Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West
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Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  545 ratings  ·  70 reviews
"Fascinating...clearly stated, interesting and provoking.... A plainspoken account of living in Asia."--San Francisco Chronicle

Anyone who has heard his weekly commentary on NPR knows that T. R. Reid is trenchant, funny, and deeply knowledgeable reporter and now he brings this erudition and humor to the five years he spent in Japan--where he served as The Washington Post's...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 28th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Andrea
I learned about some Japanese history and current affairs, but the book bothered me. The author was the Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post (now the London bureau chief) and he's no doubt a great writer. But his arguments seem a little too black-white/east-west for my tastes. He claims that there is a distinct Asian Way, which I find hard to believe, especially since "Asia" itself is a shaky, colonial concept that encompasses many different cultures. Many of his descriptions also fall int...more
Glen Engel-Cox
J picked this paperback up for me during her business trip in the U.S., due in part for her own interest in it, but also because we both had enjoyed Reid's informal talks with Bob Edwards on NPR's Morning Edition where he often provided a great first-hand view of an ex-patriate. Since we've been in that position for just a little over 18 months now, she thought I would find Reid's view of what the East gets right, and gets wrong, interesting. And I did. Reid is clear in his thesis, which may hav...more
Lauren
Read this book in my Asian history class in undergrad. I was enthralled instantly. I have read it over and over again, which I almost never do. I stalked the author when he came to BYU to promote the United States of Europe while I was in grad school, so my copy is now signed! For a public policy wonk like me, it a great book.

The data would be outdated at this point, but the thesis of the book still holds true. I had my research group read it before we went to Asia - everyone loved it except a...more
Ashley
Rating non-fiction is always hard for me. Non-fiction doesn't tend to overwhelm me in the same way fiction can. This book is super informative, giving the reader many, many examples of what life in the far east is like, particularly that of Japan. There were many examples of social safety nets and standards that made me wonder, "why aren't we doing that in America?" This is precisely the question of the book. Is there something to be gained in our society from the creative destruction and is it...more
Sean
This one’s a bit less.. “juicy” then Speed Tribes, but an altogether essential piece in my opinion. The American author worked for NPR and as the Tokyo correspondent for the Washington Post. He lived with his family in a suburb of Tokyo for 5 years. The book has two layers, on one hand, it’s a memoir of his acclamation to Japanese culture and living on planet Tokyo with his family. These chapters are filled with tons of hilarious cultural misunderstanding stories, and portrays an American family...more
Pamela Huxtable
Dec 29, 2009 Pamela Huxtable rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: expatriots who have lived in asia
Recommended to Pamela by: Denise Hersey
Reid presents a very insightful analysis of the influence of Confucian philosophy on contemporary Asian culture, particularly Japanese culture. I liked Reid's willingness to argue against his own arguments. I also appreciated his point that Confucian philosophy doesn't really differ all that much from Western "moral values," but that Asian society takes responsibility for these values, and doesn't leave them to religious institutions or civic organizations as we do in the West.

I do think this bo...more
Sovatha
The first chapter of this book makes me feel like Japan and East Asia is almost like a Utopia where everybody should look up to: low crime, divorce, better education, high level of social morale, stability, and all the things you can imagine. It almost makes me think if I were a prime minister of a country now, I should try to lead my country up to that standard. Will see the rest of the book.

The rest of the book gives me more than just the answer to the question of whether I should look up to...more
Matthew
I could not wrap my head around what T.R. Reid had in mind when he set about to write this novel. On the one hand, the better hand, he presents a deep respect and veneration for the East Asian nations that he talks about ... he uses them as great models to enhance the American life. On the other hand, though, he uses crass and racist terms throughout the book to do this. Most notably, he often describes his subjects as "Orientals" (they are people, not furniture!).



It seems that he undermines the...more
Elizabeth Reuter
Confucius Lives Next Door is a memoir, and as a memoir, it carries bias; Mr. Reid's observations are his own, and they are slanted indeed.

