|Under the Osakan Sun: A Funny, Intimate, Wonderful Account of Three Years in Japan|
Hamish is a skilful storyteller, and paints a delightful portrait of his life in Kanan Town, and the people who become a part of it. He captures the spirit of the Japanese people - their overwhelming kindness and generosity, as well as some of their eccentricities. Particularly memorable are his lively colleagues at the Board of Education, who quickly enlist him as a popular drinking buddy, and the lovely group of middle aged women who regularly invite him to teach them English and, in return, they help him with his Japanese (with the result that his Japanese takes on a rather feminine vernacular). At the other end of the spectrum is the student's father who asks Hamish what sort of pornography he likes to watch, and the psycho girlfriend who forces him to wear clothes that match hers so they can be 'kawaii' together. Hamish has a great sense of humour, and most importantly, an ability to always make the best of things - which is so necessary when living in a foreign culture.
The fact that this book is set in the Osaka area made it all the more exciting when I went back and read it a couple of weeks ago. I recognised so many of the places that were referred to, and even went to some of the same events that Hamish talks about - Tenjin matsuri, and the PL fireworks event. I never quite made it to Kanan Town, where he lived, but I think I came close, on the night when we went to watch the PL fireworks out in the countryside. Another experience that was uncomfortably close to home was Hamish's introduction to that evil beverage, Chu-hi... but you'll have to read the book to see where that particular anecdote goes.
Hamish, good on ya mate. Under the Osakan Sun is a funny, gutsy piece of travel writing, and I haven't yet managed to find any book on Japan that has inspired me more. I always recommend it to people wanting to do JET, but anyone interested in Japan would love it. In fact, if there's anyone close by (Dunedin) who happens to be reading this and wants to borrow my copy, let me know!
What are some other good travel novels on Japan?