Bending Adversity by David Pilling


Japan is Hello Kitty, sushi and kimonos. Having now visited, I can confirm it is all of those things. But also a lot more.

I promise this won’t turn into a travel blog- I read Bending Adversity: Japan and The Art of Survival while travelling as a means of digging deeper into a culture I had a lot of preconceptions about.

This book is about modern Japan’s ‘lost decades’, the 90s and 00s. Each chapter is about an event or phenomenon, such as the Fukishima meltdown, the disparity between men and women or the tsunami.

Through a mix of interviews, personal anecdotes. geo-politics and history, Pilling draws out insight. For example, why there is still no Japanese army, the fall of the stereotypical salaryman or the commerciality of Osaka (the local greeting is ‘how much money are you making?’)

The book is a bit ‘bitty’ as each chapter could exist independently- a natural consequence of Pilling’s journalist background. It’s a really easy read though.

I like how relevant and modern this is- recent history is rare and it was totally fascinating, expanding the way I think about Japan and its culture. Arigato!

Read: If you’re about to go to Japan, duh. But also if you’re interested at all in the culture.

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