The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto by Pico Iyer – A Book Review

If you want to read about Kyoto from a writer who stayed for a year spanning four seasons, you can with this elegantly written travel book by Pico Iyer. Kyoto was the hub of civilisation since the eighth century, rich in Japanese culture, architecture that offers many Zen gardens, temples and shrines.

Pico Iyer lived life like the locals and gained first hand encounters with various people he met while on his stay. By deep association with them, he got to appreciate subtle cultural mores of behaviour of Japanese society. Being an Asian myself, I can feel the deeper meaning of being a Japanese through Pico’s writing.

Pico tried staying in a monastery for a short period to understand Zen and monastic life. At the start of his stay in Kyoto, he was already a close friend with Sachiko, who can only dream of leaving Japan but was tied down by being a wife, mother and daughter-in-law in a Japanese society. Through Sachiko, I can sense the tensions of keeping to strict public expectations of Japanese woman.

For one who enjoyed Japan on Japan Hour TV show and visited it for a short stay, Pico’s The Lady and the Monk provided another perspective of Japan in literary words.

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