The Sunday Magazine: The Only Gaijin in the Village by Iain Maloney

I have a book genre I enjoy reading. It is a non-fiction story of a person from a different culture going to live in a faraway place with different customs. “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle is the best-known probably.  When done by a talented author it provides insight into both sides of the culture gap and how to build a bridge. The most recent entry in my tiny bibliography is “The Only Gaijin in the Village” by Iain Maloney.

The culture change comes when Scotsman Mr. Maloney and his Japanese wife Minoru move from the Japanese city to the rural countryside. They had spent ten years in Japan, so the language was not a barrier. Other things would provide the differences.

Both were anomalies within the village. Mr. Maloney because he was the only Caucasian the “gaijin” from the title. His path was going to be the one of learning to fit in. More interestingly was his wife’s experience. The youth of the rural parts of Japan have mostly abandoned the country for the cities. She had some fitting in to achieve as well.

Mr. Maloney has an affable style of writing littered with amusing similes. They might be too much for some readers, but I found them endearing. He uses their life in the village to comment on the world at large. It was funny to realize there was a comment on US politics which popped up and then moved on. There is a bit of stand-up comedian timing to the way he writes. Set up and punch line. He even skewers the idea of the “this is my first year in a new culture” stories.

When I finished, I felt like I had leaned a little more about the stresses undergoing Japanese society. While also enjoying the amusing life of Iain and Minoru in this small village life.

Disclosure: this review is based on a copy I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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