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A Year in Japan

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,404 ratings  ·  212 reviews
The Land of the Rising Sun is shining brightly across the American cultural landscape. Recent films such as Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha seem to have made everyone an expert on Japan, even if they've never been there. But the only way for a Westerner to get to know the real Japan is to become a part of it. Kate T. Williamson did just that, spending a year ex ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 2nd 2006 by Princeton Architectural Press
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  1,404 ratings  ·  212 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Paul and I were listening to the music “Titanium” David Guetta ...
....(a little high on life) - while enjoying this book together.

It made me want to go to Japan during the Cherry Season....or any season.
For Paul, ( an artist), it made him want to pull out some water colors and start painting.

We both were oohing and aahing over this sweet, beautiful book.
The size is 5’7”....
.....silky smooth to touch.

The paintings, ( water colors) are gorgeous & pretty,.....
....(hydrangeas, plum, peach,
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a gorgeous travelogue! Kate Williamson is an artist who spent a year in Kyoto. This beautiful book is filled with her colorful sketches of Japanese life and culture and descriptions of her experiences. The text is printed in a font that looks handwritten, and that script combined with the sturdy paperback binding made it feel like a real travel journal and sketchbook.

I especially liked Williamson's explanations of the different customs she saw:

"As soon as I walked out of the train station
Feb 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
If you want to find out what one more American woman did in Japan post-college, with some twee illustrations, this is for you. If you want to find out about Japan, go there instead.
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was somewhat surprised by this book for when I opened it for it was full of illustrations and not very much text. The illustrations are very nice indeed, but I was expecting a narrative of her year in Japan as a type of travelogue, but this came nowhere near my expectations. Nice to look at but unfortunately not for me.
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
This was a recommendation on goodreads. I was a bit hesitant at first as it's not actually a written account, but notes with watercolour pictures. This is a book that is more for those who like art/drawings than for those who want an account of life in Japan.

However, the composition of it is beautiful. It's not an account, just a collection impressions, but the water colours are gorgeous and Williamson manages to capture so much life and substance in them.

This isn't a book to read, it's a book
A travelogue right up my alley--Williamson zeroes in on the kind of tiny, fascinating details that are my favorite part of exploring another culture. For instance, in the Japanese language, the words you use for numbers/amounts change depending on what is being numbered/counted. So Williamson gives us a list of the words you would use to order one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven bricks of tofu. The list stops at seven, "because no one would ever order more than that," she's told.

These ch
If you expect a real travelogue, you will be somewhat disappointed. Well, I was at least. But only for a moment.

This book is rather a little collection of random impressions, and mainly through little wordsketches and illustrations. And for that, it's just so beautiful and unique! I wish it was 500 pages bulkier so I could keep going through it forever.
Kate Williamson spent a year living in Kyoto, Japan. She went there to study, and kept a journal – both of her thoughts and experiences, and of artwork she created to capture some of those experiences. The result is very Japanese. It combines watercolors and sketches with prose that enriches both. In spare language, almost like haiku, and simple paintings of everyday Japanese objects and life, Williamson manages to convey a real sense of place and culture.



“One of my favorit
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really, really pretty book. Lovely watercolors that are simple and occasionally gorgeous. Certain pictures were unmemorable, but there were MANY that I sat and looked at for a long time.

Cute stories too, never too long, just little tastes of Japan.

If I had a complaint, it would be that sometimes a two-page illustration hides something interesting or pretty in the middle and it gets eaten by the page divide. I don't want to crack the spine to see the pretty pictures!

The book promises nothing in
Kate Williamson was a Harvard Grad who received a fellowship to travel abroad for a year, the condition being that the country and culture, must be different from one's own. She chose Japan. An illustrator, Williamson chronicled her year abroad by putting together this charming little book, which features vignettes of experiences, places and items she thought worth noting. There's not much writing, and the book is filled with Williamson's own artful images, so it reads more like a picture book w ...more
Holly R W
This small book features the artist's impressions of her year in Japan. I liked learning about moon viewing and cherry blossom parties as well as a tradition of looking for the rabbit in the moon. Now, I would like to experience Japan for myself!

