A Touch of Sleeve

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A Touch of Sleeve

Susan Bell

Publisher:Random House New Zealand Ltd

Perhaps this Japanese proverb explains why Westerners know so little about Japan and how its citizens fared during World War II and the consequent US Occupation. In A Touch of Sleeve one Japanese gentleman doesn't care about exposing his 'insides' for public view. He has things he wants to say a This is Hisashi Furuya's story as told to Susan Bell. The author met Hisashi when he and his sister immigrated to New Zealand in 1991. Her portrait of Hisashi tells how one man was caught up in the course of history, and was not only influenced by tradition and family, but by events unfolding on a daily basis. Susan Bell maps the history of Japan along with that of Hisashi's ancestors, both his samurai and priestly lineage. With his traditional childhood and elite education Hisashi had a future full of promise. But war changed his life dramatically. Here we are given a Japanese view of the military build-up that led to the bombing of Pearl Harbour. We experience first hand the savage carpet bombings of Tokyo, the consequent deprivation of its inhabitants and their bewilderment at the US Occupation. We also witness the rebuilding of a defeated nation.Another Japanese proverb that Hisashi is fond of is, 'When our sleeves touch it is karma'. Hisashi believes that meeting Susan Bell was inevitable and that she has enabled him to tell his story so that we may better understand Japan today.

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