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on 27 September 2009
This book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in Japan,in travel literature, or in anthropology. Isabella Bird, an intrepid late Victorian, travelled alone, apart from her translator/guide, into parts of Japan rarely, if ever, visited by a foreigner let alone a woman, at a time when the country was beginning to 'modernise'.
The book is composed of chapters formed from her long letters home. While the descriptions of the discomforts -endless rain, soaked clothes, dirt, insect-ridden inns and uncongenial food might pall (even if understandable), her evocations of the countryside are lyrical and deeply felt and her analyses of the characteristics and habits both of the Japanese and the Aino tribal people of the far north shrewd and entertaining. If you have visited modern Japan, it is fascinating to see both how much has changed (Japan is the most comfortable and hygenic country you could hope to visit!) and how much remained the same - the courtesy, the industriousness, the discipline. Of course,Isabella Bird writes from a Victorian perspective, and, not being affected by modern political correctness, is not afraid to use terms like 'savages' or comment on the 'ugliness' of most Japanese men. But there is no sense that European society is in all respects superior - several times, she comments on how we might learn from the Japanese.
The literary style of the book is a delight - easy to read, with a lucid use of language. IT SHOULD NOT BE MODERNISED!!! Perfect bedside reading - you can skip the longeurs. I shall read her other books.
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on 6 May 2014
I bought this book as I have an interest in Japan and thought it would be good to read the thoughts of an early western traveller. I wasn't disappointed. It's a real journey and you really get a sense for the author's experiences as a lone female traveller.

At times it can be repetitive but then it wasn't being written for publication but rather as a series of letters home. The author was simply recording her experiences and thoughts as they happened.
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on 14 November 2004
Very interesting account of the authors travels in Japan in the late C19. She intentionally went into areas that hadn't been exposed to foreigners and gives great insights into the attitudes of rural Japanese and the changes the country was going through at the time.
Sometimes the writing is hard to follow as it hasn't been updated to modern usage but the book is well worth any effort in reading it.
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on 6 December 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Isabella Bird's account of late-19th-century rural Japan. We had recently read her Rocky Mountain account in our book group, but this book is even better.
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on 23 February 2015
Possibly only interesting for readers who want to know what travelling in the more remote regions of Japan 150 years ago was like. Much of the narrative is very repetitive. But you have to admire this woman who travelled mostly in appalling conditions with only a local guide for company.
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on 6 December 2015
Fascinating insight to Japan in the late 19th Century seen through the eyes of a Victorian lady. Her descriptions are so vivid bringing scenery, people and events to life.
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on 11 November 2013
For those interested in Japan or nature this is a great book, Bird sets the scene so well that you almost feel like you're on the journey with her at times. I only gave it 4 because I was interested in reading more about Yokohama and Tokyo of that period but they barely feature.
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