The book fits the monthly PBT tag for cultural.
May 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I love seeing people’s sketch books. And learning about cultures. What a creative glimpse into Japan. My favorite was the temples.
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Ended up mostly just skimming this book, it was a bit of a disappointment. The illustrations to go with it were lovely, and sometimes said more than the short descriptive passages of Japanese life. It's really just a collection of short snippets of life from Japan. There's no real detail about everyday living, just bits and pieces that anime fans may or may not already know. ...more
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
I loved the watercolors used to illustrate this book. It is a great introduction to many aspects of Japanese culture.
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-books
This is such a beautiful book!! It's elegant and compelling. Each page made me want to visit Japan while the overall structure frames a delightful way to study a year in a place. Bravo, Kate! ...more
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
3.6. The visuals are gorgeous but I could have used more text, still a lovely way to do some armchair traveling.
Apr 08, 2008 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this. Reading it is like visiting Japan with an artist friend who helps you notice all the small, beautiful details you might otherwise miss. I loved the socks drawings as much as the Washi (paper) patterns. I loved how the detailed illustrations of humble objects alternated with full-page paintings (the moon-viewing pages were a particular favorite). There's no grand theme or point being made - it is simply a lovely book of "here's what I noticed & here's what I love." It gave ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
I wish the author could have written -- and illustrated -- a longer version of this book! If I have a criticism to offer, it's that the book felt too short. I would have loved to have lived a bit more deeply and vicariously through the author's eyes. These "slices of life" were just too tantalizing and too short, and left me with many questions about Japanese customs, fashions, religion, and daily life. My favourite quote:

If only I could show them to someone who knows.
This moon, these flowers,
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lovely book. Williamson combines gorgeous watercolor illustrations and handwritten text to document the year she spent living in Japan. This is not a memoir; the book has no narrative and instead simply presents a patchwork of sensory experience and cultural observation. I appreciated the fact that Williamson didn't make herself the focal point of the work, but was content to record the things she saw, heard, and tasted in Japan. This book was pleasure to read and look at. ...more
3,5-4 stars. Can't decide.
More thoughts in the morning. I need sleep. Zzzzz

O.K., update, here's a review from my blog (with few pics and stuff):
Robert B
Oct 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Williamson takes a visual approach to her yearlong stay in Kyoto. Most of the book is watercolor illustrations that portray various aspects of the life and culture of Japan. An appreciation of the "beauty and nuances" of the Japanese culture but not a lot of text. ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
really lovely. I will enjoy the illustrations in this for ages.
Gorgeous artwork and lots of fascinating details about daily life in Japan.
Nidhi Srivastava
A short, sweet and quick (but neither comprehensive nor deep) introduction to Japanese culture. Some of the illustrations were wall-art level stunning.
"I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
― Bill Bryson

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
― Robert Louis
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I liked a lot the drawings and the small-sized bits of information about the Japanese culture. My favorite part of the book was when she tells about the Awa Odori dance and once full page is given to traditional chant in japanese with the english translation right below.

Perhaps more content with what the author saw, felt and experienced would have brought nicer ratio between the amount of images and text... But then again, the short sentences, the ample empty space and simple illustrations work
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s fun to see Japanese culture from outsider’s perspective. e.g. “Randoseru🎒” being referred to as book bag, how we Japanese protect expensive apples with those lacy foam cozy like it’s gonna break with a tiniest of shock to it, and takeaway soy sauces containers in a tiny fish shaped plastic bottle.
I like her drawing too. Not too detailed, but detailed enough for us readers to see what it is.
I know some people are pissed with this book, but think of it as her diary or something.
I mean, she
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a comprehensive look at Japan, you won't find it here, however Kate Williamson's almost whimsical travelogue style book with watercolour pictures is an fascinating, light and charming look into some aspects of Japanese life based on her experiences living in Kyoto for a year. Easily a one sitting read, but worth spending a little more time looking at the wonderful drawings and absorbing the nuances of the information in the script style font. It feels like coming across so ...more
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This would be an awesome coffee table book (though it would probably need more pictures and/or content for that). As it is? The book gets above average rating because I wouldn’t re-read it but it does make me want to visit Japan. The artwork accompanying her experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun has a cheerfully nostalgic effect. It is a beautiful collection of (what amounts to a handful of) glimpses of what everyday life in Japan would look like from hand towels and heating difficulties to ...more
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a pleasant book to read. The author writes about her experiences living in Japan with an eye on explaining different cultural practices that is within the Japanese contemporary culture. This is a good book to read if you are traveling, have traveled or want to learn about Japan. There is a fair bit of nostalgia for people who have visited Japan and the art in this is whimsical water color style. Though this book is catalog as a graphic novel, it lacks the various panels and linear story ...more
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