In some ways, this is your pretty standard, run-of-the-mill travel memoir. I get sent many books of this nature, particularly regarding far eastern countries, travellers to this region apparently keen to share their experience with the world. However, there is a welcome difference about this one, and that, in a nutshell, is its author Kyle McCormick. Unlike the usual vanity memoir, Kyle’s approach is a little more down to earth, and even, dare I say it, refreshingly cynical at times. He doesn’t lavish the usual cultural sycophancy, like these books tend to do, even though it is clear at the end that he loves his life in Japan. Nor is there any pretence to his travelling; he isn’t a backpacker seeking enlightenment or answering some spiritual calling. His journal actually accounts for his trips to the most touristy sites, which he experiences in an almost matter-of-fact manner; this book is what you might call a travel guide for the more serious holidaymaker. Furthermore, if you are going to Japan (and clearly have a few bucks to spend), it is probably as good a one as you are ever likely to read.
This is helped massively by the fact that Kyle is a tremendously talented author, very articulate with huge personality and humour in his writing. Quite frankly, he could write about anything and make it interesting, entertaining and intelligent. I, for one, would be very interested to see what non-fiction he chooses to write about next, because in my opinion Kyle is a journalist first and a traveller second.
In fairness, perhaps I am not doing the book the justice it deserves. It is an undoubtedly professional composition, packed full of information about Japan’s rich culture, its many attractions and its ancient history. The author has clearly done his research and knows the history of this land as well as anyone. I don’t think Japan is painted in any particular light, and until the epilogue Kyle doesn’t really impart his opinion about his experiences – which is one of this book’s strengths. Unusually, the people are portrayed as neither more or less than what they actually are, and for myself – as someone who has lived most of his life in one of the two or three busiest and most expensive tourist cities in the world – I can see the commercialization of Japan clearly in Kyle’s account. It doesn’t appeal to me from reading this book, I’ll be honest. If, however, you are set on visiting Japan, and are at peace with the fact that you are doing so as a holidaymaker, and not because of some imaginary affiliation with the ancient culture and spiritualism of this genuinely remarkable country, then this excellent book is highly recommended.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: kyle-mccormick travel memoir japan culture far-east