Review Of "Japanese Homes And Lifestyles: An Illustrated Journey Through History" By K. Inaba And S. Nakayama, Translated By J. Bester

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Inaba's slight but costly volume, originally published in Japanese in 1983, is noteworthy for Nakayama's illustrations. Modeled after David Macaulay's series (Cathedral, Pyramid, City), they are exquisitely drawn albeit inevitably fanciful in certain details. But the text is academic and puerile; it reads like a middle school textbook. It assumes a rudimentary knowledge of Japanese history, not expected of the average reader of the translation, and yet, in discussing architecture, it is flatly descriptive with hardly any attempt at critical interpretation. The discussion is chronological but not historical; it lacks a large historical sense of connections and continuities. The author's slant is folk architecture and the text thus slights the dwellings of the nobility and the ruling class--the shinden and the shoin--that have traditionally been overemphasized at the expense of farm houses and townhouses. The fruitful cross-fertilization of the urban and the rural, if that was the author's interest, is not adequately articulated. No footnotes, no bibliography. Not for academic audiences.


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