On the Narrow Road: Journey Into a Lost Japan

Leslie Downer, Author, Lesley Downer, Author Summit Books $19.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-64047-7
Retracing the footsteps of 17th-century wandering poet Basho, whose The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a classic, Downer set out to discover a traditional, preindustrial Japan hidden beneath that country's modernized exterior. A Londoner who spends three months of every year in rural Japan, she meticulously records her impressions of provincial villages where native gods are still worshipped, and where many people had never met a foreigner before. She visited Shinto shrines, wrote haiku in Japanese, sojourned by sacred mountains and along Japan's coast, constantly comparing her own experiences with those of Basho in a way that often intrudes on the narrative flow. There is little left of the past in modern Japan, according to Downer, and this self-conscious attempt to draw close to Basho in spirit, though at times monotonous, will be read with interest by students of Japanese culture. ( July )
Reviewed on: 07/06/1989
Release date: 07/01/1989
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