This book is a fascinating exploration of the code of appropriate behaviour (or Tatamae in Japanese) which dominated (and still subsists) in English culture. It is to my mind a very Japanese analysis which can be summed up as the equilibrium between the public and private selves - the Omote and the Ura.
The central character is constrained by his sense of Omote and the Tatamae which underpins it. As a result he suppresses his Ura - resulting in tragedy. The key question the novel posits is which is the central characters true self his Omote or his Ura, and by extension which is our true self - our doing, public, professional life or our being, private, intimate life.....
Doi's analysis of Japanese social conduct is illuminating, but this conduct is by no means as unique to Japan as he claims. I found many resonances with the behavioural conduct of another island nation - the United Kingdom.
The core ideas are that Omote (outer-public self) is as integral an expression of identity as Ura (inner-private) self, and the relationship between them is balanced through a code of behavioural appropriateness which he calls Tatamae. In Japan this is formalised and concretised even in language. But it is equally as present in Britain, albeit un-examined and unformalised, and is even present in language. The British love of the understatement and the ironic… Read more
What a dull disappointment. The book reads like an adolescent's diary and is filled with the same kind of neurotic, immature preocupations. This is a book you can judge by its cover - mirror-practised pose and puerile pomposity.