Reviews of Geraldine Sherman's Japan Diaries: A Travel Memoir

"Travellers who prefer sidewalks to footpaths may enjoy Geraldine Sherman's Japan Diaries: A Travel Memoir. Twelve years ago, Sherman, A CBC radio producer, received an Asia Pacific Foundation journalists' grant that allowed her and her spouse, Toronto journalist Robert Fulford, to spend six expenses-paid weeks exploring Japan, a country she'd always dreamed of visiting. They checked out museums, Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples, gardens, markets, film festivals, and performances of traditional kabuki theatre. They rubbed elbows with diplomats and scholars, and were fêted at embassy dinners and other high-end functions. They learned to navigate the labyrinthine Tokyo subway system. They loved it all, and 10 years later, courtesy this time of the Japan Foundation, they got a chance to do it again.

"In Japan Diaries, Sherman's regard for Japan's people and history is obvious. She's a keen observer, and her good humour through even the most frustrating moments makes her a likeable narrator. I learned a lot about bunraku (Japanese puppet theatre), tea ceremonies, and ikebana - the intricate art of flower arranging. I scratched my head, along with Sherman, at the Japanese belief that a person's blood type predicts his or her suitability for certain jobs, and at how little sleep the average working Japanese gets."
-- Quill & Quire, September 1999

"The book is cleverly designed to resemble a diary, with a red-ribbon bookmark and photos that look as if they've been clipped in. [...] One of the best entries is Sherman's wry account of a disastrous cross-cultural dinner party held in her tiny Tokyo apartment. 'As for the pizzas, the toppings remain something of a mystery. I can say for certain there were hot dogs, eggs, cheese, ham and possibly okra. A cross-culinary disaster, similar to the conversation that alternated between 'The Japanese do the darndest things!' and 'Aren't gaijin [non-Japanese] a hoot?' Then, the conversational highlight of the evening, a comparison of the Canadian raccoon and the Japanese badger.' [...]

"We get poetic flashes ('rough stone steps, a confusion of smells, voices shouting in a language I couldn't understand'). We get insights into Japanese culture ('tatemae, expressions that run contrary to a character's feelings but are considered to be the proper response to a given situation') and reflection ('to borrow from quantum physics, travellers, like scientists, alter everything they observe. All conclusions, especially those reached on the spot, are therefore suspect')."
-- The Globe & Mail, November 13, 1999

"A traveller's tale often tells one as much about the traveller as about the journey. Ms. Sherman lacks the acerbic edge of Paul Theroux, but I think she would be a much more comfortable travelling companion. Certainly her fascination with Japan, especially the food [...] and theatre, shines through her Diaries, making them a pleasure to read."
-- The Ottawa Citizen, April 2, 2000

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