Buruma casts an emollient eye over the multiple and overlapping ways that he felt like an outsider in Japan. He often received special treatment as a gaijin, but just as often it was made clear to him that he would never get as close to this culture as he wanted ... Buruma is a keen observer and the owner of a well-provisioned mind. There are smart little junkets in this book into everything from Japanese movies...to the country’s tattooing culture ... His prose is unflaggingly good ... For a book that is largely about extreme experience, in terms of art and life, he is perhaps overly discreet about his own emotions and behavior. Whenever you sense he is about to open a door, he instead drops you at the curb.
Buruma, who went on to have a brilliant career as a journalist, succeeding Robert Silvers last year as editor of The New York Review of Books, where he was a longtime contributor, is an unusually lucid writer ... While the book occasionally gets bogged down in excruciating detail about movies only the most ardent cinephile would care about, Buruma paints a vivid portrait of his often mind-boggling encounters with the motley collection of artists, expats and eccentrics he befriended over his six years in Tokyo. And his honesty is disarming.