I think I still want to travel to Japan, but I am pretty sure I will never call that country home. Which works because based on the short stories written by Rebecca Otowa’s in her collection titled The Mad Kyoto Shoe Shopper ($19.95, PGC Books, Tuttle Publishing), Japan and its people would never accept me.
Otowa was born in California, grew up in Australia, but has called Japan home for more 40 years. In that time, she got married, brought up two sons, taught English and has written a couple of books, yet it sounds like she isn’t accepted in her adopted country.
In her author’s note, Otowa talks about the inspirations of the stories she created for this book which includes personal experience, family history, news items and observations.
While I understand Japan is steeped in history, of which Otowa also calls out when thanking family, friends and the people of that country in her note, I found it difficult to read.
Women, it seems, are still considered second class when it comes to men, husbands included, and mother-in-laws. I suspect it is the Japanese treatment of wives and daughter-in-laws that created the stereotype of terrible in-laws. Insert shudder.
The stories are well written and interesting. They are also quick reads, only a few pages in length. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Japanese life and culture. But sometimes the read was also difficult because of how these women were treated.
Ginny Tapley-Takemori, translator of Convenience Store Woman, said it best: The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper and Other Short Stories offers “Delightful vignettes of life in Japan, highlighting the cultural differences between Japanese and American (or Canadian) sensibilities, especially for women.”
A copy of this book was provided by PGC Books for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.