Skip to content
People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman

East Meets West

It all started with Richard Lloyd Parry’s The People Who Eat Darkness. Parry, as a foreign correspondent for the London Times, gives a thorough account about the disappearance of a British National in the famous pleasure district of Japan: Roppongi. He weaves the main narrative with facts about post-war Japan and the modern Japanese criminal system. But, through it all, the focus was on the 20 year-old girl who vanished without a trace. I wanted to know more and read more about Westerns in Asia. How would you adjust? What would it be like to be so far from home in a completely foreign land?

The answer came to me from Peter Hessler, who has written a series of books about his experiences in a rapidly changing China. His first book, River Town, recounts his experience as a member of the Peace Corps, teaching English at a small provincial college. Over the course of the book, he begins to learn the language and experiences the changes sweeping the country partly through interaction with his students. Hessler followed River Town with Oracle Bones which weaves together the tumultuous past and the exploding future of China. In Country Driving, Hessler gets a Chinese driver’s license and drives the length of the Great Wall as well as a newly rising boomtown in the south. All three of Hessler’s books are masterful, funny and informative. In short, they are perfect.

There is an amazing range of stories by and from Westerners in Asia. You can read about a Missouri native who learns Japanese well enough to work as a crime reporter at a Japanese language newspaper (Tokyo Vice) or an Italian-American G.I. who, during the post WWII occupation, opens the first pizza restaurant in Japan with the help of certain underworld connections (Tokyo Underworld).

Maybe you’d like to read idiosyncratic travelogues created by graphic artists who sketch their way through Japanese cities and towns (Tokyo on Foot and A Year in Japan).

Or you can always try one of the books listed below.


