Dave Barry Does Japan (Dave Barry) - Random House - 1992 - 210 pages

I made three trips to Japan on business in the 1980s and I can verify that everything in this book is true.  Mr. Barry does a great job of putting the idiosyncrasies of Japanese culture on paper.  Through this book, I was able to relive my six weeks in that wonderful but perplexing island country.  The author is noted for his ability to exaggerate for comedic effect but that talent was not required here since the Japanese strangeness is enough to humor the Western World by itself.  I suppose that they are equally amused by our entertainment industry.  Barry correctly suggests that: "It would be easier to get the entire population of Tokyo to wear matching outfits than to get any two randomly selected Americans to agree on pizza toppings."  The author's experiences with Japanese food, tea ceremonies, geishas, road signs, English translations and tourist spots (such as the Mikimoto Pearl Island) exactly mirror the trip that my wife and I took in 1985.  However, we did skip the Kabuki theater that Barry attempts to understand in Chapter 4: " ... Kabuki is the silliest thing I have ever seen onstage, and I have seen a man juggle two rubber chickens and a birthday cake."  I defy you to read "The Plot" that starts on page 90 with laughing out loud.  Barry gets serious in Chapter 10 when his family visits Hiroshima for the 46th anniversary of the horrible bombing of innocent Japanese citizens in 1945.  During the time I was in their country, I was surprised that the people could be so gracious to me considering what the U.S. had done to them at the end of WWII.  Barry allows himself another bit of seriousness in the conclusion: "You can never forget for a moment how different you are.  Japan is no melting pot.  It's an extremely exclusive club, and the only way to get into it is to be born into it, and that's that."  I believe that everyone in the Western World should have a chance to experience the culture of Japan.  However, if you are unable to make the trip, this book is a good substitute. [JAM 1/4/2011]