Someone (who shall remain unnamed) ceremoniously loaned me their copy of Dave Barry Does Japan and told me I had to read it. It’s my pet peeve when people give me their books and I was caught off guard. I responded with a lame, “oh, ok” and proceeded to read it because I wanted to finish and return the book ASAP.
Boy, am I glad I didn’t have the heart to say no to unnamed person because this book gave me a thousand laughs.
Dave Barry is a columnist and a humor writer. He was commissioned by Random House (in the 1990s) to travel to Japan for three weeks and then write about his summary of the Japanese culture.
Initially, I read this book at bedtime, but I laughed so much that it kept startling my poor husband awake. Needless to say, I had to switch to daytime reading.
It made me laugh because Dave writes about his experiences in such a way where he pokes fun at himself and the less desirable aspects of American culture (i.e. our bad cars, our bad manners, our lack of pride in our jobs, whereas the Japanese take pride in their work, make good cars and are polite to one another). I laughed at his attempts to figure out the Tokyo streets (impossible) and attempts to order food that looked somewhat familiar to him (never happened).
Though Dave makes a huge effort to learn the Japanese culture (he even meets with Japanese CEOs and government officials to truly understand) he admits that he hasn’t learned anything at all because it is simply impossible to learn and summarize any culture in just three weeks. I found this honest and respectful. He ends the book by poking fun at Americans just one last time; we could stand to learn from Japanese manners and politeness. (So perhaps he did indeed learn something about Japanese culture?)
If you’re looking for a book about Japanese culture and what to do on your next trip to Tokyo then this book is not for you. But if you’re looking for a book about an American lost and confused in Japan who is not scared to poke fun at himself, then I recommend it.
Am I glad I read this book? Yes, I really am.
Would I read another humor book? Probably not.