The occidental tourists
Two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey is no stranger to praise, but Wrong About Japan: A Father's Journey with His Son, could garner a more distinguished honor: his son's love and respect. Clasping onto shy 12-year-old Charley's new interest in Japanese comics and film animation, Carey joins his son's Saturday morning jaunts cruising around Greenwich Village's sci-fi and video stores. Together they discover their passion for Japan. With comedy, adventure and insight, Carey's warm, first-person travelogue journeys across land, cultures and the daunting pre-teen/father generational divide. Carey's initial suggestion of a trip to Japan gets a lukewarm response from his son. Charley yearns to check out "cool" locales, eat raw fish and buy comics, and that's it. " No Real Japan,' said Charley. You've got to promise. No temples. No museums.' "Skipping the tourist destinations, the duo's pilgrimage takes them to Tokyo where they wander past kimono-clad women and cartoon character impersonators, by the communal baths and through subway stations displaying "a very alien-looking ticket dispenser." The father does manage to slip a slow-moving four-hour Kabuki theater performance onto the itinerary, and Charley's response was the same as mine when my Japanese host-mom duped me into attending such a performance: "How could you do that to me?" The Careys' journey leaves them with lingering questions of whether their thoughts about Japan were proven right or incorrect. Baffled by the toilet masterpieces of Japan, where commodes transform into seat-warming bidets, they discover Japan is notable for more than atomic bombs and Godzilla. Exploring the intricacy of a country and a culture where he "could not read or speak the simplest phrase," Carey easily traverses the scene with his simple expressive writing. Arigato Carey-san. Thank you, Mr. Carey. Tiffany Speaks is a former editor for Newsweek Japan magazine.