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Literary travel guide a glimpse into "the real" Japan

Jan. 4, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Dr. Jeffrey Angles has co-edited a collection of Japanese short stories and essays that guides readers through the diverse landscape and culture of modern-day Japan.

His book, "Japan: A Traveler's Literary Companion," was a collaboration with J. Thomas Rimer, professor emeritus of Japanese Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. It was published in May 2006 and featured on "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio in September. It is the first book for Angles, who heads WMU's Japanese language program, and part of a series of 13 literary guides from around the world published by Whereabouts Press.

Angles' book includes a dozen fiction and nonfiction works written from 1945 to the present that touch almost every corner of the country--from the beauty of northern Honshu through the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, to the many temples in Kyoto, through Osaka, and the coastline of the Sea of Japan, and down to southern Kyushu.

During the selection of the stories, Angles said he and Rimer did not want to reinforce Japanese stereotypes. No geishas. No hard-working, hard-drinking businessmen.

"We wanted to represent the small, real dramas that take place against these beautiful geographic landscapes so people know how real people live in Japan," Angles said. "The idea is that Japan is extremely diverse."

The guide can be brought along as a travel companion, or the stories can be appreciated independently.

"I've always liked to take books with me when I travel that are about my destination or written by someone who is from there. It lets me feel a little bit closer to where I'm going," Angles said. "But these stories also stand on their own."

The book is available for $14.95 and can be purchased online by visiting amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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