Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan
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Learning to Bow has been heralded as one of the funniest, liveliest, and most insightful books ever written about the clash of cultures between America and Japan. With warmth and candor, Bruce Feiler recounts the year he spent as a teacher in a small rural town. Beginning with a ritual outdoor bath and culminating in an all-night trek to the top of Mt. Fuji, Feiler teaches his students about American culture, while they teach him everything from how to properly address an envelope to how to date a Japanese girl.
later became the islands of Japan. After Izanami died in a fiery accident, Izanagi tried to purify himself and in the process spontaneously gave birth to a daughter through his eyes and a son 70 / Learning to Bow through his nose. The daughter, Amaterasu, became goddess of the Sun and ruler over heaven. Her brother, Susano, became god of the Wind and sovereign over the sea. But the stormy Susano was jealous of his sister’s appointment as leader of all the gods, and in an act of vengeance he
and had been boyfriend and girlfriend for less time than that. Cho and Chieko, who had met through work, were what the Japanese call a love match, as opposed to an arranged set-up. In the more traditional style of courting, still used by about half of all couples today, a go-between sends glossy photographs and genealogical data to both sides of a proposed match, and then chaperons a meeting between the man, the woman, and both of their families. After this meeting each party decides whether to
television networks, a highly respected and well-paying job that boasts a higher than average glamour quotient. Accordingly, Azuma came dressed for our go-con in tapered leather pants and a tight, zebra-striped sweater. His hair was greased back against his head and a small, provocative curl hung down over his forehead, sort of like Michael Jackson, but macho. Call him Prince Charming. Hara and Azuma seemed ideal for the go-con game, except, Bruce S. Feiler / 149 as I soon learned, neither one
amid twisted sheets and pillows like teenagers at a slumber party after a game of strip poker. I tiptoed through the mass of bodies to the last empty roll, against the far screen wall. Slipping off my robe, I slid between the sheets with a sense of great anticipation, until, to my great despair, my feet came popping out the other end of the bedroll. Realizing that nothing would cover me tonight, I lay on my back, closed my eyes, and in a moment of peace, dreamed that I was in Japan—surrounded by
librarian, the director of the Public Health Department, the manager of the train station, and—to cover all bets—the chief of police. At the end of my first week, Mr. C decided I was ready to meet my most important protector, the principal of my school. Sano Junior High School occupies a small plot of land on the west side of the city, at the foot of a large span of rice fields leading into the mountains of central Tochigi. Although the school was founded just after the Second World War, the