"The essays in [Inaka] all provide a delightful portrait of the Japanese countryside." -Asian Review of Books
Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan is an affectionate but unsentimental immersion into the Japanese countryside ("inaka"). In eighteen chapters we undertake an epic journey the length of Japan, from subtropical Okinawa, through the Japanese heartland, all the way to the wilds of Hokkaido. We visit gorgeous islands, walk an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route, share a snow-lover's delight in the depths of record snowfall, solve the mystery of an abandoned Shinto shrine, and travel in the footsteps of a seventeenth-century haiku master. But above everything, Inaka answers the question of what it's like to be a foreigner living in rural Japan, whether as a newly arrived English teacher in a small town or as someone who never left and decades later is integrated into the community.
Although this anthology shows the beauty of rural Japan with its seasonal kaleidoscope of colors, foods, and traditions, its friendly farmers and fishermen sharing old customs and local histories, Inaka doesn't avoid detailing the downsides of rural life - the hypothermia-inducing housing, inconvenient superstitions, demographic decline, and unlikely noises.
The combination of brilliant, experienced writers and up-and-coming talent makes Inaka a delight to read, and a must for anyone interested in life away from the crowded Japanese cities. Readers who know Japan well will find much to enjoy, and those new to the country dreaming of a trip or extended stay will be both encouraged and better prepared to map out their own adventures.
About the Author
John Ross was born in New Zealand in 1968. He has spent most of the past quarter century living in and writing about Asia. His extensive travels - undertaken alone and far off the beaten track - include exploration in Papua New Guinea, dispatches from the Karen insurgency in Burma, and searches in the Gobi Desert and Altai Mountains on the trail of an ancient Mongolian myth. Ross lives in a small town in Taiwan, the subject of his recently reissued Formosan Odyssey. His latest book is You Don't Know China. When not writing, reading, or lusting over maps, he can be found working on the family farm.