Review Of "Space And Spirit In Modern Japan" By B. B. Greenbie

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More about spirit than space, Greenbie's third book is also less about Japan and more about his trip to Japan in 1984, a "collection," as he cautions, "of his personal observations." The book is nominally an attempt to capture and define that elusive Japaneseness of Japanese culture, but the author only extends, loosely, from his earlier two books (Design for Diversity, 1976; and Spaces: Dimensions of the Human Landscape, CH, Jul '82) his own categories (based on the theory of cerebral bilateral dominance) of proxemic and distemic spaces--the former serving personal and familial interactions and the latter providing a stage for interacting strangers to various landscape situations in Japan. In so doing, the author limits his perspective and ignores useful cross-cultural examples of which he is aware in his more successful Spaces, and gives us a facile and at times trite introduction to Japan's sights and scenes in words and pictures. The text is appreciative but chatty without the style expected of high journalism; it is academic without the depth and documentation expected of serious scholarship. Interdisciplinary though undisciplined, the author sporadically makes some astute observations about Japan. His some 300 photographs, integral to the text, are meant to be suggestive but not documentary; they are gray and "pedestrian," and are not always fully identified. Limited value to landscapists and Japan specialists; recommended for general readers.


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