Book review: Under the Osakan Sun

The countdown to the Japan move began shortly after I graduated in May. Since, I have repeated my plans of teaching in Hiroshima countless times–to friends, family and even complete strangers. With each rendition of “the master plan,” I become a little bit more nervous and a lotta bit more excited.

In order to ease my anxieties, I decided to use this three-month period to learn as much about Japanese culture as possible (along with some beach trips and hanging out with friends). Naturally, I began this endeavor with a visit to my beloved campus library–Davis. After learning that I would soon be an unimportant alumna who must pay $40 for a library card, I proceeded to check-out The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture.

Unsurprisingly, this “companion” proved to be anything but. After painfully completing the first ten-or-so pages, I decided that if I was going to learn anything about Japan, it would have to be via travel memoirs. First up–Under the Osakan Sun by Hamish Beaton.

In Under the Osakan Sun, Hamish recounts his three years of living and teaching in the southeastern part of Osaka prefecture. As a JET Program participant, he not only describes his relationships with his supervisors, students and neighbors, but also his many adventures and experiences as a gaijin, or foreigner.

Whether eating live octopus tentacles (that stick to the roof of his mouth) or participating in town festivals, Hamish certainly succeeds in absorbing Japanese culture. Unlike Hamish, I have not formally studied Japanese language. However, I hope to embody his sense of adventure and capability to adapt to a new culture.

Although Hamish did not significantly reflect on the emotional aspects of living in Japan, his vivid descriptions of the weather, grocery stores, beer gardens, bath houses and even dentist offices have given me a better idea of what to expect upon arrival. In fewer than 30 days–I’ll see if Osaka is anything like Hiroshima!

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