Monday, February 21, 2011

Doin' Japan and Doin' the Feminist Canon

now finished: Dave Barry Does Japan by (duh) Dave Barry
Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staa

Dave Barry rules. We recently went to Japan, my first time outside of Tokyo Narita Airport layovers. Besides the fact that Japan is awesome as a whole, Hiroshima is now one of my favorite cities in the world. We did a lot of wandering there and found many cool little things including an used English book shop with cafe (meaning, also a bar!) where I just had to buy a used book as part of my Japan experience. And lo and behold, they had Dave Barry Does Japan for 5000 yen.

Funny stuff! What I like most about it is how he weaves together a wry look at both Japan and the United States, pointing out that when either culture cries, "You're so strange and different!" it's because it takes two to tango, i.e., one couldn't be strange and different if the other weren't also strange and different coming from the opposite perspective. But he's also just really funny, like about Godzilla, Toyotas, onsen spas, Japanese rock music and more.

I disagree with him about only one major thing, which is that he seemed to think the Hiroshima remembrances of the atomic bombing on August 6 every year were somehow "forgetting" the seriousness of why the U.S. dropped the bomb. He was also offended that at the nighttime gathering in the peace memorial park there were kids running around along the river in an almost festive atmosphere. Well, kids are kids, and they will run around on pretty much any occasion; have you even been with toddlers at funerals? I sure have. And, I don't see how anyone could visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and not find the whole Hiroshima remembrance very somber indeed. Furthermore, I don't think there is any justification for dropping an atomic bomb. Even legally, in criminal law, there is a difference between excuse and justification.

All that said, the Hiroshima chapter is a short, serious bit in an otherwise very funny book full of awesome observations and storytelling. I can't imagine it not inspiring someone to go to Japan, but then again, I can't imagine people not wanting to travel there in the first place.

As for Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life, wherein Stephanie Staal revisits the feminist classics of her college women's studies class a decade later, now that she's married with a child and by all accounts an actual adult woman, check out my About Women's History review here.