||November 29, 2001
An American housewife's husband is offered a position in Japan to work on a multinational project. After much soul-searching they accept, and their lives are never the same. Living in the countryside in housing specifically designed for Westerners, surrounded with friendly neighbors from The European Union, Canada, Russia and America, they thrive. Pauline gingerly maneuvers through complicted rules of Japanese social behavior, never knowing when a simple faux pas would be construed as an intolerable violation of proper conduct. Life in Japan was a challenge, but a close network of Japanese and fellow expatriate friends enabled the Hagers to prevail.
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An amusing and educational travel memoir for persons who intend to live or visit Japan, or for the curious who wonder what this fascinationg country would be like to live there. Pauline commits many faux pas, such as not knowing what slippers to wear when visiting inns, what kimono to wear for dinner, and others. Food shopping was a challenge; unable to read the writings on cans and bottles. Driving on the left side of the road (British style) was horrendous. Exotic countries visited were Malaysia, Southern China, Hong Kong, Lantau Island, Singapore, and Thailand.
Mesa Meetings: As if I didn't have enough things to do or places to go, I joined an English-speaking educationl group. Every Tuesday morning, three or four of us Westerners rode the train into Mito and attended these meetings. They were held at the community center...they would discuss many national and international affairs...The meetings are always conducted in English. I was amazed at how well these women were able to convey their ideas in English. Some of the topics were the Aum Shinrikyo gassing in the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake. Princess Diana's tragic death was another topic. I remember sitting there and every time I heard them mention a "Mr. Braya" said this or "Mr. Braya" said that, I wondered who they were talking about. I thought this man must be important and has a lot of authority, but who in the world is he. Why do they seem to know so much about him, and I don't even know who he is. About half way through the discussion, it finally hit me. They were talking about Tony Blair, Prime Minister of England.
Reading about the normal American Jane moving to Japan
This was a lot of fun to read! The book is not a professional memoirs, travel guide, or "how to" but a nice narrative about how a reasonaly average/normal American housewife adjusted to moving to a completely different environment.
I recently read another book by an American expatriate who basically spent the vast majority of it complaining about how painful her time was in Japan. How much more fun to see another average person move to Japan, live in a Japanese house, interact with her Japanese neighbors and really take advantage of such a great opportunity. We get to read how she had to adjust to the shopping, the food, the driving, learning the language, and my personal favorite---trying to negotiate life when you are an illiterate. Reading her anxieties and the way she overcame them and really embraced and loved her time in Japan was an interesting journey to take.
For people who are looking at a long term move to Japan this book would be a great read ahead of time, just to get a feel for what one normal person experienced.
A great introduction to Japanese culture.
Memoirs of an American Housewife in Japan is a detailed, straightforward account of how one American woman spent two years living in Japan and how she dealt with the people and strange customs she encountered there. Pauline Hager describes in great detail her hometown in Japan, her neighbors, and all the places in the country that she visits. She also describes some of the countries surrounding Japan, such as Singapore and Thailand, which she visits while living in the Far East.
This book would be an excellent companion for exchange students or anyone planning to live in Japan for an extended period of time. In addition to describing customs, Hager discusses the language, cuisine, religion, and holidays. there are even sections on the book devoted to sumo wrestling, the climate, the vegetation, you name it. As someone that has been a long-time fan of all things Japanese, this book was a delight to read.
I would highly recommend this book to any American who is either planning to live in Japan or is simply interested in Japanese culture.
Fascinating look at everyday life in Japan
Pauline Hager spent some years in Mito, Japan, living rather than visiting. She samples breakfast (never giving up a preference to donuts for the traditional rice and fish, which makes her gag), Japanese medicine (no advanced orthopedic surgery, surprising in a land with great health overall.) Pauline has a good way with descriptions and is not afraid to state her opinion. for example, she didn't like Singapore much (I found it about the opposite of everthing she said and I DO like Japanese breakfasts a lot.)
The fun details like toilet slippers, kimono customs and the reactions of everyday people make this worth reading. I enjoyed a vicarious visit back to Japan, comparing my notes to Pauline's. A fun read and would be good for anyone who is curious about daily life in Japan.
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