Japanese Chronicles by Nicolas Bouvier, A Look Back at Japan from 50's to 70's

I think it would be fair to describe Swiss born Nicolas Bouvier as an adventurer inspired by his youthful reads of Stevenson, Jules Verne, Jack London, and Fenimore Cooper and his father's encouragement to travel according to his profile by New York Review of Books.

After crossing the Khyber Pass and spending time in Ceylan, he arrives in Japan in 1956, falls in love with the country and becomes an accidental photographer and travel writer.

His classic book on Japan is The Japanese Chronicles. The US edition was published in 1993 by Mercury House and now seems out of print.

Another English version of the book illustrated with some of Nicolas Bouvier's photographs filled the gap in 2008 thanks to Eland via Orchid Press (Hong Kong).

The editor's notes call The Japanese Chronicles:

"A distillation of Bouvier's lifelong quest for Japan and his many travels, so that the reader is able to discover the country through the eyes of both a passionate young man, the sensual appreciation of a middle-aged artist and the serenity of an experienced writer."

Japanese chronicles

A very short review by Chistopher Hirst (Independent, January 2009) is more colorful.

Let me quote it:

"Part history, part notebook, the reports of this Swiss photographer who travelled in Japan for three decades are transporting, beguiling and often amusing: One shouldn't dismiss Japanese music "until one has been subjected to it for at least six or seven hours."

In the Fifties, Bouvier set up home in an oddly rustic suburb of Tokyo where the only English-based words were "kissu (from 'kiss') and stenko (from 'stinky')". Bouvier describes a cluttered world, where poverty was common but begging unknown and cleanliness scrupulously observed. Bathing was particularly important for foreigners who "have the reputation of being easily tracked by their odour"...."

Many more Titles in French by Nicolas Bouvier ((1929-1998) are available.

This blast from the past has its roots in Luc Dubanchet travel notes Kyoto Pola (in French) for Omnivore where he mentions Nicolas Bouvier.

On the Japanese trails of yore for Tokyo Thursdays # 159

Previously: From Crime to Christ, Former Yakuza Member Tatsuya Shindo

Previous Post

5 Top London Supper Clubs According to The Guardian

Sep 29
While in the US we tend to compare these not quite official eateries to speakesies of prohibition times, our British friends use the classier 'supper club' moniker. Oliver Thring gives us his list 5 Top London Supper Clubs (September 29, The Guardian). He dates their arrival on the local food scene to late 2008 while the recession was gathering strength. Oliver was introduced to the concept while helping one of the early ones, The Secret...
Next Post

Anything But Chardonnay, Celadon Grenache Blanc, Coriol White Rhone Blend

Sep 30
In a second instalment on what captured my attention at the Fall Tasting from VOS Selections, I leave Greece behind but stick with white wines. It has been a while since I mentioned any California wines and I happened to find 2 interesting ones that Monday. I was rummaging through the ice bin holding West Coast juice, I heard the call of Sonoma thanks to a creation from John Sweazey at Anaba with Rhone roots,...