A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir

A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir Review

A classic memoir of self-invention in a strange land: Ian Buruma's unflinching account of his amazing journey into the heart of Tokyo's underground culture as a young man in the 1970's

When Ian Buruma arrived in Tokyo in 1975, Japan was little more than an idea in his mind, a fantasy of a distant land. A sensitive misfit in the world of his upper middleclass youth, what he longed for wasn't so much the exotic as the raw, unfiltered humanity he had experienced in Japanese theater performances and films, witnessed in Amsterdam and Paris. One particular theater troupe, directed by a poet of runaways, outsiders, and eccentrics, was especially alluring, more than a little frightening, and completely unforgettable. If Tokyo was anything like his plays, Buruma knew that he had to join the circus as soon as possible.

Tokyo was an astonishment. Callow and unformed, Buruma found a feverish and surreal metropolis where nothing was understated, and everything shouted for attention--neon lights, crimson lanterns, Japanese pop, advertising jingles, cabarets, and PA systems. He encountered a city in the midst of an economic boom where everything seemed new, aside from the isolated temple or shrine that had survived the firestorms and earthquakes that had levelled the city during the past century. History remained in fragments: the shapes of wounded World War Two veterans in white kimonos, murky old bars that Mishima had cruised in, and the narrow alleys where street girls had once flitted. Buruma's Tokyo, though, was a city engaged in a radical transformation. And through his adventures in the world of avant garde theater, his encounters with carnival acts, fashion photographers, and moments on-set with Akira Kurosawa, Buruma underwent a radical transformation of his own. For an outsider, unattached to the cultural burdens placed on the Japanese, this was a place to be truly free.

A Tokyo Romance is a portrait of a young artist and the fantastical city that shaped him. With his signature acuity, Ian Buruma brilliantly captures the historical tensions between east and west, the clash of conflicting cultures, and the dilemma of the gaijin in Japanese society, constantly free, yet always on the outside. The result is a timeless story about the desire to transgress boundaries: cultural, artistic, and sexual.

Title:A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir
Edition Language:English

    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Tosh

    Over the years, and especially going back and forth from Japan, I have read many books by fellow Americans and some British citizens on their time spent in Japan. A lot of them are crap. The ones that...

  • Sara

    I was prepared to love this book and looked forward to a trip down memory lane since I was also in Japan during the time period Buruma is writing about. But it's more of a brag about his own youthful ...

  • Jim Coleman

    Exceptional meditation/memoir of the author's years in Japan in the mid-70's, mostly as a student. Do not look to this to help you understand Japan or the Japanese. Such understanding would come obliq...

  • Adriana

    Buruma spent several years in Japan experiencing all he could about the post-war, avant-garde theater scene in Tokyo. It’s incredibly interesting to get such a privileged view of the somewhat crazy ...

  • Gayle Zawilla

    West meets East and past meets future in this somewhat self-indulgent retrospective into the “gaijin” author’s foray into the creative, if sometimes seedy, underground culture of 1970s Tokyo. It...

  • Charlie

    A great source of reading ideas for me these days is the weekly NYTimes Book Review "By The Book" column where I was first introduced to Ian Buruma who I hadn't heard of before. The idea of this book ...

  • Jim Coughenour

    An unfinished book that regularly reappears on my bedside table is The Donald Richie Reader: 50 Years of Writing on Japan, or its alternate, The Japan Journals: 1947-2004. Richie arrived in Japan in 1...

  • Sam Law

    This is a memoir, by the editor of the New York Review of Books, which takes us largely to his life in Japan, between 1975 and 1981.Read More Book Reviews on my blog It's Good To Read SummaryA restle...

  • Mboconnor31

    Fascinating tale, memoir. It starts off with a privileged baby boomer from Holland, albeit his mother is a Jewish woman from a England whose brother was John Schlesinger, director of the iconic 1969 f...

  • Jenny

    This is a memoir about a "gaijin" (a white person) in Japan in the late '70s. I was surprised at the contemporary films, theater, and art scene described (at times reminiscent of what I've read about ...