Amazon Says: An incisive and compelling account of the case of Lucie Blackman. Lucie Blackman -- tall, blonde, and 21 years old -- stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2 more...
Amazon Says: An incisive and compelling account of the case of Lucie Blackman. Lucie Blackman -- tall, blonde, and 21 years old -- stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave. The seven months inbetween had seen a massive search for the missing girl, involving Japanese policemen, British private detectives, Australian dowsers and Lucie's desperate, but bitterly divided, parents. As the case unfolded, it drew the attention of prime ministers and sado-masochists, ambassadors and con-men, and reporters from across the world. Had Lucie been abducted by a religious cult, or snatched by human traffickers? Who was the mysterious man she had gone to meet? And what did her work, as a 'hostess' in the notorious Roppongi district of Tokyo, really involve? Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, has followed the case since Lucie's disappearance. Over the course of a decade, he has travelled to four continents to interview those caught up in the story, fought off a legal attack in the Japanese courts, and worked undercover as a barman in a Roppongi strip club. He has talked exhaustively to Lucie's friends and family and won unique access to the Japanese detectives who investigated the case. And he has delved into the mind and background of the man accused of the crime -- Joji Obara, described by the judge as 'unprecedented and extremely evil'. With the finesse of a novelist, he reveals the astonishing truth about Lucie and her fate. People Who Eat Darkness is, by turns, a non-fiction thriller, a courtroom drama and the biography of both a victim and a killer. It is the story of a young woman who fell prey to unspeakable evil, and of a loving family torn apart by grief. And it is a fascinating insight into one of the world's most baffling and mysterious societies, a light shone into dark corners of Japan that the rest of the world has never glimpsed before. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: A New York Times Notable BookWinner of the Kiriyama Book PrizeIn the heart of China's Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, lies the remote to more...
Amazon Says: A New York Times Notable BookWinner of the Kiriyama Book PrizeIn the heart of China's Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, lies the remote town of Fuling. Like many other small cities in this ever-evolving country, Fuling is heading down a new path of change and growth, which came into remarkably sharp focus when Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, marking the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. Hessler taught English and American literature at the local college, but it was his students who taught him about the complex processes of understanding that take place when one is immersed in a radically different society.Poignant, thoughtful, funny, and enormously compelling, River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a city that is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: From the acclaimed author of River Town comes a rare portrait, both intimate and epic, of twenty-first-century China as it opens its doors to the outside world.A century ago, more...
Amazon Says: From the acclaimed author of River Town comes a rare portrait, both intimate and epic, of twenty-first-century China as it opens its doors to the outside world.A century ago, outsiders saw Chinaas a place where nothing ever changes. Today the coun-try has become one of the most dynamic regions on earth. That sense of time—the contrast between past and present, and the rhythms that emerge in a vast, ever-evolving country—is brilliantly illuminated by Peter Hessler in Oracle Bones, a book that explores the human side of China's transformation. Hessler tells the story of modern-day China and its growing links to the Western world as seen through the lives of a handful of ordinary people. In addition to the author, an American writer living in Beijing, the narrative follows Polat, a member of a forgotten ethnic minority, who moves to the United States in searchof freedom; William Jefferson Foster, who grew up in an illiterate family and becomes a teacher; Emily,a migrant factory worker in a city without a past; and Chen Mengjia, a scholar of oracle-bone inscriptions, the earliest known writing in East Asia, and a man whosetragic story has been lost since the Cultural Revolution. All are migrants, emigrants, or wanderers who find themselves far from home, their lives dramatically changed by historical forces they are struggling to understand.Peter Hessler excavates the past and puts a remarkable human face on the history he uncovers. In a narrative that gracefully moves between the ancient and the present, the East and the West, Hessler captures the soul of a country that is undergoing a momentous change before our eyes. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: “Hessler has a marvelous sense of the intonations and gestures that give life to the moment.” —The New York Times Book Review From Peter Hessler, the New York Times best more...
Amazon Says: “Hessler has a marvelous sense of the intonations and gestures that give life to the moment.” —The New York Times Book Review From Peter Hessler, the New York Times bestselling author of Oracle Bones and River Town, comes Country Driving, the third and final book in his award-winning China trilogy. Country Driving addresses the human side of the economic revolution in China, focusing on economics and development, and shows how the auto boom helps China shift from rural to urban, from farming to business. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: From the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club: a unique, firsthand, revelatory look at Japanese culture from more...
Amazon Says: From the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club: a unique, firsthand, revelatory look at Japanese culture from the underbelly up. At nineteen, Jake Adelstein went to Japan in search of peace and tranquility. What he got was a life of crime . . . crime reporting, that is, at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For twelve years of eighty-hour workweeks, he covered the seedy side of Japan, where extortion, murder, human trafficking, and corruption are as familiar as ramen noodles and sake. But when his final scoop brought him face to face with Japan’s most infamous yakuza boss—and the threat of death for him and his family—Adelstein decided to step down . . . momentarily. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein tells the riveting, often humorous tale of his journey from an inexperienced cub reporter—who made rookie mistakes like getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor—to a daring, investigative journalist with a price on his head. With its vivid, visceral descriptions of crime in Japan and an exploration of the world of modern-day yakuza that even few Japanese ever see, Tokyo Vice is a fascination, and an education, from first to last. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: "A fascinating look at some fascinating people who show how democracy advances hand in hand with crime in Japan."--Mario Puzo In this unorthodox chronicle of the rise of Japa more...
Amazon Says: "A fascinating look at some fascinating people who show how democracy advances hand in hand with crime in Japan."--Mario Puzo In this unorthodox chronicle of the rise of Japan, Inc., Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa, gives us a fresh perspective on the economic miracle and near disaster that is modern Japan. Through the eyes of Nick Zappetti, a former GI, former black marketer, failed professional wrestler, bungling diamond thief who turned himself into "the Mafia boss of Tokyo and the king of Rappongi," we meet the players and the losers in the high-stakes game of postwar finance, politics, and criminal corruption in which he thrived. Here's the story of the Imperial Hotel diamond robbers, who attempted (and may have accomplished) the biggest heist in Tokyo's history. Here is Rikidozan, the professional wrestler who almost single-handedly revived Japanese pride, but whose own ethnicity had to be kept secret. And here is the story of the intimate relationships shared by Japan's ruling party, its financial combines, its ruthless criminal gangs, the CIA, American Big Business, and perhaps at least one presidential relative. Here is the underside of postwar Japan, which is only now coming to light. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: This prize-winning book is both an illustrated tour of a Tokyo rarely seen in travel guides and an artist's warm, funny, visually rich, and always entertaining graphic memo more...
Amazon Says: This prize-winning book is both an illustrated tour of a Tokyo rarely seen in travel guides and an artist's warm, funny, visually rich, and always entertaining graphic memoir. Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth with a pouch full of color pencils and a sketchpad, and visit different neighborhoods. This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures. It isn't the Tokyo of packaged tours and glossy guidebooks, but a grittier, vibrant place, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives and the scenes and activities that unfold on the streets of a bustling metropolis. Here you find business men and women, hipsters, students, grandmothers, shopkeepers, policemen, and other urban types and tribes in all manner of dress and hairstyles. A temple nestles among skyscrapers; the corner grocery anchors a diverse assortment of dwellings, cafes, and shops—often tangled in electric lines. The artist mixes styles and tags his pictures with wry comments and observations. Realistically rendered advertisements or posters of pop stars contrast with cartoon sketches of iconic objects or droll vignettes, like a housewife walking her pet pig, a Godzilla statue in a local park, and an urban fishing pond that charges 400 yen per half hour. This very personal guide to Tokyo is organized by neighborhood with hand-drawn maps that provide an overview of each neighborhood, but what really defines them is what caught the artist's eye and attracted his formidable drawing talent. Florent Chavouet begins his introduction by observing that, "Tokyo is said to be the most beautiful of ugly cities." With wit, a playful sense of humor, and the multicolor pencils of his kit, he sets aside the question of urban ugliness or beauty and captures the Japanese essence of a great city in this truly vital portrait. less...
Amazon

