreds. The Japanese took coffee and made it a national drink that is unique to the country. The post war period saw the proliferation of the coffee shop and different varieties such as jazz or theme cafes. The modern coffee shop ( from the seventies to today) offer even more variations even though the the small traditional cafe seems to be the first choice for most. Corporate coffee chains like Starbucks find out what matters to the Japanese consumer is good quality coffee and the blends of different varieties of bean as well as the individual atmosphere of a Japanese cafe. The most interesting chapter is the one concerning Japan and its influence on the international coffee market. The best coffee from Brazil is purchased by the Japanese coffee companies and the price paid influences the second tier price for other beans that are bought by other countries. The book is interesting for history readers also as the author manages to convey a distinct tone for the chronicle of the role of coffee and the coffee shop in twentieth century Japan. The future is bright for the coffee consumer and the cafe proprietor. Note: the Japanese style coffee shop now has come to America in NYC and San Francisco.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! 28 April 2013
By Dolores D. Jamison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In a country known for it's rich and ancient tea culture, I found this account of its phenomenal coffee culture--which I have had the pleasure experiencing first-hand-- just fascinating!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and informative 30 Aug 2013
By p grazini - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Coffee life in Japan was so interesting and informative, that I had a hard time putting it down. It is extremely well researched, covering the history of coffee in Japan. Included in the book are profiles of several coffee masters and the techniques they use to made the supreme cup of coffee. It is the coffee masters life work to make the best cup of coffee possible. Although it didn't surprise me, I didn't realize that coffee making, had reached such a high level. I'm anxious to go back to Japan and visit a few of the shops mentioned in this book.
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