What Da Cover Says: A distillation of Bouvier’s lifelong quest for Japan and his many travels, so that the reader discovers the country through the eyes of both a passionate young man, the sensual appreciation of a middle-aged artist, and the serenity of an experienced writer. Bouvier was an image merchant and photographer as well as a writer; this Eland edition of Japanese Chronicles is accompanied by many of his startling images of Japan.
What I Says: A book of two halves, one is a concise history of Japan and it’s people and the second half is a travelogue of one of the most chilled travel writers you’ll ever read.
The history of Japan is not something I know much about, it has only briefly been mentioned in other books so this was the most in-depth I’ve gone. As with a lot of countries they are plodding along nicely…you could say thriving….until the Europeans come along and cause chaos and much bloodshed. The people in Japan did manage to do quite a good job of holding them off and it is because of that achievement they are such a strong nation today. Bouvier has a great love of Japan and this comes through in his writing, a subject that could be rather dry is brightened by his wonderful way with words. I think I would have to re-read this book to get a better understanding as it is difficult to remember all the place names and people.
The second half of the book is the memoirs of a man who has spent many years living in and exploring Japan. He comes across as being super relaxed, going with the flow and in no hurry at all. He does his travelling with very little money sleeping in some awful places full of fleas, this is one of the best things about being an armchair traveller 🙂 He meets some extraordinary people, Bouvier was the sort of person that could befriend anybody and get them to take him in and show him around, the fact he had a camera opened a lot of doors for him. He has a great sense of humour too, I loved the bit where he meets a group of kids and they all give him bits of paper for his autograph and he writes lots of different names for them as a joke.
The best part of the book was at the Abashiri Museum, he meets the owner who is happy to take things out of cabinets for Bouvier to photograph, it turns out this museum is his personal collection of years and years of travelling, he was a brilliant character.
A couple of years ago I read So It Goes by this author and I felt it was a mistake to read his last book before any of his others and I was right, this book is fantastic and will give me a whole new perspective of So It Goes when I read that again.