A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir

Ian Buruma. Penguin Press, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-101-98141-2
New York Review of Books editor Buruma reflects on his immersion in the artistic underworlds of late 1970s Tokyo in this lucid, engrossing memoir. A bored university student from the Netherlands, Buruma was intrigued by the exotic Japan of film and stage and moved to a country caught between dizzying economic growth and the student uprisings that followed. On his way to artistic maturity, Buruma befriended gay expat aesthetes, fashion photographers, Buto dancers, and underground theater troupes, his fluent Japanese providing access to milieus few Westerners ever encountered. Throughout the narrative, readers learn nearly as much about Buruma’s occasional male lovers as they do about a Japanese girlfriend he lived with (and later married). Bisexual and half “Anglo-German-Jewish,” Buruma had always felt remote from his Dutch countrymen, and he felt even more displaced among the Japanese. Of course, it was exactly his difference that made him intriguing to the fiercely tribal artistic enclaves he explored; as Buruma freely admits, having John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) for an uncle proved quite helpful in encounters with luminaries such as film directors Ju¯ro¯ Kara , Akira Kurosawa, and Shu¯ji Terayama. Yet even as this far-from-typical gaijin enjoyed the benefits of his ambiguous status, he came to understand that he would never be fully accepted. Buruma makes the archetypal quest for home in a foreign land both uniquely personal and deeply illuminating. Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/22/2018
Release date: 03/06/2018
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