Davidson, Cathy N. 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan. Plume Book, 1994.
Reason read: In January Japan celebrates Coming of Age. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the category, “a nonfiction set in a country that interests me.”
Davidson spent a year with Japan with her husband, Ted. Together, they have jobs teaching English while trying to learn all things Japanese. They make friends who help them with their quest. During this time of total immersion, Davidson becomes intimate with Japanese customs, so much so that when she and Ted are faced with tragedy and their Japanese friends break with tradition for their sake, Davidson is embarrassed and uncomfortable for them. This break from normal protocol touched me. Davidson went back to Japan a total of four times with varying lengths of stay. She and Ted contemplated a move to Japan only to decide the language barrier was too great to conquer. This bothered Davidson. Her inability to learn the language bothered her and shattered her confidence so much so she had to put the books she had written in front of her to reaffirm she is a smart woman.
I promise you, you will walk away with a deepened appreciation for Japanese culture. I did not know Tokyo is chaotic and disorganized in purpose. Streets are unnamed to anonymize people’s addresses. How do things get delivered?
As an aside, in this day of careful avoidance of cultural appropriation, how can someone be offended by Taco Tuesday and not see Davidson’s efforts to build an exact replica of a Japanese house in North Carolina as completely different. Is not that the same thing on a much grander scale?
Best lines I liked, “I was in Japan to see, to experience, to learn, to understand” (p 12) and
“This place was how my life felt: one breath away from disaster” (108).
Author fact: Davidson at the time of writing 36 Views of Mount Fuji was a professor of English at Duke University.
Playlist: “Singing in the Rain”, “One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater”, “Weemaway”, Edith Piaf, “Leader of the Pack”, Red Sails at sunset”, Jo Stafford’s “Shrimp Boats Are a Coming”, and “Mashed Potato Time”.
Nancy said: Pearl included 36 Views of Mount Fuji as an example of “the best gaijin account.” She also called it “thoughtful” (Book Lust To Go p 117).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Japanese Journeys” (p 116).