Ian Buruma's Behind the Mask

Ian Buruma's Behind the Mask

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Ian Buruma's Behind the Mask


Ian Buruma was born in the Netherlands in 1951. He went to school in both Holland and Japan, and he has spent a great deal of time in Japan. Ian Buruma is an author, journalist and a professor at Bard College in New York. He sometimes writes for the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine, the New Republic, the New Yorker, and the Guardian.

The book, Behind the Mask, was a very interesting one. This book is filled with lots of Japans history that most people know nothing about. Much of the content in Behind the Mask is focused on sexuality and violence. The book has thirteen chapters each dealing with a different topic. It starts out with a kind of mythology about the origins of Japan. It is then followed by chapters on mothers in Japan and marriage. Some of the other topics focus on women, geisha, and yakuza.

Behind the Mask is a great book explaining a great deal of the sexuality related to the culture and religion of Japan. To the Japanese, sex is a part of nature; it is not considered a sin. The worst thing that can happen to an individual in Japan is to be socially shamed or dishonored. The Japanese do believe in a sort of “pollution” though. They fear being unclean, death, and blood, among other things. Purification is a big deal in Japan.

Ian Buruma, the author, not only explains in great detail much of the history and practices of the Japanese, but he also writes much about significant people and places dealing with the topic. There were many significant people who contributed a great deal to the practices in Japan. He also describes many of the important places where certain events occurred. He explains what the kabuki theaters looked like and also the famous strip clubs.

The Washington Post Book World writes, “A fascinating exploration of Japanese culture: the fantasy life of the Japanese. It fishes its insights from the rich and muddy river of popular culture that the Foreign Ministry has always tried to screen from foreign view. Through skillfully chosen subjects – sex, gender, the mother – we find a comprehensible (if sometimes surprising) fantasy persona behind the inscrutable mask…fascinating, imaginative, highly polished, entertaining.

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This book gives the reader a better understanding of the Japanese culture and practices. It covers many different subjects, all very important to the Japanese culture. Without knowing the proper history, many people might think that Japan is just a very sexual place. There is much to be learned by reading this book, and many readers will be quite surprised.

Works Cited

Buruma, Ian. Behind the Mask: On Sexual Demons, Sacred Mothers, Transvestites,

Gangsters, and other Japanese Cultural Heros. New York. First Meridian Printing. 1985.
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