Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan is an affectionate but unsentimental immersion into the Japanese countryside ("inaka"). In eighteen chapters we undertake an epic journey the length of Japan, from subtropical Okinawa, through the Japanese heartland, all the way to the wilds of Hokkaido. We visit gorgeous islands, walk an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route, share a snow-lover's delight in the depths of record snowfall, solve the mystery of an abandoned Shinto shrine, and travel in the footsteps of a seventeenth-century haiku master. But above everything, Inaka answers the question of what it's like to be a foreigner living in rural Japan, whether as a newly arrived English teacher in a small town or as someone who never left and decades later is integrated into the community.
Although this anthology shows the beauty of rural Japan with its seasonal kaleidoscope of colors, foods, and traditions, its friendly farmers and fishermen sharing old customs and local histories, Inaka doesn't avoid detailing the downsides of rural life - the hypothermia-inducing housing, inconvenient superstitions, demographic decline, and unlikely noises.
The combination of brilliant, experienced writers and up-and-coming talent makes Inaka a delight to read, and a must for anyone interested in life away from the crowded Japanese cities. Readers who know Japan well will find much to enjoy, and those new to the country dreaming of a trip or extended stay will be both encouraged and better prepared to map out their own adventures.