The Japan We Never Knew: A Journey of Discovery


325 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7737-2984-4
DDC 952.04'9




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, and the author of Kurlek, Margaret Laurence: The
Long Journey Home, and As Though Life Mattered: Leo Kennedy’s Story.


David Suzuki, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian biologist and
environmentalist, had despaired over the destruction of land and waters
by Japanese bent on economic dominance. Keibo Oiwa, who grew up in
Japan, learned only as an adult that his father was Korean. In Japan,
that alters everything. Together, the two men journeyed through Japan in
search of another side to the country. This book chronicles that

They met Japanese from many occupations and backgrounds, including the
aboriginal Ainu and the burakumin or “hamlet people,” Japan’s
untouchables, who are forced to live in their own areas or hamlets and
intermarry only with other burakumin. They found diversity among a
people who were nevertheless in love with ancestral ways and with their
communities. They also found peace activists and citizens determined to
fight for a clean environment, and met with grassroots activists.

This portrait of nonconformist Japan provides a needed counterbalance
to monolithic notions of the country and makes for fascinating reading.
However, such mavericks form a minority, or several separate minorities,
and the majority of Japanese still set a high value on conformity and
consensus. The Japan We Never Knew is only part—but a vital part—of
the story.


Suzuki, David, and Keibo Oiwa., “The Japan We Never Knew: A Journey of Discovery,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,