A SNAKE IN THE SHRINE: Journeys With Nobby Through Middle Japan, by David Geraghty. University of Otago Press, 2001, 222 pp., $29.95 (paper)

Perhaps there’s something about coming to Japan that brings out the writer in a person — the peculiarities of the culture, the rarity of the experience, the seemingly unending appeal, on the “outside,” of an “insider’s” view of this inscrutable place. The Japan memoir — often a young Westerner’s first experience of living overseas — has become its own genre: my year in Japan, me as a JET, me as an OL, me and Zen. Here it takes the form of a compilation of vignettes from the author’s three years working at an English language school. Hesitation is the reader’s first reaction. In such well-tilled ground, is there really anything new to say?

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