A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson
Amazon Says: The Land of the Rising Sun is shining brightly across the American cultural landscape. Recent films such as Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha seem to have made every more...
Amazon Says: The Land of the Rising Sun is shining brightly across the American cultural landscape. Recent films such as Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha seem to have made everyone an expert on Japan, even if they've never been there. But the only way for a Westerner to get to know the real Japan is to become a part of it. Kate T. Williamson did just that, spending a year experiencing, studying, and reflecting on her adopted home. She brings her keen observations to us in A Year in Japan, a dramatically different look at a delightfully different way of life. Avoiding the usual clichés--Japan's polite society, its unusual fashion trends, its crowded subways--Williamson focuses on some lesser-known aspects of the country and culture. In stunning watercolors and piquant texts, she explains the terms used to order various amounts of tofu, the electric rugs found in many Japanese homes, and how to distinguish a maiko from a geisha. She observes sumo wrestlers in traditional garb as they use ATMs, the wonders of "Santaful World" at a Kyoto department store, and the temple carpenters who spend each Sunday dancing to rockabilly. A Year in Japan is a colorful journey to the beauty, poetry, and quirkiness of modern Japana book not just to look at but to experience. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: Rising in the mountains of the Tibetan border, the Yangtze River, the symbolic heart of China pierces 3,900 miles of rugged country before debouching into the oily swells of t more...
Amazon Says: Rising in the mountains of the Tibetan border, the Yangtze River, the symbolic heart of China pierces 3,900 miles of rugged country before debouching into the oily swells of the East China Sea. Connecting China's heartland cities with the volatile coastal giant, Shanghai, it has also historically connected China to the outside world through its nearly one thousand miles of navigable waters. To travel those waters is to travel back in history, to sense the soul of China, and Simon Winchester takes us along with him as he encounters the essence of China--its history and politics, its geography and climate as well as engage in its culture, and its people in remote and almost inaccessible places. This is travel writing at its best: lively, informative, and thoroughly enchanting. less...
Amazon

Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson
Amazon Says: It had never been done before. Not in 4000 years of Japanese recorded history had anyone followed the Cherry Blossom Front from one end of the country to the other. Nor had an more...
Amazon Says: It had never been done before. Not in 4000 years of Japanese recorded history had anyone followed the Cherry Blossom Front from one end of the country to the other. Nor had anyone hitchhiked the length of Japan. But, heady on sakura and sake, Will Ferguson bet he could do both. The resulting travelogue is one of the funniest and most illuminating books ever written about Japan. And, as Ferguson learns, it illustrates that to travel is better than to arrive. less...
Amazon

Amazon Says: Learning to Bow has been heralded as one of the funniest, liveliest, and most insightful books ever written about the clash of cultures between America and Japan. With warmth more...
Amazon Says: Learning to Bow has been heralded as one of the funniest, liveliest, and most insightful books ever written about the clash of cultures between America and Japan. With warmth and candor, Bruce Feiler recounts the year he spent as a teacher in a small rural town. Beginning with a ritual outdoor bath and culminating in an all-night trek to the top of Mt. Fuji, Feiler teaches his students about American culture, while they teach him everything from how to properly address an envelope to how to date a Japanese girl. less...
Amazon
Peter Hessler - Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip
Jake D. Says: Peter Hessler at a bookstore event
YouTube Says: "The New Yorker" Beijing correspondent Peter Hessler discusses his book about everyday life in China, "Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip." Presented by Harvard Book Store. ...
4.794872
Print

Comment about this page...