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The Year Of No Money In Tokyo

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Wayne Lionel Aponte

''Reading ''The Year of No Money in Tokyo,'' one has that sense of peering through the curtain and catching Oz in all his failings, at coming upon the emperor without his clothes. Only, in this instance, the mythic realm is Japan INC, and Aponte takes … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Wayne Lionel Aponte
Publisher: Watkins & McKay
1 review about The Year Of No Money In Tokyo

Tries to be both travel memoir and personal growth book...

  • Aug 28, 2009
I was contacted by Wayne Lionel Aponte asking if I'd be interested in reading his book The Year of No Money in Tokyo. He felt I might appreciate it after reading The Upside of Fear recently. I accepted the offer, thinking I would be getting a book that was heavy on personal growth and overcoming adversity. While Year of No Money does have some of those elements contained within the covers, it's also described as a travel memoir. Those tend to be two very different things, and I felt as if they were fighting against each other in terms of what the book was really trying to say. Because of that, I think the book missed the mark on succeeding completely on either count.

Aponte is a black American who was living and working in Tokyo in the mid-90s, right as the major financial crisis hit the country. He quit his job, thinking he would have no problem finding another one. But that was not to be. He went from living in a nice area of the city with many of the creature comforts you come to expect, to living in a single room guest house. And we're talking *very* small room, as well as usually sharing it with a roommate who you had no voice in choosing. He existed in this state for a full year, with no income, living off the kindness of a number of girlfriends he had in various areas. Sometimes it was a meal, other times it was actual cash and gifts. On his part, he had but one thing to offer that they wanted... sex. Some wanted nothing more than companionship and someone to talk with, while a couple hinted very strongly that marriage was their ultimate goal. It wasn't until he finally landed a job as an English teacher that he was able to start earning his own way, paying off his debts, and building up a nest egg.

Thoughout the book, Aponte expresses disgust over what he's become, and how he feels like he's reached some of the lowest points in his life. He also is able to talk with quite a bit of authority and candor on what it's like to be a foreigner in a very xenophobic country. Even worse, he's a black American, who many in the culture view as a barbarian and someone less than human. That combination was responsible for nearly all of his job interview failures, as very few Japanese companies or bosses were willing to hire someone so "different" than they were.

So where did I end up failing to appreciate this book? As a travel memoir, it seemed to be trying to get me to change my personal views on life. As a self-improvement book, I was spending a lot of time reading about his ways of making ends meet by using others. And when the subject matter did shift solidly to the personal growth message, I felt I had lost any cohesive thread that might have been holding the whole story together. There *are* insights here that you fail to get in most other books about Japanese culture. His look under the veneer of politeness and correctness shows that the Japanese culture is far different than conventional thought paints it to be. And rarely do you get such a hard-hitting look at how non-white minorities in Japan are treated. These areas make Year of No Money pretty unique in the Japanese culture part of the bookshelf.

I would have done better not knowing anything about the book before I started reading it. As such I may have been able to keep my expectations from interfering. But once I was preconditioned to view it as either a travel book or a personal growth book, I felt that the book tried to do too much, and as such missed the chance to do either one well.

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