Wrong About Japan

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Previous winner of two Booker Prizes, Peter Carey expands his extraordinary achievement with each new novel — but now gives us something entirely different.

When famously shy Charley Carey becomes obsessed with Japanese manga and anime, Peter is not only delighted for his son, but entranced himself. Thus, with a father sharing his twelve-year-old’s exotic comic books, begins a journey that will lead them both to Tokyo, where a strange Japanese boy will become both their guide and judge. The visitors quickly plunge deep into the lanes of Shitimachi — into the “weird stuff” of modern Japan — meeting manga artists and anime directors, “visualists” who painstakingly impersonate cartoons, and solitary “otakus” who lead a computerized existence. What emerges from these encounters is a pithy, far-ranging study of history and culture both high and low — from samurai to salaryman, from kabuki theatre to the post-war robot craze. Peter Carey’s observations are provocative, even though his hosts often point out, politely, that he is wrong about Japan. In adventures that are comic, surprising, and ultimately moving, father and son cope with and learn from each other in a place far from home.

“No Real Japan,” said Charley. “You’ve got to promise. No temples. No museums.”

“What could we do?”

“We could buy cool manga.”

“There’ll be no English translations.”

“I don’t care. I’d eat raw fish.”

—excerpt from Wrong About Japan

From the Hardcover edition.


I was at the video shop with my twelve-year-old son when he rented Kikujiro, a tough-guy/little-boy Japanese film whose charming, twitching hoodlum is played by an actor named Beat Takeshi. How could I have known where this would lead?

Over the next few weeks Charley rented Kikujiro a number of times, and...
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"Thoughtful, sensitive exploration of contemporary Japanese culture."
Kirkus Reviews

"This travel diary reads like a scintillating novella, and Carey has, in fact, added his own fictional embellishments to the real-life events he reports. . . . Carey’s fluid and engaging writing style gets a boost from 25 energetic b&w anime/manga illustrations."
Publishers Weekly

"Curious and affecting. . . . physically diminutive but emotionally huge. . . . Wrong About Japan reads like a literary version of Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, minus the melancholy and stylish soundtrack."
The Scotsman

"Carey describes the father-son relationship with great dexterity and open-eyed tenderness. . . . The mysteries of Japan and father-son relationships prove to be rich subjects, especially for a writer at the peak of his powers, and they make for an entertaining and uplifting book. . . . The result is neither memoir nor travel book, but one of those hybrids that can so easily go wrong, but that here goes life-affirmingly right."
The Sunday Times

From the Hardcover edition.