Dave Barry Does Japan

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01-16-2005, 06:39 PM

Okay, because I mentioned this book in another thread (http://www.timog.com/forum/showthread.php?t=171 ), I really have to review this sooner or later. However, this isn’t much of a review; I just want to mention that if you know Japan and would like to be entertained by a good book, then read Dave Barry Does Japan (http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449908100/qid=1105866406/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/249-9458749-5439514), one of Barry’s funniest.

Heck, you don’t even have to buy it; I got this myself from our local city library.


From the flap:

“At a point where it appeared that tensions between Japan and the United States could get no worse, Random House decided to dispatch Dave Barry to Tokyo. The resulting report is the most skillful diplomatic stroke since George Bush lost his cookies in the Japanese prime minister’s lap.”

Barry, the ever-inquisitive journalist, finds many things to admire about Japan, like Kabuki. Exceprts:

The Plot: Everybody is upset and whining. One reason is that they lost the sacred incense burner. Another reason is that some little boy is blind. And the heroine is extremely upset because she has to sell herself to the brothel so that she can afford to purchase the ointment her boyfriend needs for his hip ailment (I swear I’m not making this up).

Meanwhile some assassins are lurking around.

So at this point, as you might expect, everybody stops for a few minutes to remember the way birds sing when they’re alone.

Now the boy appears onstage. “He is blind,” the interpreter informs us. “and earns money as a masseur.”

The boy, played by a boy who was apparently selected for his ability to whine for extended lengths of time in an extraordinarily high pitch, asks – why not? – whether his clogs are anywhere around. Everybody whines about this for three solid minutes (or fifty-one minutes in E.S.T., eye surgery time).

At this point the heroine goes off to sell herself to the brothel, which apparently has a big demand for women who look like John Belushi. Then the assassins reappear and the characters stage the World’s Least Realistic Sword Fight.

Then the assassins go away and the heroine comes back and everybody squats around to whine for a while. A man who has been doing the most of the whining – I think he might be the one who lost the sacred incense burder – announces suddenly (by which I mean, in only about five minutes) that he is going to commit suicide. He stabs himself in the gut, thereby causing a stirring of hope to ripple through the audience as it appears that the play might possibly coming to an end.

But no. If you think this man could whine before, you should see him when he has stabbed himself. He kneels at center stage, holding his gut, and squalls the audience for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, other people appear and comment at length on how tragic the situation is. It is. And nobody does anything about it, such as call the samurai paramedic unit. They just whine about it, with the victim himself making more noise than anybody.

“SOMEBODY STAB HIM AGAIN!” is what I would have yelled, if I knew how in Japanese.

Finally he dies, probably from overacting, and another guy announces that he’s going to go off and find the sacred incense burner, and everybody is happy, especially us culturally myopic tourists, sprinting from the theater into the safety of the Tokyo night.

So there. Get the book, read it and laugh.

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