I saw Japanland on PBS last year and wanted to read the book because the tv mini series was so compelling. Her book enhanced all of the places she documented in her film, and she showed her journey in search of "Wa." A very interesting quest. It seemed that Karin had such a hard time living in Japan, not being able to fit in, or even wanting to from time to time. There was no way that she would be able to find the sense of "Wa." She endured many hardships, some because of cultural difference, and some because of ignorance, then embarrassment and shame. Sometime I felt sorry for her not being able to fit in, and then sometimes I was angry with her for not knowing any better. After reading Bruce Feiler's "Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan," I wanted to visit Japan. After reading Karin Muller's experience, I would never want to step foot on Japanese soil. Interesting.
Karin Muller as a way of writing that firmly plants the reader into the situation and emotion of the events that she experiences. She conveys the restraints and the openness of the culture with both humor and wonder.
If you are looking for an easy, enjoyable read--this is it. If you are looking to learn about Japan--this is not an history or sociology book but you will come away with increased understanding. You will, also, have an idea of what 'wa' is and pershaps a desire to experience it for yourself.
Japanland: a year in search of wa did not live up to its title and should be regarded only as a travelogue kept by an American documentary filmmaker. The author Karin Muller was in her mid-thirties when wanderlust returned into her life, along with a desire to seek some wa or inner harmony she observed in her Japanese judo instructors for herself. Reaching the conclusion that one needed to become Japanese in this quest, she decides to live in Japan for one year. However, I would argue that she takes up this task half-heartedly, as witnessed by her reactions to her deteriorating relationship with her initial host family, especially its matriarch Yukiko. Instead, this book is a hodge-podge of her day-to-day life and attempts to shoot footage about various aspects of Japanese life and culture. As implied by the choice of titlewith its similarity to Disneyland, Graceland, and LegolandMuller portrays Japan as a distant, somewhat mysterious and caricaturized place, albeit one filled with kind people.