Has anyone made it to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see the new exhibition of Japanese armor? The MFA has been marketing the exhibit simply as "Samurai!" which I find very effective. This month, in conjunction with the museum's show and with spring's cherry blossoms, we're promoting Japan as our Destination of the Month. And I've decided to call our display shelf filled with Japanese literature, guides, maps and cookbooks: "SAMURAI!!!"
Before you make your way to the MFA--or to Japan, for that matter, swing by Booksmith and get the literature you need to guide you through the sites. If you want to read about a real life Samurai hero of feudal Japan, we've got The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi. Mushashi was a revered samurai warrior who believed mastery of the mind was as important as technique in martial arts, a teaching that he expounded in his Book of Five Rings. His influence can still be seen in books and films today and is beautifully evoked in this biography by William Scott Wilson.
We've got plenty of guides to introduce you to Japan, as well as some fun literature to guide you through some of the more nuanced aspects of Japanese culture, including To Japan with Love, a graceful guide that can help you order anything from a bento box to the kaiseki served in elegant Kyoto teahouses. With this book in your pack you can attend a sumo match, sing karoke, spin some pottery, or go on a spiritual pilgrimage to a sacred site. And you'll even know when to take off your shoes.
Whether you are a lover of manga, anime, or zen, fans of Japanese culture can feed their obsession with Hector Garcia's A Geek in Japan. This cultural guide can show you the historical roots of all things Japanese. Filled with loud graphics and images of Japanese pop culture, A Geek in Japan is perfect for both children and adults who want to better acquaint themselves with a fascinating foreign culture.
Speaking of graphics, check out the graphic novel Tokyo on Foot. Rather than exploring Tokyo through a traditional guide, Florent Chavouet presents this city through beautiful sketches and hand drawn maps. The life of Tokyo leaps of the page in colorful, idiosyncratic images of its landscape and people.
If you want to have a companion for your initial explorations in Japanese culture, Karen Pond is the perfect friend to take along. Pond's memoir Getting Genki in Japan is an illustrated narrative of an American family's misadventures as they create a life for themselves in Tokyo. She'll even help you figure out how to flush a Japanese toilet.
And finally: SAMURAI!!! We've got temporary tattoos. Don't go to Japan without one.