Cherry Blossoms, Sushi and Takarazuka, Seven years in Japan by Jill Rutherford.
I have always been intrigued by Japan ever since I was a young teenage day dreamer, it all started when watching television round one of my grandparents houses and they had just had sky installed and on one of the kids channels was a Japanese Anime programme called ‘Sailor Moon’. I was hooked from the first instance from their cartoon Kimono’s and their funny Japanese squeals, I thought wow I want to know more about Japan. I had always dreamed of one day that I might go to Japan to visit and explore the lovely, pretty country you see in all the books and extra polished television programmes and films but since growing up, finding a job, getting married and having children I knew that this dream might have to wait till I was a lot older and in a more financial situation to afford to go, as a ticket to Japan is not small change, its a small fortune.
Then I came across Jill’s book when I attended my local book festival and thought well now I can visit without actually having to go and I have to say after reading this book I do feel like I have actually been, I feel like some of her memories have become mine, they are now ingrained in my brain, I can see all what she saw, done and achieved.
Her book is a tale of two worlds it shows the kind and loving nature of the Japanese but also hints at the repression that hides so cleverly under the surface, like a mask, which most of the Japanese don’t know they are wearing. Her journey for a normal, middle aged woman to a keen explorer of the Japanese culture is truly fascinating. How herself and her friend had the courage to up sticks and leave everything they knew behind for a dream, a new life with its own struggles, for working visa’s, finding the right place to host as a school and then trying to get their heads round the strange, charming and confusing traditions of Japan’s people makes a cracking good read.
I have learnt so much from her book and not just about the all woman Takarazuka theatre company, which thousands of Japanese women fans all ‘fall in love with’ the women actresses and performers that play the male parts and how their biggest fans are just as important and influential at keeping these stars up high in the ranks as they are to brightening up a bored and lonely house wife’s day but also their overly honest, polite and unquestionable belief in the people around them to be the same honest and polite people as they are, like for instance she says in her book how people can walk round with wads of cash and not feel threatened that someone may try to steal it from them, in their culture that is just not done. They all behave and act in such a manner that they all feel safe in their own environment. She also tells about how even the homeless people stick by these silent rules and don’t bother or harm anyone for their own help or gain, how they don’t beg for food or money as that would be offending to themselves as a person, they just get on with their way of life until they either find a way to live or perish.
This book has shown me a great deal about these people, like how easily offended they are by a mistaken wronged manner and how if you do offend them even by the smallest means you might not see that person again, then their is the whole being a foreigner in their country which either makes you fascinating and exciting or frightening and strange but even through this you can see how giving and trusting they can be, either by food, time, money or help to a certain degree but one doesn’t ask for it, they offer and simply give by their own means.
If you love Japan or want to find out what the textbooks of a polished Japan don’t tell you, then this is for you. I highly recommend and highly enjoyed reading. I still have that ‘After Glow’ after reading feeling, of my head still in the story and world she has shown me.
Jill’s book can be found at Amazon.co.uk and its in paperback and on Kindle.