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Paperback The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto Book

ISBN: 0679738347

ISBN13: 9780679738343

The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto

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Book Overview

When Pico Iyer decided to go to Kyoto and live in a monastery, he did so to learn about Zen Buddhism from the inside, to get to know Kyoto, one of the loveliest old cities in the world, and to find... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

"O brave new world/ That has such people in't!"

Any reviewer can find something wrong with a book, if s/he tries hard enough. And many have been quick to do so here. I suppose I could as well (e.g., by picking on Iyer for not going into the implications of the faux-Utopian society Japan has created). But I have absolutely no desire to do so. The book is so beautifully and deftly written, the romance so touching and piquant without falling into bathos, that it would, to me be similar to picking at the lovely haikus interspersed herein, stylistically complementing the lyrical writing. Yes, as one reviewer has pointed out, it is more memoir than what is called "Travel Literature"-though the boundaries between the two have always seemed blurry to me at best. This book will be enjoyed most by lovers of poetry, lyrical poetry - such as that of Yeats and Shelley, than by readers of the "hard-boiled" school of travel writing epitomized in V.S. Naipaul's works. If you believe that poetry is the deepest sort of writing, that one can get to "know" a society or people better through a Romantic relationship with a member of that society than by doing a Sociological study of it, if your dream life is as important to you as waking life, in short, if you have a poetic nature: This is the book for you! "Everyone falls in love with what he cannot begin to understand."--Or, as Pico finds out, thinks he cannot, but through patience and love finds that he can...begin. PS-Pico and Sachiko are still together, according to wikipedia at any event.

Iyer's analysis is accurate

Pico Iyer captures the spirit of Kyoto as a foreigner in this book. Iyer portrays in his book the difficulty in communication between Japanese women and the foreigners they fall for. The mysticism of O-Bon, the Japanese festival of the dead. And the frustrating and even heartbreaking relationships of too many Japanese couples - all while he himself is slowly falling for a married Japanese women that he cannot effectively communicate with. But he does a good job at it. I lived in Japan as a foreigner for a few years (made me appreciate the book more) and can say that Iyer is pretty accurate in his analysis of the country. Nonetheless, it's a good read for anyone.

An Englishman's exploration of what it is to be Japanese

Subtitled "Four Seasons in Kyoto", this 1992 book by the British travel writer, Pico Iyer, is more than just a book about a place. Mr. Iyer spent a year in Kyoto to learn about Zen as well as Japan. Along the way he met a very special woman, Sachiko, and learned more about the essence of being Japanese than he ever expected. I was particularly interested in this book because I have a wonderful Japanese daughter-in-law and have been to Japan myself. I remember the few days we spent in Kyoto with fond recollections and smiled at the author's vivid descriptions. I also found myself nodding in agreement at some of the discoveries he made about Sachiko and her way of thinking as I, too, have had my eyes opened in similar ways.Mr. Iyer has the ability to paint a complex portrait in words. I found myself sharing his discoveries, from his experiences in the temples to the very modern music clubs. The center of the book, however, is Sachiko. She's 30 years old, the mother of two children and married to a Japanese businessman who spends 18 or more hours a day at work. She speaks English with difficulty but has read a lot of classic literature and is also an aficionado of a wide variety of pop music icons. In spite of her traditional upbringing, she yearns for a larger life, beyond the confines of her home. Mr. Iyer becomes her friend and they do a lot of sightseeing together. She's free all day and so is he, which makes their friendship easy. Some of the most interesting scenes are when he tries to speak Japanese and she tries to speak English and misunderstandings follow, both because of the language itself and also because of different ways of thinking. I'm a romantic and fully expected their relationship to blossom into an intimate one, but Mr. Iyer is so evasive that even though they do become very close, he avoids those kinds of topics. Instead, he focuses on what he perceives to be her feelings and his growing understanding of her. It seems a little strange to me that only in the later part of the book did he drop a gentle hint that their relationship was a bit more than that of just friends. But even then, I never was sure.This is a great travelogue. I not only learned a lot but also recognized things I have come to understand about the Japanese character. There are long sections about literature, both Japanese and Western, which I found to be boring. And the relationship between Iyer and Sachiko left me annoyed. But for a unique picture of Kyoto and a deeper understanding of the cross-cultural differences between Japanese and Westerners, I do give it a definite recommendation.

I think I am a little in love with Pico Aver

I stayed up all night reading the Lady and the Monk. This is the second book I have read by Pico Aver, the other being Video nights in Katmandu. I teach Japanese woman in Hawaii, and I can attest that Sachiko is real. Her constant tears brought me back to encounters with my Japanese friends. When the Japanese mask is removed, there is alot of repressed emotion and longing there. I am going to reread this book again. A first reading is never enough to digest Pico Ayer's lyrical descriptions. I feel he is a poet. I feel his soul through this book. For example, the way he comforts Sachiko, never lying to her that he will stay with her. It is a beautiful love story as well as a transporting guidebook to Kyoto. I am going to Japan to teach and can't wait to see Kyoto through his eyes. I encourage readers to read all of Ayers books. He has a way of observing aspects of a culture in a very short time that are both right on and romantic. He respects different cultures but is not shy about revealing his perceptions that are most of the time true. I recommend this book highly to all sensitive armchair travelers as well as for people who are just interested in Japan. I think I am a little jealous of Sachiko. They say it is better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all. And I think she was truly in love. This is one observation that Pico Ayer kept to himself

As if leaving Kyoto wasn't hard enough...

I was fortunate enough to visit Kyoto for a week during a three-month internship in Japan two years ago and instantly fell in love with the city. The harmony between the ancient and the modern in Kyoto and Japan in general is both astounding and captivating, and it was with great sadness that I had to tear myself away and head back to my job.After returning to America, I bought this book and read it twice, without putting it down, it so brought me back to Kyoto and Japan. I've not read any of Iyer's other books, but this one was excellent. He conveys a definite emotion in his writing, and one that is quite suited to discussion of Japan I think. A sort of tragic interpretation of the events he experienced, which fits in very well with the Japanese psyche, where the greatest heros are the ones who come to tragic ends.The reviews here which note that Iyer paints with too broad a brush, so to speak, I feel are unfounded. I don't think it was ever meant to be an encompassing guide to Japan or any sort of critique of its dichotomy-filled society, though he does note with care all of them he encounters. Instead, it is simply one man's experience in Japan, take it or leave it. Sachiko is a real person he met, with real problems, and she went about solving them in a real way. I know Japanese women in similar situations, so to say they either don't exist is silly.I don't want to say too much about what happens, so I'll just finish by saying that I personally found this book very moving. I miss Japan a lot and I hope I can go back soon. Five stars easily.
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