An Indiana Hoosier in Lord
by Todd Jay Leonard
Avaliable in paperback from Amazon and in audio book from iUniverse.
expatriate anywhere in the world has been asked the same questions
during trips home or via letters and emails: Do they celebrate
Christmas over there? What are the people like? Is it safe over there?
When was the last time you went to church?
The answers are
complex to explain without causing the inquisitors’ eyes to
glaze over and the result is canned answers that reveal
sort of; They’re inscrutable but nice; Yes and no; and
Sometime during the Reagan Administration.
Todd Jay Leonard’s An Indiana Hoosier in Lord
Tsugaru’s Court: Musings of an American Expatriate Living in
Rural Japan is not only a book to read before you come to
it’s a book to leave with your parents because it answers
most of the questions you, and they, will have about your time here.
The book consists of
a series of columns Leonard wrote for his hometown paper in Indiana and
is offered as a sequel to his previous volume Letters Home:
an Expatriate Living in Japan (iUniverse, 2003). It is
theme: Todd’s Top Ten List of Things Japanese; Rites of
Passage; Japanese Festivals and Celebrations; Political, Educational
and Social Issues; and Cultural and Societal Miscellany. It covers a
wide range of material and topics from hot-spring baths and
coming-of-age ceremonies, to waving cats and space-age toilets.
most impressive accomplishment is his ability to present the
information objectively without coming across as a know-it-all (a
condition rather common in people, men in particular
who write about Japan). He also, in an equally impressive feat, manages
to celebrate Japan without trashing the West. He acknowledges a few
western things he both misses and prefers and even describes a number
of Japanese flaws. Your humble editor especially likes his analysis of
Japan’s rising teen crime rate in his answer to the "Is it
safe over there" question.
He gives good
summaries of political and educational issues that manage to name all
the key players and events without getting confusing. He answers the
Christmas question in succinct fashion and describes the disappointment
Japanese have when they discover Christmas cake is not a part of the
traditional Western celebration. He even hints at a fault with the
Japanese way of celebrating: “Behind all the glitz and
glitter … the actual reason for celebrating the season is
noticeably absent here.” This section is accented with a
description of his own shock at seeing Santa Claus on a cross.
If the book has any
flaws it’s that, because it is a series of columns, it tends
to be a bit repetitive at times. Some topics are mentioned, then
mentioned again, then discussed in more detail. Stylistically, your
humble editor wishes Leonard had spread his top 10 list out and used it
as breaks between the different sections. He also feels that Leonard
unfairly trashes the Japanese version of Valentine’s Day
(where the women give chocolate to the men) while giving short shrift
to White Day (where men are supposed to reciprocate). Your humble
editor unconditionally supports any holiday that involves him getting
free chocolate and likes that the burden, at least in theory, is shared
Still, these are minor issues. Your humble editor encourages you to
rush out and order two copies, one for yourself and one for your
parents. He also encourages you to check out Leonard’s