In 1980 Cathy N. Davidson traveled to Japan to teach English at a leading all-women's university. It was the first of many journeys and the beginning of a deep and abiding fascination. In this extraordinary book, Davidson depicts a series of intimate moments and small epiphanies that together make up a panoramic view of Japan. With wit, candor, and a lover's keen eye, she tells captivating stories-from that of a Buddhist funeral laden with ritual to an exhilarating evening spent touring the "Floating World," the sensual demimonde in which salaryman meets geisha and the normal rules are suspended. On a remote island inhabited by one of the last matriarchal societies in the world, a disconcertingly down-to-earth priestess leads her to the heart of a sacred grove. And she spends a few unforgettable weeks in a quasi-Victorian residence called the Practice House, where, until recently, Japanese women were taught American customs so that they would make proper wives for husbands who might be stationed abroad. In an afterword new to this edition, Davidson tells of a poignant trip back to Japan in 2005 to visit friends who had remade their lives after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, which had devastated the city of Kobe, as well as the small town where Davidson had lived and the university where she taught.36 Views of Mount Fuji not only transforms our image of Japan, it offers a stirring look at the very nature of culture and identity. Often funny, sometimes liltingly sad, it is as intimate and irresistible as a long-awaited letter from a good friend.
Cathy N. Davidson is Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, cofounder of the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English at Duke University. Her numerous books include Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America; Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory; and No More Separate Spheres! (with Jessamyn A. Hatcher), also published by Duke University Press. She is a past president of the American Studies Association and a previous editor of the journal American Literature.
List of Illustrations xi Preface xiii 1. Seeing and Being Seen 1 2. Foreigners 9 3. After School 21 4. From the Best Families 37 5. Typical Japanese Women 49 6. Night Moves 69 7. Sacred Places 83 8. Accident 105 9. Going Home 123 10. Sea of Japan, Oki, 1987 139 11. Tatami Room in Cedar Grove 155 12. Festival of the Dead 169 13. Photo Album: The Fourth Journey 185 14. The Practice House 205 15. House Guest 217 16. Climbing the Mountain 227 Afterword (2005) 233 Acknowledgments to the First Edition 241 Acknowledgments to the Second Edition 243 Glossary of Japanese Words and Expressions 245 A Note on Japanese Names ix