36 Views of Mount Fuji

On Finding Myself in Japan

36 Views of Mount Fuji

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 17 illustrations Published: October 2006

Asian Studies > East Asia, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Travel

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.


“American professor Davidson’s luminous memoir of her initial four trips to Japan transports readers there through her intelligence, clarity, wit, and passion.” — Jeri Lynn Crippen, Lovin' Life After 50

“Davidson is a droll guide and a questing soul.” — Elle

“Davidson is inquisitive and careful: observations serve as prompts for thoughtful appraisals of her native US, and stereotypes of Japan are questioned. . . . It’s when Japan is clearly in focus – especially when revealed through the author’s experiences and conversations with locals – that the narrative is most engaging.” — Laura Crawford, Lonely Planet

“Davidson’s memoir, shimmering with poetic insights and poignant observations, stands out from the rest. . . . [A] compelling read for anyone considering a trip to Japan—or who has recently returned from one.” — Corrie Pikul, Bust

“Intelligent, sympathetic . . . and quick-witted.” — Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World

“Luminous . . . Nuanced and passionate, [Davidson’s] book achieves what many travel writers can only aspire to: the sense of being both inside and outside of a culture at the same time.” — Booklist

“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

“Beautifully written. . . . I did not want to put it down.” — Susan Allen Toth, author of Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood

“Brilliant, wise, and witty . . . as enjoyable a read as Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provençe.” — Louise DeSalvo, author of Vertigo: A Memoir

“A delightful read, offering insight not only into Japan but into the adventure of living in a foreign culture anywhere in the world.” — Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Life


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cathy N. Davidson is Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, cofounder of the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English at Duke University. Her numerous books include Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America; Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory; and No More Separate Spheres! (with Jessamyn A. Hatcher), also published by Duke University Press. She is a past president of the American Studies Association and a previous editor of the journal American Literature.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xi

Preface xiii

1. Seeing and Being Seen 1

2. Foreigners 9

3. After School 21

4. From the Best Families 37

5. Typical Japanese Women 49

6. Night Moves 69

7. Sacred Places 83

8. Accident 105

9. Going Home 123

10. Sea of Japan, Oki, 1987 139

11. Tatami Room in Cedar Grove 155

12. Festival of the Dead 169

13. Photo Album: The Fourth Journey 185

14. The Practice House 205

15. House Guest 217

16. Climbing the Mountain 227

Afterword (2005) 233

Acknowledgments to the First Edition 241

Acknowledgments to the Second Edition 243

Glossary of Japanese Words and Expressions 245

A Note on Japanese Names ix
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3913-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3860-4
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