I’ve so excited to bring you another Japan-based book. I haven’t read any since Made in Japan. This next book I’m bringing to you was worth the wait.
Kaerou Time to Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara introduces us to Meryl, a Vietnam War widow. Meryl has never remarried following the death of her husband. She misses her grown son and feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. One day a WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands and, with the encouragement of her son’s love-struck professor, she is encouraged to take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara and the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present.
Look, I have to admit that I wasn’t crazy about the storyline in this book. It didn’t necessarily intrigue me, at least to a sense that I was dying to know what would happen at the end, if Meryl would return the flag to the family of the dead soldier or not. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of the main characters either. Meryl was somewhat unrealistic as a character, as was Greg. I found Fiona quite bitter and Jo wasn’t very much involved to have strong feelings about her whether or which. Finally, the prose of this book didn’t really flow well and in some parts, it took effort to keep on track.
Still, I really enjoyed Kaerou Time to Go Home. Let me tell you why.
I learned so much about Japanese culture. From touching information such as the meaning of the war flags and the ritual of mourning the dead to mundane facts like how to eat sushi. I learned the need for Japan to bring in native English teachers and the shift in opinion on the language from former hatred of American soldiers to the desire of the country to become more internationalized. Most importantly, I learned what the war was like for the average Japanese person.
It was refreshing to read a book about war-time Japan that didn’t completely villainize the Japanese. This was done through the story-telling of the book’s secondary characters, who were much more interesting than the main characters if you ask me. The stories made me feel for the characters and look at the Japanese in a different light. For me, that was very important as it is seldom that anything is as black and what as it initially seems. It was also these minor characters who brought the emotion to Kaerou Time to Go Home and even had me shedding a tear once or twice.
While I may not have enjoyed this story as a whole, what I learned about Japan and the deep emotion brought to life by the author was priceless. If that is what you look for in a book, I certainly recommend Kaerou Time to Go Home.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.