Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan

by Bruce Feiler

Another excellent book that I won’t have come across were it not for BookCrossing

I thought I know a bit about Japanese school system from all the mangas I read, but this book is so educating!  It delves from the funny, such as Bruce’s not-too-auspicious nampa adventures (concerns that Bruce is too “big” for Japanese women), to the thought-provoking, such as the little-known caste of burakumin and the conflict between the inaka and the metropolis. 

I also garnered interesting facts such as the perfect lenghth of chopsticks (15% of your height), and that Japanese school days are a whooping 60 days longer than American school days.

The book provides an excellent insight into the heart of Japanese culture. Certainly there are pros and cons for both school systems, the two are probably as far apart as can be among industrialized nations.  From the education of children, you can see the big picture of the national identity, business practice and the possible future of the countries.

The book is however a bit dated.  I didn’t have a clue how old it is until I came across pop culture references like Hikari Genji that are, in terms of pop culture, two generations ancient.  I don’t know how much things have changed, but certainly students are still required to clean the classrooms, hazing and suicide is still going on, and cramming for entrance exams still very much part of a student’s life.  Therefore, while the popstars are stars no more, the observations made and messages conveyed still hold true.

Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 4:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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