Japan Bibliography

Learning to Bow - Bruce Feiler
This was our very favorite book on living in Japan. It's funny and full of useful information. Bruce Feiler has since had several books on the bestseller list.

36 Views of Mount Fuji - Cathy N. Davidson
This is a beautiful account of living in Japan. Since she was in the same area as we were, it was of particular interest to us.

Polite Lies - Kyoko Mori
The truths of this book became more evident the longer we lived in Japan. It is an in-depth insight into the underlying differences between the Japanese and American cultures.

Max Danger (and More Max Danger) - Robert J. Collins
Unfortunately these are out of print, but they are the funniest descriptions of life in Japan we found. Look for used copies of them on the online bookstores.

The Samurai's Garden - Gail Tsukiyama
One of the most moving and beautiful books we ever read. It captures the subtleties of Japanese thinking besides being a touching story.

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
There is a good reason this spent so much time on the best seller list. It's a well-told story.

Dave Barry Does Japan - Dave Barry
An off-center take on Japanese customs. We related.

31 Months in Japan - The Building of a Theme Park - Larry K. & Lorna Collins
Okay, we're biased, but we tried to capture the experience of living in Japan. Our readers' comments seem to indicate we did a pretty good job of it.

Culture Shock! Japan - P. Sean Bramble
Not for the casual traveler, this is for those who may be considering moving to the country and doing business there.

What NOT to do while in Japan

  • Keep your shoes on while indoors. In nearly every home and many businesses, shoes are removed at the entrance and slippers are provided.
  • Wear toilet slippers elsewhere in the house. Special slippers are available just for use in the toilet room. Don't make the mistake of wearing them elsewhere.
  • Blow your nose in public. Even though small packages of tissues are handed out in train stations, they are Not for blowing noses. They are for wiping sweat and drying hands. Sniff, snort or mouth breathe, but don't blow!
  • Pick your teeth with your mouth open. Toothpicks are provided in nearly all restaurants, but it is considered impolite to use them unless you cover your mouth with one hand and clean your teeth with the other.
  • Forget to bow. The art of bowing when meeting or leaving is a skill to master. You will be forgiven for bowing too low or not low enough, but you will be considered uncultured if you don't bow at all.
  • Forget to exchange business cards. If you are doing business with the Japanese, the formal exchange of meishi or business cards is an important part of every introduction. Hand yours to your counterpart with the writing facing them. And bow.
  • Pour your own drink. It is customary to let someone else pour your drink. And you must remember to take your turn pouring theirs.
  • Refuse to take part in the karaoke. Everyone does it, whether they can carry a tune or not. And you are expected to as well.
  • Refuse the alcohol. All business parties feature drinking. Develop an "allergy" if need be, but outright refusal is considered bad form.
  • Fail to attend a social occasion with business associates. You only have to stay for a few minutes and greet the most important people (the bosses) but you must make an appearance.