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 dramatically different look at a delightfully different way of life.
Avoiding the usual clich's--Japan's polite society, its unusual fashion trends, its crowded subways--Williamson focuses on some lesser-known aspects of the country and culture. In stunning watercolors and piquant texts, she explains the terms used to order various amounts of tofu, the electric rugs found in many Japanese homes, and how to distinguish a maiko from a geisha. She observes sumo wrestlers in traditional garb as they use ATMs, the wonders of 'santaful World' at a Kyoto department store, and the temple carpenters who spend each Sunday dancing to rockabilly. A Year in Japan is a colorful journey to the beauty, poetry, and quirkiness of modern Japan--a book not just to look at but to experience.
Kate T. Williamson is a writer and illustrator who studied filmmaking at Harvard University. Her love of travel and interest in sock design, along with a postgraduate fellowship, took her to Kyoto. She lives in New York City.
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"A visitor's take on some lesser-known aspects of quotidian Japan, in few words and many colorful illustrations. "
"As soon as you open her book, a collection of 350 watercolor paintings of everything from cherry blossoms to breathtaking seascapes, you'll fall in love (with Japan) as well."
Travel + Leisure:
"When illustrator Kate Williamson moved from Pennsylvania to Kyoto five years ago, she turned her artist's eye to the vibrant minutiae of Japanes culture. The result is A Year in Japan, a collection of watercolors and text that explores everything from washi paper to karaoke etiquette (hint: singing Elton John, okay; Mariah Carey, not)."
"A Year In Japan is light on text, but loaded with revealing watercolors that convey her experiences in bright flashes of picture-paints-a-thousand-words eloquence. . . . It adds up to a trip into the artist's mind as well as into Japan. Both are really nice places to visit."
"Williamson's book focuses not on the most widely known aspects of Japaese culture--the importance of bowing, for example--but on some of its smaller idiosyncrasies. . . . Even when she discusses some of Japan's well-known cultural features, such as sushi, geisha and sumo wrestlers, it is from this daily-life perspective."
"Lesser-know cultural aspects of Japan are exquisitely depicted in watercolors along with short essays on each subject in A Year in Japan. I never knew there was such a large sock business in Japan -- due to the removal of shoes before entering a house! Williamson has crafted a charming book sure to please art and Japan fans alike."
Nichi Bei Times:
"A colorful tour through Japan's curious and quirky ephemera. . . . It's the kind of coffee table book that starts conversations, perhaps about your own trip to Japan."
Best Postcollege Memoir, Glamour:
"An insightful journal with text and illustrations of the wonders and oddities she saw."
"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."
"There's nary a Harajuku girl in sight in A Year in Japan, Kate T. Williamson's charming travelogue. Instead, she tends to focus on the amusing minutae of life in the land of the rising sun, illustrating such foreign concepts as 'moon viewing' and 'safe fruit' with quirky essays and lovely watercolors. But some of the best moments come when cultures collide, as in the case of a tube of mascara that assures the user, in English, that 'Happy infinite romances occur in a newborn oasis. Wink your future.'"
"Through Williamson's explanations and illustrations of everything from Shojin Ryori, the Buddhist vegetarian meal offered to temple visitors, to why Japan is "sock paradise (because shoes are removed indoors), we receive an eduction in the quirky and beautiful qualities of day-to-day life in Japan."
Simple, interesting work (rating 4 out of 5):
I was attracted to the illustration style. The topic is quite intersting and appealing. It is a little sparce for such a long book. The style and techniques are very nicely executed. She has a great sense of minimal pattern, textures while capturing unique angles on new subjects. I believe the layout of the cover did not do the work any favors. The designer or creative director didn't enhance the book with such a square and hard angled layout. The subject matter flows and curves around in an organic fashion. Why try to box it up. But.... with that said. I am quite interested in the style and character of the book. It is a qreat intro to a new artist and writer.
- Michael McNally from Seoul, South Korea (02/17/2006)