Omoiyari by Erin Niimi Longhurst is the 12th book I read this year. The 11th book was The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, which I reviewed on my TikTok account.
I usually buy and read books on my super antique Kindle (I got it way back in 2008!). So I go to bookstores and later buy the Kindle version because it’s often cheaper. This one, however, had such a beautiful cover that I could not resist. My husband Cung was familiar with Ryo Takemasa as an illustrator, so I thought if I’m going to buy a hardcopy, might as well buy a beautifully colored one.
The photography and illustrations did not disappoint. They were very well chosen with the philosophies of Japanese culture that the author brought up. A delightful book for my eyes.
I always enjoy learning more about different cultures (well this whole book is about another culture) so I was satisfied with learning about concepts such as omoiyari, kintsugi, and senzaburu (a thousand paper cranes) from the author.
The Reader’s Historical Background
Looking deeper into myself however, I realized that this book triggered some things inside. Being Indonesian, I am exposed through our history to all the horrors of the Japanese invasion from 1942-1945. There was a lot of horror during those years. When the author talked about forest-bathing as Japanese culture, I think of Taman Hutan Raya Djuanda, the forest in Bandung that I regularly walk at. In this forest, there are caves and tunnels called Dutch Caves and Japanese Caves where Japanese soldiers hid their ammunition.
It also evokes a book I read last year titled The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See about the haenyo (female divers) of Jeju Island. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea, including Jeju. Oh goodness, some of the stories were too painful to read.
So for me, as much as I enjoyed learning about the compassionate side of Japanese culture, I also remember that there are two sides to everything. Even the most beautiful cultures have committed dark atrocities.
I suppose that is just the reality of this world.
Have you read Omoiyari? What did you think?