A Tokyo Romance is a memoir set, as the name suggests, in Japan. Having minimal prior knowledge of Tokyo, the sentimental title drew me in. Outlining one man’s journey as a stranger to Asia, the memoir provided a colourful, if somewhat unexpected, love story about Tokyo.

Although memoirs are not my usual choice of literature, I was fascinated by the subject and decided to immerse myself within Tokyo. The book provided a wonderful ode to the city and the author’s love and addiction to Tokyo was apparent, however he also delved into the depths of Japanese culture and publicised the cruder aspects. The graphic, intense and shocking art world was described in detail, supplemented by images, whilst the author identified his own struggle with identifying with this.

As an author, Ian Buruma was able to transport the reader to his world and the diverse, intense, if at times comical characters, attempting to stay true to the culture. However, it felt as though he struggled to find his own voice within this and the reason for the memoir.

I felt that the book, although enlightening to a reader not familiar with Japan, appeared to be repetitive at the times with one recollection merging into others in similar fashion. It appeared some memories were included to shock the reader, however I felt that these became somewhat mundane with their inclusion.

Admittedly I did enjoy the foray into Tokyo and was fascinated by the nuances of Japanese history and culture, however I do not feel that this book enticed me to read more memoirs set within spectacular backdrops.

Rekha Duggal 3/3

A Tokyo Romance by Ian Buruma
Atlantic Books 9781782398028 pbk Mar 2019