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The Japanese Chronicles Paperback – 1 Oct 2008

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing Ltd (1 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906011044
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906011048
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 511,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Part history, part notebook, the reports of this Swiss photographer who travelled in Japan for three decades are transporting, beguiling and often amusing. --The Independent, 9 January 2009

Day by day, person by person, Bouvier carefully adds paper-thin layers of understanding to his study of the country and its people ...its his gift for description which ensures that in pivotal stories... as well as more pedestrian moments, through Bouvier's eyes there is constant revelation. --Time Out London, 8 January 2009

About the Author

Nicholas Bouvier was an exquisite traveller and the greatest Swiss travel writer of the 20th century. Without waiting for the result of his degree, in 1953 he left for Yoguslavia with no intention of returning. The fruits of this journey of a year and a half, were published some eight years later, as The Way of the World. Bouvier continued, through India to Ceylon and thence to Japan. From his experience in Japan, where he was to live for more than a year and to revisit in the 1960s and 1970s, cam a distillation of experiences, The Japanese Chronicles, which were published in their final version in 1975.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had understood that this account of travels in Japan in the 50s and 60s was a classic, but the book sorely disappointed this lover of Japanese culture, and I am not intending to keep it. The viewpoint is quirky, idiosyncratic (apart from a plodding run-through of Japanese history) and very Gallic: some might find this engaging, others be baffled by some of the allusions to people unfamiliar in the non-French-speaking world. Some of the incidents and the descriptions of places are striking, and it is worthwhile being reminded of the poverty of the country at the time, especially in regions and quarters of cities which foreigners rarely visit.. Altogether, though, it lacked both breadth and depth. The translation into American English is only fair, and there are strange howlers ('Sainted Spirit' for 'Holy Ghost').
Would recommend Isabella Bird's account of her late 19thC travels in Japan if you are seeking something of real historic interest.
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Format: Paperback
Having just finished The Way of the World, which was a really beautiful account of Bouvier's long journey from Europe to Afghanistan, I imagined that The Japanese Chronicles would describe the continuation of that trip. However, the book was written some years later during a subsequent visit to the country, and takes the form of short anecdotes and reflections over both time periods. That in itself would still recommend the book to me, but Bouvier's observations and reflections are interspersed with (for me) too many, quite dry pieces on Japanese history, myths etc. that are easily accessible elsewhere. It is still a nice book to have, but I feel Bouvier's talents were slightly wasted.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8f166fa8) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f16c480) out of 5 stars Excellent! 3 Jun. 1999
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read this book one month into a year-stay in Japan. The country which was becoming increasingly unattractive to me became fascinating again. I love this book. Like Alan Booth, the author presents Japan and its people in a unsentimental, yet loving way. Highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f16c4e0) out of 5 stars Impressions of Japan by a Swiss-French writer 3 Mar. 2010
By Cybercuichi - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent writer, however sometimes specially at the end of the book he sort of loose focus and ramble a little bit. He explored Japan at a time when Japan was affordable, mid-fifties, and sixties and the Japanese people in general were less cosmopolitan, so there is great charm in that, as for today I am sure some of that charm is lost, of course this is not a travel guide, but reminiscences of his stays there, and his impressions as an educated Swiss-French writer.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91eea540) out of 5 stars Handle with Care 6 Feb. 2010
By R. Zimmermann - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is definitely not a book for those who know little of Japan and/or are planning to visit that country soon for the first time. It covers the author's life and travels in the 1950s and 60s, a Japan that was still post-war and pre-economic miracle, a world light-years away from the Japan of the 21st century. Then the book is quite somber in tone; it doesn't make you want to go see Japan at all. There is a section on history but nothing on culture or the arts. Finally, much space is dedicated to the northern island of Hokkaido, a place with almost no culture or history, and so should not be in an introduction to Japan.

On the other hand, for those who know Japan well, there are some gold nuggets to found here. The book is a collection of notes that the author wrote here and there. So as an historical document, illuminating the country's recent past, it is valuable and interesting. I found, for example, the parts on Tokyo and Kyoto worth while.

Large parts I found to be of limited interest because these chronicles are more about the author than about Japan.

The writing is good, in general, and the translation well above average.
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