I’ve been reading a lot of the current Japan-related hardback lifestyle books on offer recently, and I think I may have just found my new favourite – and best of the bunch – in Erin Niimi Longhurst’s Japonisme.
While so many of these lifestyle books fill their pages with lengthy anecdotal or pseudo-science ‘evidence’ supposedly backing up why what they’re preaching is so convincing, Japonisme relies far more on relatable, personal stories. If an author is telling us about how great a certain lifestyle is, I kind of want to know that they can ‘walk the walk’ so to speak – and thankfully, as a half British, half Japanese lifestyle blogger and social media consultant, Longhurst is in a better position than most to write with the eloquence, first-hand ‘lived’ experience and cultural sensitivity needed for a book like this.
With many of the ‘hot topic’ Japan-trends like Ikigai, wabi-sabi and forest bathing recently being treated to books in their own right, at nearly 300 pages and only £9.99, Japonisme feels like a wonderfully affordable way to get to grips with everything in one bite-sized dose. While all the sections are enjoyable – with the parts on calligraphy and flower arranging feeling particularly enlightening – I think what stuck with me most were the author’s reflections on how themes like Ikigai and habit-forming came into play in relation to her own life. As touched on above, while step-by-step how-to-guides have a place in this sector of publishing, I’ve always found it far more convincing when a writer can simply ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’ how that attitude and set of life values breathes its essence into how they conduct themselves in their day to day lives.
If there were any criticisms that I had, it’s that at times, it almost feels like the book is trying to do *too* much. Particularly in the section on food and cooking (tabemono) – full as it is with delicious sounding recipes and ingredient lists – I almost felt like this, and many of the other sections, could be broken out into an entire book in their own right. That said, the food section does contain one of the clearest, most refreshingly un-judgemental summaries I’ve found on correct sushi-eating etiquette I’ve seen, so points gained on that front.
Japonisme feels in many ways like the kind of book every blogger should have the ambition to produce at some points in their life and career – a kind of modus operandi and mission statement of who they are and what they care about. Reading as it does like an extended series of blog posts, and accompanied by some immaculate photography, illustration and design work (as well as a wonderfully tactile hardback cover), Japonisme has shot right to the top of my list in terms of accessible, enlightening books I’d recommend to the lay reader looking to dip their toes into the fascinating world of Japanese culture for the first time.