Top critical review
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Generalisations, Cliches, errors
on 31 May 2009
I was really looking forward to taking delivery of this book since it seemed to promise so much and I have, on the whole, enjoyed reading it. However I doubt I've learned anything more than I would from a good travel guide and it seemed to be mainly aimed at the businessperson. My main issue with this book are the sweeping generalisations it offers as the 'way things are' and putting ideas forward that it suggests are uniquely Japanese. For example, p42 'Face'. To paraphrase, the Japanese don't like to lose face, be embarrassed, lose prestige or worse, be shamed. Well, Westerners don't either, Brits certainly don't! It suggests that everything should be done to avoid causing embarrassing situations or ones that may cause loss of face for a Japanese person. Isn't this just the same in the UK? Page 43 has a section on tatemai (public persona) and honne (private persona) suggesting the Japanese have these characteristics and this my explain some of their perplexing behaviour. I think every Westerner would say they are just the same-the way we behave at work with our colleagues is not the same way in which we behave in the privacy of our own homes. Thus another generalisation that just doesn't hold water. I spotted a couple of inaccuracies and vagaries too which suggest there may be many more: the diakon is not the source of wasabi powder as stated, suggestions that a rice bowl can be held up in one hand when eating from it but not stating that it may not be polite to hold it up to the mouth 'Chinese' style but just up to chest level, two highlight just two.
In conclusion, this is well written and does have the odd piece of information that is useful and interesting. But I suspect its nothing exceptional and that more complete information may be obtained from ordinary travel guides.