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Paperback Wrong about Japan Book

ISBN: 1400078369

ISBN13: 9781400078363

Wrong about Japan

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Book Overview

When Peter Carey offered to take his son to Japan, 12-year-old Charley stipulated no temples or museums. He wanted to see manga , anime , and cool, weird stuff. His father said yes. Out of that bargain comes this enchanting tour of the mansion of Japanese culture, as entered through its garish, brightly lit back door. Guided-and at times judged-by an ineffably strange boy named Takashi, the Careys meet manga artists and anime directors, the meticulous...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Outside looking in

Japanese culture is an obtuse, inscrutable creature, and for anyone hoping to capture a feeling of the "real" Japan without actually going there it presents an impossible task. Samurai, the tea ceremony, and proper chopstick use are all well and good, but they present about as accurate a picture of the country and its people as any given action manga or anime. Even while in Japan, any quest to find out what the real spirit of the country is through any means already determined prior to arrival is a hopeless cause. Combined with Carey's examination of his relationship with his son, this quest to find the real Japan, from either of their perspectives, is utterly futile- as it is for anyone with a preconceived notions of the country, or any country. Wrong About Japan isn't necessarily about manga, anime, or anything of the sort- and anyone going in with that impression or a closed mind is apt to be disappointed (though there are plenty of interesting anecdotes to that end). What Carey's book follows is the hopeless feeling one gets while trying to convince oneself he or she has a handle on a foreign culture without ever having been there, as so many have done with Japan, and will continue to do. The point of this effort, however, is that no cultural search, however hopeless it may seem, is without its own rewards once the initial romantic views of a country have been replaced with real experience. With earnest effort and a sense of humor, the results will prove much more substantial than the secondhand daydreams that so often send one abroad in the first place. It's also a pretty brisk read, so even if you do end up absolutely hating it, you'll only have wasted a couple measly hours of your life in the grand scheme of things.

Fathers and Sons

If you are looking for the definitive take on Japanese manga and anime, you probably will not find it in Peter Carey's WRONG ABOUT JAPAN. If, however, you want to read a loving account of a father's vacation with his shy twelve-year-old son that takes them to Japan for an experience that the young lad will never forget, then you will be enthralled, as I was, with the interaction between father and son. Young Charley Carey, much taken with Japanese comics, tells his novelist dad: "When I grow up I'm going to live in Tokyo." Peter Carey thus arranges a trip for them to Japan, promising his son that they will try to avoid the touristy temples, tea ceremony and Kabuki, instead seeing what his son calls "the real Japan." Mr. Carey of course has many misconceptions of the Japanese as they of him. What is so wonderful and entertaining about the Carey adventures is that the young people usually get things right. Charley has a new friend Talashi whom he has met on the internet back in New York. These two young people are light-years of the adults in this often amusing clash of cultures. Things get a little dicey-- at least for the father-- when Charley and he encounter their first transexual otaku--one simplistic definition of an otaku is a person so obsessed with something to the point that he or she has few personal relationships-- and Carey wants to be sure that his son isn't freaking out. "It's okay," he [Charley] said. "I get it." "Are you cool?" "Dad, we live in the West Village." One of my favorite sections of this short book covers how Charley, after many breakfasts, lunches and dinners of fish, miso soup, seaweed, pickles, sushi, sour pickled plums, rice, etc. finally had had enough of being politically correct and convinced his dad to go with him to a Japanese Starbucks for a breakfast of American doughnuts. It reminded me of a Malaysian lunch I had once in Hong Kong-- after many days of eating only Chinese-- that was the worst meal I have ever eaten. That evening my friend and I made a beeline to an American-style restaurant where we gorged ourselves on pasta and tomato sauce, garlic bread and iced tea. The ugly American lives. This book, even with its several illustrations, is quite short and probably would have been just as effective as a long essay in THE NEW YORKER magazine. In these crazy times don't we all need to hear more about the love of a father for his son? I would be totally surprised to learn that Mr. Carey is not a good dad. His affection for his young son seeps through on every page of WRONG ABOUT JAPAN.

The mystery of taste

Many of the book's reviewers seem almost hyperbolically disappointed in what Carey accomplishes in "Wrong About Japan." They accuse him of superficiality in his approach to manga and anime. Pow! They accuse him of being unable to see past his own cultural assumptions. Bam! However, the book isn't primarily about any of that. It's about perception and mis-perception, about the divide between a father who loves books (and high culture) and a son who loves manga (and pop culture). It's about the mysteries of taste and how it's formed. It's about the difficulties almost everyone in the book, Japanese and non-Japanese, has in understanding what someone else is trying to express, whether the barrier is language or ideas or culture. In Carey's book, manga represents this distance between two people about what is worth knowing about and what is not. The subject could as easily be music or some other art where there's little communication between high and pop culture. By its conclusion, Carey understands his son's interests better (although he doesn't come to really share them) and his son reluctantly absorbs something of what his father is trying to tell him. This fragile little island of shared appreciation is what the book's all about.

This book is about parenting, not about anime

As many other reviewers have noted, this book will NOT tell you much about anime or manga. However, Peter Carey does provide an ironic glimpse into parenting a teenager, in that the reader ends up more sympathetic for the son than the father. Carey doesn't empathize with his son, he puts his own minor interests ahead of showing respect for his son, he fails to communicate his feelings, the list goes on. So I wonder if this book is really a long apology letter to his son for all that went wrong on the trip to Japan. I doubt whether Carey could have conveyed his ill-preparedness for communicating and showing respect in Japan, or for how deeply embarrassing yhis behavior was for his son, had he not at last realized his mistakes. Parents may well find practical warnings here for how not to relate to their teenager.

beautiful, touching: required reading for all parents

Everything about this exquisite work strikes a chord. I love the awkward affection and tug-of-war Peter Carey and his son share as they move through Manhattan comic shops and then through the alleys and byways of Tokyo. Leave it to Dad to weave nineteenth-century woodcut prints and Commodore Perry's "Opening of Japan" into Gundam Wing and Akira. And leave it to twelve-year-old Charley seek out "weird fish" and Sega World as the representative set pieces of Japan. Thanks to Peter Carey, I now have an inkling of why manga and anime are rocking the world of my teenage son, not to mention a companionable book to return to the next time his father tells me we've had an alien for a child.
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