Review 2118

Notes from Pure Land Mountain, maintained by Robert Brady, and American living in rural Japan, is an honest effort at what I call “expatriate blogging.” The blogging tool is Blogger and the template is one of the plain jobs offered by same. A white background and a straightforward header. Nothing spectacular, no unnecessary plumage. There are some beautiful pictures and links to Robert’s favorite sites categorized into groups whose descriptive headline always begins with “Pure” — “Pure Japan Blogs,” “Pure Japan Links,” et cetera, et cetera, the “Pure,” I guess, standing as a kind of trademark announcement.

Robert writes at length about his daily routines in countryside Japan. He obviously loves the place. Living in one of the most compact and uniform societies in the world, a society that has traditionally not encouraged foreigners to become residents of the island nation, certainly requires a higher level of commitment and loyalty — and Robert obviously has it. Robert’s posts show that he has immersed himself in the culture and is working consciously to adjust to its complex requirements.

Thus, his interface with Japan is not based on a tourist / visitor mentality and, as a result, he is critical of those from the outside who fail to understand the current predicament of the Japanese. He writes, for example (April 30, 2002):

The cover of a recent issue of Time magazine was on Japan’s Blues. The feature story dealt with Japan as though it were alone on a bleak other planet somewhere, and as though all Japan and the Japanese have done that was worth doing is now at an end, and there is nothing ahead for them. All written by someone from a neoculture with a history of barely 200 years, regarding a culture of millennia. I would say right off that Japan, as a culture, is much more in touch with spirit and place, and knows far more about time, deep time, than anyone in America, let alone some New York journalist who’s been posted here on his way to somewhere else.

I happen to agree completely with this statement.

Robert is a capacious writer. He churns out lengthy posts with noted ease. This product, however, bogs down quickly because of endless sentences and Robert’s apparent dislike of breaking long passages into paragraphs, a style reminiscent of the late W.G. Sebald’s complicated difficult writing structure. Consider this:

But with that part I go on, and try again, and fail again, but when, after a week away I come back to the task, I find that I have learned another little bit, that it too is now part of me, has become intrinsic, is now part of what I know about stones and stone walls, part of what the stones in their limitless patience embody, and with that I go on again, begin to build, and fail, and learn another thing, and so it goes on, as bit by bit what I learn rises up like a stone wall.

I’m sure that Notes would benefit greatly by a simple switch to paragraph format, which will keep the reader focused on the thread of the post rather than the effort not to lose visual continuity of the densely packed text.

Robert is often poetic (see, for example, “Bird Gossip” on November 5, 2002) and sensitive to the “feeling” of Japanese land. He has deep appreciation of the countryside and its many delicate wonders, and declares at the top of his page: “Thank god for all the city folk, who leave the rest of the country to us!” How much I would love to imitate Robert now!

This is an honest blog. If you are a admirer of Japan, or simply a person who wishes to learn more about the country not from a travel brochure, visit Notes. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll enjoy some good, but demanding, writing. Notes from Pure Land Mountain

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