Reviews - What do customers think about The Magatama Doodle: One Man's Affair With Japan, 1950-2004?
The Japan You Never Knew Jun 26, 2006
I read this book twice. This in itself should be sufficient recommendation!
But I'll give you some of the reasons why I like it so much. It is rich in historical detail and sociological examination, as well as the author's personal experiences. I was thoroughly entertained, informed and sometimes surprised. There were some unexpected revelations - such as the raucus behavior of passengers on the train to Osaka and the ubiquitous noise pollution with apparent little effect on the serenity of the Japanese people.
The author proved open to all aspects of life in Japan, and presents his story with vivid detail and an eye for beauty. He must have possessed an enormous amount of energy. He describes his business career (with admirable modesty) and Japan's economy, business philosophy and practices with an insider's knowledge. He found time to explore Japan's countryside, and immerse himself in the pursuit of understanding Japan's culture. This included the study of the Japanese language, art and religion. I was struck by the author's keen and objective observations about Japanese life. And he didn't limit occasional criticisms to the Japanese, but had some strong opinions about the Dutch and Americans as well.
But this is not the whole story. His and his wife's personal lives are lovingly described. The tale is well paced and contains many fascinating details of their experiences with friends and family, and many other people they encountered. I highly recommend this book - it provides insight far beyond the standard western ideas about Japan.
Nora Hines, Prescott, Arizona, USA
Unique View of Japan Jan 20, 2006
Magatama Doodle is an intriguing memoir by a young Dutchman who settles into the banking business in Japan following its surrender after WW II. The reader enters an exotic yet emerging modern world, reflecting the author's growing love of the country tempered by the developing knowledge of cultural contradictions including the stifling of individuality. Brinckmann's vivid descriptions reflect his extensive knowledge of history and a remarkable memory for details conveyed with wry and whimsical humor. A sense of time and place is brilliantly presented through the author's creative and poetic skills no doubt enhanced through his intimate knowledge of the country after acquiring a beautiful and artistic Japanese wife. This reader was enchanted and enlightened and eagerly awaits another volume.
UNIQUE LOOK INSIDE JAPAN Mar 30, 2005
There is hardly any book available by a Westerner looking back over more than half a century's contact with Japan - , culturally, economically and socially. Well, Hans Brinckmann's The Magatama Doodle fills the gap. The author starts with entering Japanese life in the service of a Dutch bank in 1950. By means of anecdotes and observations he tells us how his experiences became an 'affair' with Japanese culture. He explains the backgrounds of its sometimes strange customs and how he dealt with them. Not only by means of anecdotes and examples but also by going back into history he brings Japanese life into relief. At the same time we follow his career from bank employee to banking executive, and from bachelor to being married to a Japanese young lady of `good family'. As such he was able to meet Japanese leaders and gaining an insight into the manifold reasons for their decisions and actions. The title refers to a habit he noticed early on among some Japanese men in authority: that of doodling imaginary comma-like figures on some handy surface, whenever they avoided expressing an opinion or making a decision. The doodles reminded him of magatama, ancient comma-shaped precious stones found in prehistoric tombs. They seemed to him an appropriate symbol for one of the book's underlying themes: that a deeply conservative ethos lies at the root of both Japan's distinctive and much-admired culture and the undeniable rigidity of its political, educational and managerial structures. The author stresses he is not suggesting a simple key to understanding the `Japanese mind', let alone presuming to offer prescriptions for change. As he sees it, Western attempts to make Japan `more like us' are doomed to fail. Japan must build on its own considerable strengths and rely on the fresh energies of a new generation of leaders to meet the challenges of a globalized society. I should consider this book essential reading for everyone interested in understanding the often-mystifying ethics, politics and economics of this country that has left its mark on world history in more than one way. Michael Rogge.