Tauzuru I fully understand why Buruma declined to revise this book, because his life too has moved on and Japan is no longer the primary focus of his interest. Yet another book about Japan, but I totally loved it! The final chapter on methods of blowing off steam in a relatively conformist society e. To ask other readers questions about Behind the Maskplease sign up. No trivia or quizzes yet. The book was written in the 80th and the author did not revise the new edition.

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Shelves: history-politics-culture , solid-read A gem of a book I accidentally stumbled upon. Ian Buruma knows what he is writing about small wonder since he had been living in Japan for seven years and has very insightful and sharp remarks about the Japanese society and some of its particularities the cult of mother, the worship of immaculate beauty that reaches its peak in destruction, etc. The only downside I can find with the book is A gem of a book I accidentally stumbled upon.

The only downside I can find with the book is unsystematic presentation since it is unclear what the author was trying to accomplish by compiling essays on various topics and giving us random glimpses into the core of the Japanese society and their way of thinking.

Nevertheless, be careful reading it as it is 30 years old and some aspects of society of course have changed. But for a general overview of Japanese aesthetics and construction of characters, it is still a good read. This story is then extrapolated to explain certain notions which are ingrained in Japanese culture.

The author proceeds to examine how collective psychology is enacted within Japanese society. He observes that imbedded and omnipresent social obligations inevitably lead to suppressed emotion. This controlled character finds emotional outlet through Shinto religious practices, creative mediums, or other rituals which are socially and psychologically compartmentalised from shared behavioural conventions. Literary figures are used to demonstrate a Japanese cultural dialectic that exists between the public and private sphere.

Buruma explains the linguistic distinction made between tatemae facade and public posture , and honne the world of private feelings and opinions which under normal circumstances remains repressed.

Idolised cultural figures are frequently outsiders who defy pervasive social norms. The wandering loner is a lifestyle which is simultaneously romanticised and pitied. For most, it remains an aspiration which is beyond the realms of possibility, except when indulging imagination freed from such conventions.

Buruma goes on to examine various dominant cultural traits in Japanese society. He weaves his narrative using literature, theatre, art, and films from imperial and modern Japan. The depth in which Buruma engages varies from source to source. We are sometimes presented with contextual information and close-reading of a few works by the one author; other sources receive just a cursory glance as they relate to an overarching theme.

Having undoubtedly experienced varied cultural interactions first-hand through living in Japan for a number of years, Buruma gently mocks Japanese cultural exceptionalism without attempting to rationalise its presence. It helps if this spirit is Japanese. The term is not really used for foreigners who, one can only assume, lack such a thing.

His writing generally strikes a fair balance. It is bold without being overbearing, and broad without succumbing to generalisation. An insightful overview of Japanese culture, and pleasing introduction into a new world of literature.

On the mirror concept, Buruma writes: The morbid and sometimes grotesque taste that runs through Japanese culture—and has done for centuries—is a direct result of being made to conform to such a strict and limiting code of normality. The theatrical imagination, the world of the bizarre is a parallel, or rather the flip-side of reality, as fleeting and intangible as a reflection in the mirror. It left plenty of impressions on me and influenced how I view aspects of the culture.

And these impressions were not all positive.


Ian Buruma

He went to school in both Holland and Japan, and he has spent a great deal of time in Japan. The book, Behind the Mask, was a very interesting one. This book is filled with lots of Japans history that most people know nothing about. Much of the content in Behind the Mask is focused on sexuality and violence. The book has thirteen chapters each dealing with a different topic. It starts out with a kind of mythology about the origins of Japan. It is then followed by chapters on mothers in Japan and marriage.



Overview[ edit ] Buruma lived in Japan from to , where he worked as a film reviewer, photographer and documentary filmmaker. He later traveled throughout Asia working as a freelance writer. In , he delivered the Huizinga Lecture on " Neoromanticism of writers in exile" in the Pieterskerk in Leiden , Netherlands. Ghomeshi was acquitted in of one count of choking and four counts of sexual assault, after over 20 women complained either to the police or in the media. The publication of the essay was controversial, in part because Ghomeshi wrote that the allegations against him were "inaccurate". In , Buruma was awarded the Erasmus Prize , which is awarded to an individual who has made "an especially important contribution to culture, society or social science in Europe". His writing in recent years has attracted the ire of critics who think he equivocates on the dangers of radical Islam , but Ian Buruma made his response this year with a typically judicious and politically relevant book, Taming the Gods, that reflects on the Western capacity for religious pluralism.

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