He praises things about Japan that are praisworthy in certain situations, like Japan's cultural adherence to rules, and suggests Westerners do the same. However, Mr. Reid then fails to mention the downside to such obedience, and why it can be dangerous. After the March 11th earthquake, for example, one shelter with roughly 2000 refugees in it received servings...more
Eric
A travelogue with a message, this book sets out to illustrate what the author has termed the "social miracle" of Asia. Namely, it attempts to find the source of Asia's low rates of violent crime, divorce, and its high rate of academic success. The book reads easily, balancing hard facts with amusing anecdotes, most from Japan, where the author lived for a number of years as a newspaper writer. I do feel the author has a tendency to accentuate the positive aspects of Asian culture while downplayi...more
Lara
For the most part, I really enjoyed this one--certain chapters were really fascinating. I especially liked the chapters about Confucius himself, as well as the ones about Japanese education and business. I'm not generally much interested in economics or politics, but Reid made them pretty interesting. Some parts of the book bogged me down a little, and occasionally Reid would say something that seemed a little too negative about the culture or food--pretty early on he talks about weird ice cream...more
Devon
Jul 01, 2008 Devon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: see review
Recommended to Devon by: Japanese Kaiwa Club
I was pretty excited to read this book because the back cover blurb sounded like a fun, witty personal memoir of a families life in Japan. However, it seems I didn't read the title (haha) as the book ended up being much more about Confucius' teachings and the resulting Asian social miracle of Japan and other East Asian countries. I struggled between giving this three stars or four stars. Four stars because, despite my initial disappointment and confusion about the main topic of this book, the au...more
Ashley
This book has interesting insights into individual aspects of Japanese culture, and it contains a well-supported thesis about how the prioritization of social and group harmony over individualism results in more stable societies. However, this book is very much geared towards a white, western reader. There's an "othering" of Japanese and Asian cultures in general, and (perhaps necessarily) it paints a very homogenous picture of Japan.

This isn't a scholarly piece, but it's not meant to be, eithe...more
Graham Bates
Mar 22, 2013 Graham Bates rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Confucianism especially if you do not like dry, factual nonfiction.
In Confucius Lives Next Door , T.R. Reid narrates his time in Tokyo and the many lessons he learned. He explores the cultural differences between Japan and the US and gives a reason they have less crime, stronger families, and better education. His conclusion is similar to Japanese scholars - Confucianism. Adding a chapter highlighting the reservations to this thesis makes Reid's book enlightening without the heavy-handed, preachy, I-know-what's-best-for-you aura many social critiques of the US...more
Denice
Due to the age of the book, much of the statistics given are outdated, however, I think the overall message Reid brings to Westerners about Confucian cultures is really helpful. He focuses mostly on Japan because of his experience there, but I found a lot of cross-over with my experience in South Korea. Anyone who has lived in East Asia will recognize what he is talking about and the sweeping generalizations he makes, so not everything he mentions should be treated as gospel.

I would recommend th...more
Aaron Crossen
At best, an introduction to some ancient Asian customs that manifest themselves to this day, whether it be in gift exchanges or business transactions. At its worst - which is most of the time - Reid buys into just about every stereotype about Asian and especially Japanese culture that you can imagine. He willingly admits that there are some problems with making broad assumptions, but he seems to have made that realization after he wrote the book, which I can imagine some people taking offense at...more
Juneau Public Library
Reid moves to Tokyo in the '90s to work for the Washington Post Tokyo bureau and attempts to make sense of the Confucian code which heavily guides daily life in modern day Japanese society.

Recommended by Carol
Abbey
The author, an NPR commentator, said that Japan "fully met the definition of foreign for me" (page 57). I agree!

