BEHIND THE MASK. On Sexual Demons, Sacred Mothers, Transvestites, Gangsters, Drifters And Other Japanese Cultural Heroes. by Ian. Ian Buruma, Behind the Mask: On Sexual Demons, Sacred Mothers, Transvestites, Gangsters, Drifters, and Other Japanese Cultural Heroes. Behind the mask: on sexual demons, sacred mothers, transvestites, gangsters, and other Japanese cultural heroes. Front Cover. Ian Buruma. New American.

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I found myself pretty bored with it.

To elaborate, I personally feel like instead of really conveying the significance of gangsters in Japanese culture Ian Buruma would throw out the idea that they are significant and then go straight into the cinematic examples of why.

An insightful overview of Japanese culture, and pleasing introduction into a new world of literature.

Behind the Mask

The only downside I can find with the book is unsystematic presentation since it is unclear what the author was trying to accomplish by compiling essays on various topics and giving us random glimpses into the core of the Japanese society and their way of thinking. I will be actively seeking his work out which rarely say about anyone. May 14, Kimberlee Kimura rated it it was amazing.

I’d recommend this book, despite its age, to anyone interested in a survey of Japanese fiction and film, and also to anyone curious about Japan in general. Like, it’s a free country, you know?

Liz rated it it was amazing Jun 07, As this book was written before directors like Kitano Takeshi and Fhe Takashi came on the scene, it would be interesting to see how Buruma would interpret their work as fitting into this continuum.


The book predates the relatively recent Japan-mania, or Japanophilia, that large swathes of Westerners exhibit today, with the increase in interest in Japanese music, manga and anime, so there is little masj to anime characters familiar with many of us.

I still don’t know, and this much time put into a book should not make me feel that way accidentally. Burma’s culture study of Japan felt very dated, very hypocritical, and very boring at times.

Reading this book effectively made me want to oan all of the fiction referenced throughout, and it gave me a perspective I hadn’t totally considered on how much fiction relates a cultures values at any given time.

Feb 02, Jenna rated it it was ok Shelves: Aug 30, Marija S.

Behind the Mask : Ian Buruma :

Jul 07, Adam rated it did bhind like it. Ginzburg’s peasant radicalism runs deep in Japan, and one only need peel away a thin veneer to discover its presence. I would have loved to give vuruma book 5 stars, but I think I need a little bit more support for the ideas before diving right into the examples. I don’t know how true that is, but I would never assume such things of the Japanese people that I meet. I wish the book could be updated to make more modern references in light of this phenomenon, which would provide invaluable weight to the contemporary Japanese entertainment landscape.

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It has left me determined to read more Buruma and more about contemporary Japan with its passions for both continuity and innovation. Buruma has a clear-eyed and yet wry and ironical tone when discussing Japan that can be very refreshing or grate on the nerves, depending on what mood the reader is in.

One of the first books I got into with respect to Japanese sub-culture. Buruma starts off by distinguishing between Japanese progenitors Izanagi and Izanami and Adam and Eve–or “pollution” vs. It cannot and should [not] be taread as a definitive take on the Japanese character. As an olla podrida of comments and description, however, this has its truths and its voyeuristic attractions.


Jul 05, Terry Travers rated it it was amazing. This book was really heavy on examples from film, but it was well-written, by a guy who totally knew what he was talking about.

Fun and illuminating read. Essential reading for anyone studying the Japanese language or culture. There’s a glitch in Goodreads. The term is not really used for foreigners who, one can only assume, lack such a thing. Buruma begins with Japanese founding myths, which in a few crucial ways differ greatly from those of Ancient Greece and Rome or even other Asian nations.

But for a general overview of Japanese aesthetics and construction of characters, it is still a good read. Be the first to discover new talent! Instead, the author makes reference to obscure at least for a western audience movies and plays that are largely indecipherable to the outsider.

Yet, I learned a lot from this book. In some cases, these concepts have formal names, like giri, and in others they are less easy to encapsulate, but equally important in understanding why characters behave the way they do.