14 Aug / A Tokyo Romance: A Romance by Ian Buruma [in Library Journal]
“Japan shaped me when the plaster was still wet,” writes New York Review of Books editor Ian Buruma. In his mid-20s in 1975, the Dutch-born Buruma, who is half English and half German Jew, arrived in Tokyo to study film at Nihon University College of Art. Being Midnight Cowboy director John Schlesinger’s nephew provided Buruma with his initial entrée to the film world. Beyond academia, his participatory education took him onto sets and stages as he explored multiple artistic expressions – film, theater, dance, photography – in raw, uninhibited manifestations.
That Buruma is both author and narrator here – reading in a languid British English combined with Japanese fluency – proves he’s his own ideal presenter. His encounters range from inevitable – meeting famed expat Donald Richie who “introduced Japanese cinema to the West”; to outrageous – sporting a “tiny scarlet jockstrap” onstage, then dropping his dance partner; to sublime – appearing in a whiskey ad with Akira Kurosawa.
Verdict: Readers expecting cherry blossoms and tea ceremonies will be shocked; deep satisfaction awaits audiences prepared for an unflinching, explicit memoir of a stranger-in-a-strange-land’s cultural and sexual maturation.