From samurai to sumo and calligraphy to cos-play, Japan is a fascinating mashup of hyper-modernity and traditional culture.
Visitors to Japan can still sleep on futons, meditate with monks, drink matcha tea, and wonder at ancient theater, like noh and kabuki — while also riding on bullet trains and time-traveling to the future with the latest electronics. More than two-thirds of the country is mountains, and there are also ancient cedar groves, tropical beaches, and fields of wildflowers. And hot springs, lots of bubbly, irresistible, relaxing hot springs.
Rooted in tradition and family, the culture of Japan provides rich fodder for stories that grab hold of you and won’t let go. The books we’ve chosen introduce you to very different characters and celebrate the language, the customs, and the challenges of contemporary Japan.
In this episode, we take a deep dive into WWII-era Japan with a family saga and a nonfiction manga comic — both populated by unforgettable characters, sweeping historical events, and big feelings. We’ve also got a culture guide to all things geeky, a workplace-romantic comedy about making a dictionary, and a slim novel with a mighty impact.
We also chat with award-winning graphic novelist Tillie Walden about her extended stay in Japan and manga, the Japanese comics form that made her fall in love with comics.
For a complete roundup of all the books we recommend, plus a full transcript and the other cool stuff we talked about, including more info about our guest Tillie Walden, visit the Episode 03 show notes.
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Top image courtesy of Sora Sagano.
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Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
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