In reading "Confucius Lives Next Door," Reid's conversational tone took me to Tokyo and explained the very different culture in ways that were interesting and endearing instead of weird and off-putting. I'm still quite put off by Japanese corporate culture, portrayed in movies like "Fear and Trembling" which shows some of the puzzling idiocies that a philosophy of compliance-over-comp...more
Woodall
I found this book interesting considering there is very little education on Asian cultures in the American classroom. However with that said, I am fully cautious of the interpretation considering the author being from the West. I feel he may have "misinterpreted" some of his experiences and perhaps romanticized the culture as a foreigner is apt to do in an unfamiliar environment. I would be curious to read more about the Asian culture from a native to better understand the actual meanings and nu...more
Cassandra
I wish I could give this book 3.5 stars. There were chapters that I loved (Yodobashi No. 6 and "Too Much Freedom") and others that I thought dragged (The Master Kung).

My husband and I are hoping to move to Japan in a few years to experience a different way of life. This book offered a bit of insight into what it would be like living in "Asia." I hope to find and read another book along the same lines that is updated to include information on the last 10 years as the world has changed greatly. S...more
Andrea
Really interesting, but it was published fifteen years ago. I have a feeling that Japan has changed a bit since then. Note to self: look for an updated edition.
Matt
This is a real treat to read if you are living in or have ever been to "Asia." Reid cites his life in Japan (with a family in tow) to bring this highly nuanced, historic, and proud culture to life. This book is very well-researched and flows nicely. He even goes so far as to say that North and South Korea are bound to be united, due to the North's need for humanitarian aid and the South's hunger for natural resources. You feel more socially literate after reading this book.
Rabia Friedman
I loved this book! This book provides an excellent comparison of American and Japanese culture. We would do well to incorporate some Confucius principles into American society.
Corene
I really enjoyed this book. I'm taking away a deep appreciation for Confucius and his teachings so long ago -- so relevant today.
Holly
The American author worked for NPR and as the Tokyo correspondent for the Washington Post. He lived with his family in a suburb of Tokyo for 5 years. Half of the book deals with his American family stumbling through life and schooling in a Japanese suburb. The other half deals with how Confucian principals shaped Japan. Very interesting. (I shelved it under China for now because of Confucius)
Janice
Interesting take of what the East-Asian culture is like based on Confucius views. However, I found the book biased as he generalized Asia from his experiences in Japan. Some readers who are raised from an East-Asian background may find themselves questioning some of his opinions related to Asia.

However, it is still a good read and provides great insight into what Confucianism is based on.
Lisa
Well I love books about Japan, and this one had it all. Part memoir, part social/political commentary, history, culture, language. At times it was also pretty funny. Very interesting and I definately learned a lot. I skimmed about 10% of this book b/c sometimes Reid gets a little too bogged down in background or repetitive history. But otherwise, I loved it and recommend it.
Laura Jordan
Clearly a little dated by this point (it was written in 1998), but I enjoyed the parts on Japanese culture, particularly the description of the school the author sent his daughters to and the concept of the wa (social harmony, i.e. sometimes thinking of others before ourselves), which I think we as Americans could do more to understand and/or utilize.
Jen
May 18, 2008 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who love history or Asian travelers
Recommended to Jen by: Rixie Hardy
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
My husband's uncle recommended this book when he learned we were moving to Japan. I am so glad I took his advice and read it. It explains a lot about why Asias are the way they are -- a little about the history and the culture. It's not a boring read at all - not a typical history textbook. It also makes me want to read some translated works of Confucius.
Susan
This is a departure for me but TR Reid is one of my favorite contributors to National Public Radio and one of my NPR friends gave me this book for my birthday. It's a fabulous account of what TR and his family discovered when they lived in Toyko. It's written just as if he was sitting in my living room telling me about their adventures. Really enjoyable.
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T.R. Reid is a reporter, documentary film correspondent and author. He is also a frequent guest on NPR's Morning Edition. Through his reporting for The Washington Post, his syndicated weekly column, and his light-hearted commentary from around the world for National Public Radio, he has become one of America’s best-known foreign correspondents.

Reid, a Classics major at Princeton University, served...more
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