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An Anthropologist in Japan: Glimpses of Life in the Field (The ASA Research Methods) Paperback – 4 Feb 1999
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A must for any library on Japan or anthropology.
As an exercise is research methods, this makes for a fascinating book. As an anthropology student studying Japan, I find it fascinating to study other people's approaches to the same thing. As a future researcher, I found the back-door into her creative process and her perspective on Japan to have interesting similarities and differences to mine. As someone with a continual curiosity about Japan, I found her observations on politeness and wrapping in Japanese society to have interesting and far-reaching implications for the way Westerners view Japan.
However, while her actual work on politeness and wrapping in Japanese society becomes something that she discusses researching and discovering, she never presents her finalized work. It would have been nice to see an article or two produced from her research added as an appendix to give the anthropologists reading the book a sense of how her creative process was synthesized into a final product.
This means that ultimately, I have to look at the book as a travelogue, too, since she seems to be casting a net for a wider audience here. In this, it comes up as well researched, but a little wanting as well. It is clear that her time in Japan is well spent, but she never dives into anything completely. In most cases, it is because her reason for being there is her research, and that is what gets her primary focus. However, she never seems to fully jump into her research for fear of losing the nonacademic reader. Even a little more frustrating from both points of view is that she frequently foreshadows important points in the beginning of the book (her eventual meetings with local temple priests and yakuza, for instance), while ultimately rushing through the encounters at the end of the book.
In the end, this book is left fishing for an audience. It seems to ultimately be most useful for the person studying methodology or the creative process. It is still a fascinating book - Hendry's extrapolation of the verbal and physical wrapping of Japanese culture is a point that should be discussed in greater depth by anthropologists today. Likewise, her narrative, if occasionally frustrating, is certainly enjoyable and comes from an apparently unique travelogue perspective. I would certainly recommend it unreservedly to the student studying Japan or anthropology. I might be a little more reticent on recommending it to the travel reader, though.
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