Hidden Japan: An Astonishing World of Thatched Villages, Ancient Shrines and Primeval Forests (Paperback)

Hidden Japan: An Astonishing World of Thatched Villages, Ancient Shrines and Primeval Forests By Alex Kerr Cover Image
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"A sharp-tongued spokesman for Japan's environment and traditions" --The New York Times

In Alex Kerr's critically acclaimed Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons, he documented the decline of the traditional landscapes of Japan, his adopted home of many years. Here, in Hidden Japan he makes a journey of rediscovery to find the wonders that still remain.

Originally published in Japanese as a call to preserve disappearing facets of Japan's rich and ancient culture, Hidden Japan records Kerr's travels to various remote and lesser-known places where pockets of traditional culture can still be found. Some are faraway--like Aogashima Island, 200 miles south of Tokyo--while others are easy to reach, such as Mii-dera temple just east of Kyoto. The ten engaging essays in this book describe surprising remnants of Japan's fragile physical and cultural environment, including:

  • Avant-garde Butoh dancing in the remote village of Tashiro in Akita Prefecture
  • How shochu liquor is distilled from tropical ferns on the Pacific island of Aogashima
  • An austere but delicious kaiseki meal in rural Tottori Prefecture composed of local herbs and meats
  • Anecdotes relating to Kerr's childhood growing up in Japan and his passion for restoring old houses
  • The damage caused by governmental infrastructure and reforestation policies, as well as by tourism
  • Plus many other topics

Kerr's sharp eye for detail and exquisite descriptions of Japanese, arts, architecture and foods will inspire readers who already appreciate his unique look at the "reality" of Japan beyond the romance. His personal involvement and obvious love for his subjects encourage us all to think more carefully about our own traditions and environment, and to challenge ourselves to search for better solutions to preserve what is of value all around us.

About the Author

Alex Kerr is an environmentalist, travel writer and restorer of old Japanese houses. Born in Bethesda, Maryland, he came to Japan with his family as a child and has been based in Kameoka, near Kyoto, since 1977. He studied Japanese at Yale University, Chinese as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and has also travelled extensively and written about Southeast Asia. Starting with "Chiiori," a 300-year old thatched roofed house in Iya Valley, Shikoku, which he bought while still in college in 1973, he has gone on to restore over forty old houses around Japan. He writes and speaks widely in Japanese as well as in English on rural revival and town planning, sustainable tourism, Japanese art and landscape. For his work he has been appointed a "Visit Japan Ambassador" and received the "Agency for Cultural Affairs Commissioner's Commendation." Kerr's books include Lost Japan (1993), Dogs and Demons (2001), Living in Japan (2006), Theory of Japanese Landscape (2014), Another Kyoto (2016), Finding the Heart Sutra (2020), Japan Pilgrimage (2020), and Another Bangkok (2021). Kerr's passions are also documented in his TED talks, including The Secrets of Things, 2021, Rural Revival Using What's on Hand, 2019, and New Life for Old Towns through Sustainable Tourism, 2013.
Product Details
ISBN: 9784805317518
ISBN-10: 4805317515
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Publication Date: September 5th, 2023
Pages: 256
Language: English