Japan Australia Pages

Sunday, July 5, 2020

No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners! Book Review

I first arrived in Japan in 1998 to start my working career after graduating from university in Australia with a business degree. Japan was a vastly different place then to what it is now, and I was lucky to catch the very tail-end of the golden boom period. I was one of the few foreigners living in my small city in central Japan, and I can tell you that I had a lot of unique and interesting experiences as one of the only westerners in my area, but that is a story for another day.

Joe Palermo the writer of No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners arrived even earlier than I did, but we share many of the same Japan experiences and Japan stories.

The Book’s Content 

No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners is a short, easy to read 87-page book full of interesting Japan experiences from the perspective of a foreigner living in Japan in the 1980s.

Many of the stereotypes of a foreigner in Japan from the 1980s still, unfortunately, remain today, such as “Wow! You can speak Japanese. How are you able to do that? ” and “Your chopstick skills are amazing for a non-Japanese!”

Here is a little from the book and the author.

“A young Japanese woman was running through Tokyo station screaming “Save me! Save me!” There was a Japanese man chasing her and closing in. He grabbed her wrist and caught her about 10 feet in front of me. The woman was still yelling “Save me! Save Me!” but the Japanese people in the crowded station ignored her, not wanting to get involved. This is the beginning of just one of the stories from my experience living in Japan in the 1980’s, where I had moved right after graduating university. It was still rare to see an American who could speak Japanese fluently. This book guides the reader though my many adventures navigating through Japanese culture while living in the outskirts of Tokyo, as well as Tokyo proper.”

My View 

This book is really easy to pick-up and read and is jam-packed with short entertaining stories about Joe’s eight-year journey of living in Japan in the boom of the 1980s. The writing style is easy to digest and I found myself sitting down wanting to read more and more each time I picked it up. The main interest for me was reading about Joe’s adventures in Japan and how he adapted to Japanese culture while living in his small town on the outskirts of Tokyo. I could definitely relate to this experience.

I really enjoyed the book as someone who has lived in Japan for a very long time. I could relate to many of the stories in the book and even went through quite a lot of them myself, so it definitely brought back a lot of memories about my start here in Japan.

About the Writer 

The author, Joe Palermo grew up in Addison, Illinois in the United States. Upon graduation from the University of Illinois in Chicago, he moved to Japan to accept a position with the Japanese government as a Mombusho English Fellow (MEF). He spent 3 years working for Shimaden, a Japanese manufacturer of industrial temperature controllers, and then joined the Nielsen company (formerly A.C. Nielsen) locally in Japan. He is now semi-retired and lives with his Japanese wife in the suburbs of Chicago.  

No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners! is an enjoyable read, outlining what it was like to live in Japan in the 1980s with many of the experiences still ringing true today.

No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners! is available on Amazon

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