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Posts tagged book review

Japan Journeys

@TuttleBooks

I just finished Japan Journeys: Famous Woodblock Prints of Cultural Sights in Japan by Andreas Marks. This is mostly a picture book, featuring about 200 Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e / 浮世絵). Artists include Hokusai (北斎), Hiroshige (広重), Utamaro (歌麿), and Kunisada (国貞).

The prints include a brief description and some historical context. They are arranged by location.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I have a couple of critiques/recommendations should anyone want to do something similar.

The first is that some, if not many, of the ukiyo-e are too small. The book is inexpensive (under $20 for a hardback and all in full color), but I would have preferred a larger book, both in terms of page size and length, so that the prints could be seen in more detail. Some of them are stamp size, and they all should have been at least 8″ on the short side.

The second is that I would have liked to have also seen modern photos of these places, even if the places look radically different today. I’m imagining something like what I’ve done here and here.

“Eco Living Japan” review

@TuttleBooks

I mentioned a while ago that I began reading this book. Although I finished reading Eco Living Japan: Sustainable Ideas for Living Green by Deanna MacDonald months ago, I never got around to writing a review–until now.

Once upon a time I was going to be an architect so design, buildings, etc. have always interested me since. In addition, I’ve always appreciated the clean look of some Japanese and Danish architecture and design. Someone not interested in Japan and/or these items probably won’t be very interested in this book.

The text wasn’t usually riveting for me, and the prose was fairly repetitive and unenlightening, but I still enjoyed the book–mostly because of the photos. The good news is the book is mostly photos.

Another critique I had with the book is the subtitle of “sustainable ideas for living green” should have the words “if you are extremely rich” added. Most of the projects examined are for relatively large, custom properties in Japan using materials that would cost several times the amount of more common construction. A very minor segment of the Japan’s population could afford these “sustainable ideas for living green”.

That said, the properties explored are fun to consider if you, like me, enjoy dreaming big.

Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City’s Most Colorful Neighborhoods

tokyo on foot

@TuttleBooks

Tokyo on Foot is not what I expected. And that’s not a bad thing. I was expecting something like Foot Loose in Tokyo or A Flower Lover’s Guide to Tokyo in which the reader is given guidance on various walks in Tokyo. While Tokyo on Foot could potentially be used in this way, I look at it more as art/manga appreciation than a guide book. Florent Chavouet’s art is fantastic. The attention to detail and capturing of Tokyo scenes is captivating and the type of work that you can frequently revisit without becoming bored.

If you’ve visited or lived in Tokyo I think you’ll like it more than someone who hasn’t (not that a future visitor won’t want to take a look at this book to get an idea of where to go and what to see in Tokyo). Remembering views that are slumbering just beneath the surface of your memory can be lots of fun.

Eco Living Japan

eco living japan

I began reading Eco Living Japan: Sustainable Ideas for Living Green by Deanna MacDonald last night. First impressions are good. The book is beautiful. More than half of it is full-color, high-quality photographs. I’ll provide a more detailed review once I have finished reading.

Samurai Revolution

samurai revolution awa katsu book recommendation meiji jidai edo

I finished this book by Romulus Hillsborough today. I thought I knew a lot about the end of feudalism in Japan and the beginnings of the Meiji Era, but most of the contents of this book were new to me. I highly recommend reading it.

Some of my favorite parts dealt with places I have visited in Japan. For instance, the story of Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟) having to make a large donation to Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社) before they would take his sword, a symbol of the historic peace accord he had just negotiated on Miyajima, brought back fond memories of my time there (as well as memories of how shrines ask for money for just about everything, including offerings required for the shrine to burn the object that you had to pay the shrine for to use as a good luck charm the prior year).

You will also learn about the entire back story that ultimately resulted in this statue in Ueno (and why it is in Ueno).

I’ve spent many hours in Akasaka in Tokyo so hearing about what it was like in the 19th Century was fascinating.

Happy Declaration of Independence Day

samuel adams beer grave stone 4th of july

Samuel Adams grave stone in Granary Burial Ground (aka The Old Granary)

My view of American history has changed over the past month. First, I read David G. McCullough’s 1776 which seriously altered my take on the revolution. The year 1776 was actually a very dark period in American history (until the last week) as independence seemed very difficult to come by in July and nearly impossible by mid-December with numerous defeats and retreats.

Seeing the actual places in New York and Boston where some of the events of 1776 occurred after reading 1776 also gave me a new perspective.

July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day even though independence didn’t actually come until the war ended in 1783, and the legal separation from America’s point of view came on July 2. But the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4 so that is the day that stuck.

Today’s photo is of the tombstone of one of the signers of that document, Samuel Adams. His father started the brewery that many know the name Samuel Adams by today. However, the modern Samuel Adams beer of the Boston Beer Company didn’t get started until 1984, despite the commercials which make it look like it has been brewed since the 18th Century.

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