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Following a housewife named Mariko through the course of a year, this remarkable and revealing book offers an intimate look at the emotional, spiritual, and social lives of Japanese women and men. Elisabeth Bumiller, a reporter for The Washington Post, somehow managed to break through Mariko's instinctive reserve and, in observing her daily life, create a deeply personal portrait that sheds light on what it means to be Japanese. Whether she is at work, caring for her aging parents, pushing her oldest son to cram for exams, or putting up with an unresponsive--and often absent--husband, Mariko reveals her secret hopes and desires, illuminating not only her own life, but the entire fabric of Japanese society. Through Mariko, whom Bumiller allows speak with her own voice, students gain a rare insight into Japanese culture and begin to realize the obligations and desires that drive Japan. It is a richly detailed and sympathetically observed book that transcends reportage to offer the kind of insights we expect from literature. For anyone hoping to understand Japan on the cusp of the twenty-first century, it is essential reading.
"A rich, sustained look at real life in middle-class Tokyo....full of cultural insight.... Her discussions of [Japanese society] are clear, well-reported and skillfully interwoven with the portrait of Mariko."
--Kyoko Mori, The New York Times Book Review
"As persuasive as any book I have yet come across by a Western observer of Japan."
--Washington Post Book World
"An engaging portrait of a real Japanese woman leading a real life... Ms. Bumiller is to be congratulated for ultimately letting Mariko speak for herself."
--The New York Times