In 1980 Cathy N. Davidson traveled to Japan to teach English at a leading all-women's university. It was the first of many journeys and the beginning of a deep and abiding fascination. In this extraordinary book, Davidson depicts a series of intimate moments and small epiphanies that together make up a panoramic view of Japan. With wit, candor, and a lover's keen eye, she tells captivating stories--from that of a Buddhist funeral laden with ritual to an exhilarating evening spent touring the "Floating World," the sensual demimonde in which salaryman meets geisha and the normal rules are suspended. On a remote island inhabited by one of the last matriarchal societies in the world, a disconcertingly down-to-earth priestess leads her to the heart of a sacred grove. And she spends a few unforgettable weeks in a quasi-Victorian residence called the Practice House, where, until recently, Japanese women were taught American customs so that they would make proper wives for husbands who might be stationed abroad. In an afterword new to this edition, Davidson tells of a poignant trip back to Japan in 2005 to visit friends who had remade their lives after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, which had devastated the city of Kobe, as well as the small town where Davidson had lived and the university where she taught.
"36 Views of Mount Fuji" not only transforms our image of Japan, it offers a stirring look at the very nature of culture and identity. Often funny, sometimes liltingly sad, it is as intimate and irresistible as a long-awaited letter from a good friend.
"No one could have tried harder to fathom Japanese culture [than Davidson]. The result is a series of illuminations not unlike the sudden break in the clouds that finally lets her glimpse Mount Fuji from the window of a bullet train." Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review "Appealing."--Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review "Quick-witted."--Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World "Davidson is a droll guide and a questing soul."--Elle "Beautifully written."--Susan Allen Toth, author of Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood "Luminous... Nuanced and passionate."--Booklist "[Davidson's] charmingly drawn word-pictures resonate."--Publishers Weekly "A delightful read."--Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Life "Brilliant, wise, and witty."--Louise DeSalvo, author of Virginia Woolf "A lovely book."--Marilyn French, author of The Women's Room "Davidson is a sensitive observer."--Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Perceptive, frank, and personal."--Library Journal "Superb ... a jewel."--Trenton Times "Honest and even-handed."--Lincoln Journal-Star "Brimming with understated emotion."--Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star "Top drawer."--Kirkus Reviews "Trust us. Try it."--New York Daily News