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A Year in Japan

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,138 Ratings  ·  175 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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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.
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Nice illustrations, mediocre information.
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
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
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
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
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.
Noémi Balási
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.
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!
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 g ...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.
Chris Gould
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Great artwork, of course, but text-wise... Guys, come on! In the 21st century are we still at the stage where we marvel at a foreigner experiencing Japan? This has been done so many times and does readers a complete disservice. My advice: come to Japan and make up your own mind. I'll gladly be your non-biased tour guide.
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.
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.
Miss Honeybug
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
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
It's kind of a graphic novel, and kind of more a scrapbook. It's kind of a travelogue, and kind of not. Once you get over the genre and accept it on its own terms, this is a lovely book with little snippets, moments and details about living in Japan. I loved it, but I can totally see how others might not.
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely short read on a western view of the beauty and daily life of Japan. Anyone who has traveled in Japan will be able to identify with many of the experiences.

The art is cute- like an adult coloring book filled in.
Rachel C.
A lovely travel journal. I particularly appreciated the generous use of white space, so that each page of gorgeous watercolors had maximum impact.
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Editorial Reviews

Publisher's Weekly:
"Williamson's watercolors are playful, bright and spare, and each section illustrates a theme or topic that has inspired the artist/author over her travels to a country devoted to attention to detail. . . . For travelers to Japan, and those who treasure their visit, this is a splendid record." (December 12, 2005)

Best Postcollege Memoir, Glamour:
"An insightful journal with text and illustrations of the wonders and oddities she saw." (4/2006)

Teen Vogue:
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautifully illustrated with fascinating glimpses into Japanese culture.
Eustacia Tan
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First reaction: This book so pretty! <3!

A Year in Japan (or 日本の一年 nihon no ichinen) is no ordinary travelogue. It's not in chronological order. It doesn't even tell you the major attractions (in this case, Kyoto) or how Ms Williamson lived and so on. What it is, is a gorgeous book featuring snapshots of life in Japan.

The book consists of mainly hand drawn pictures with some text. Sometimes they're captions and sometimes they're as much as a page (and a page and a half is the longest it gets)
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
A beautiful, beautiful book.

That's right, beautiful *twice*. Writer, illustrator, and sock designer Kate Williamson gives a unique perspective I've never even come close to reading from any other Japan-observer. She proves that you really and truly can READ pictures. Her paintings are simple, yet delightfully expressive and filled with enthusiasm. I felt an infectious joy from experiencing them.

The charm comes from the lens dial of Williamson's scope being turned up to " and now you can see ti
Princeton Architectural
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 experiencing, studying, and reflecting on her adopted home. She brings her keen observations to us in A Year in Japan, a dramat ...more
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“Odoru aho ni
miru aho
onaji aho nara
odorana son son!

You're a fool to dance,
A fool to watch,
Well, if you're a fool either way,
What a loss not to dance, a loss, a loss!”
More quotes…