A Tokyo Romance – Ian Buruma

A Tokyo Romance was the first Ian Buruma book I ever read. To be honest after finishing this book I decided that I should browse all the memoir books out there. I remember thinking the same thing after reading Patti Smith and Joan Didion; “I will read memoirs now,”. Nevertheless, A Tokyo Romance has made me feel a little more enthusiastic. After this book whenever I see an inspiring memoir, I’m sure I’ll end up buying it.


A Tokyo Romance - Ian Buruma

A Tokyo Romance tells the story of a younger Ian Buruma while he spends his days having fun and experiencing exciting things in the 1970s’ Tokyo. I have always been interested in Japan, and Japanese Literature and this book was a birthday gift from a close friend. (Isn’t it wonderful when your friends know you so well?) I thought that after finishing the book, I would know Tokyo and Japanese culture better than ever before. However, when I finished the book, I realised that Tokyo is a never-ending story and that it is impossible to know everything about it. Ian Buruma, on the other hand, has become a matter of curiosity himself for me.

Buruma, half-English half Dutch, while searching for ways to stand out from the comfort and safety of the riches, goes to Tokyo to study cinema with a scholarship. Rather than telling tales about Tokyo, he delves into the cinema, theatre and art community here. He makes friends; he learns things, he understands how it feels to be a foreigner, a gaijin, in Japan. He lives life to the fullest in an unusual and exciting city. I couldn’t stop envying him!

If you are not particularly interested in Japanese culture, you may not enjoy this as much as I did, but if you like reading about arts and a good memoir, read this book!

About the book: A Tokyo Romance

When Ian Buruma arrived in Tokyo as a young film student in 1975, he found a feverish and surreal metropolis in the midst of an economic boom, where everything seemed new and history only remained in fragments. 

Through his adventures in the world of avant-garde theatre, his encounters with carnival acts, fashion photographers and moments on-set with Akira Kurosawa, Buruma came of age. For an outsider, unattached to the cultural burdens placed on the Japanese, this was a place to be truly free.

A Tokyo Romance is a portrait of a young artist and the fantastical city that shaped him, and a timeless story about the desire to transgress boundaries: cultural, artistic and sexual.


About the author: Ian Buruma

Ian Buruma is a Dutch writer, editor and historian who lives and works in the United States. In 2017, he became editor of The New York Review of Books, but left the position in September 2018. Much of his writing has focused on the culture of Asia, particularly that of China and 20th-century Japan.

A Tokyo Romance - Ian Buruma

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

Japanese Literature – A Literary Journey

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.