Read The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and Her Family by Elisabeth Bumiller Online


As it follows a Japanese housewife named Mariko Tanaka over the course of a year, The Secrets of Mariko transcends reportage to yield the kind of human insights we expect from literature. Meet Mariko, a cheerful, overscheduled woman who cares for three children, two aging parents, and an unresponsive husband. As readers watch Mariko take part in PTA meetings, bicker with hAs it follows a Japanese housewife named Mariko Tanaka over the course of a year, The Secrets of Mariko transcends reportage to yield the kind of human insights we expect from literature. Meet Mariko, a cheerful, overscheduled woman who cares for three children, two aging parents, and an unresponsive husband. As readers watch Mariko take part in PTA meetings, bicker with her teenagers, and pursue independence through her part-time job, they come to see Mariko as someone whose dreams and disappointments mirror our own....

Title : The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and Her Family
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679772620
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and Her Family Reviews

  • Andrew
    2018-11-27 08:10

    Journalist and author, Elizabeth Bumiller, writes a fascinating book in The Secrets of Mariko. Part of its fascination is that it explores the life of a ordinary Japanese woman in a very personal way, not trying to make a huge sociological statement with the study, but to make the life of this woman open for all to have empathy for.Bumiller was in Japan for a few years on assignment, with her husband and family, and had heard so much about the life of the "normal" Japanese housewife, that she set out to chronicle it, to find out if it was as bad as many people said. She found her typical housewife in Mariko, and met with her for over a year, learning about her, her family (a husband and 3 kids), her feelings, and her wants and needs. Mariko also took care of her elderly parents, who live in the same house, both of who are ailing from failing health.Bumiller's narrative is personal...she states that sometimes she had pre-conceived notions that get changed along this year-long journey. And she does not merely focus on Mariko, she looks at things in Mariko's life that fascinate her and explores those too. Fro instance, Mariko takes part in a shrine carrying festival, where she mingles with Yakuza, the Japanese mob. Bumiller is intrigued with how this very middle class woman relates to the Yakuza, and finds a way to interview the local gang's leader.What we get out of this curiosity is a larger picture of Japanese society, a society that is homogeneous to the point of xenophobia, and that is so strictly structured that to be different is to be ostracized by the group mentality. But Bumiller is also sympathetic and caring and tries (and succeeds) in letting us understand the differences between our cultures. Even more, she, and in turn her audience, understands the similarities between two cultures, and how we all strive towards some kind of acceptance.The Secrets of Mariko is an excellent book, (and as true as I can see from my own experiences staying with Japanese friends). Anyone interested in Japanese culture should read and will enjoy it.

  • Lisa
    2018-12-02 09:07

    This is totally my kind of thing. The author spends a year closely observing and interviewing Mariko, with the help of an interpreter. You really get to know Mariko in a personnal way. I wanted the whole book to be about Mariko and her life, but the author needed to do a lot of explaining about Japanese society and give all the backround on the whys and hows and all. I have all that info already, being such a nut for all things Japanese. But the intimate look into the life of a "typical" Japanese woman (much like myself in many ways) was so interesting. My favorite part was the meter-reading. That would be my dream job! I would love to be out walking about on my own, finding each house and snatching glances into people's lives. This book was a great find. Thi book was written about 10 years ago. I wonder what Mariko is up to now...

  • Austin Peters
    2018-11-19 08:24

    Not a good book for entertainment value, but it presents information in a readable way. If you're interested in learning some interesting facts about Japanese culture I would suggest this book but that's about as far as I would go. Mariko's secret: she had an affair! Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

  • Sarah Moriyama
    2018-12-01 04:25

    This book details how many responsibilities a "traditional" Japanese woman endures. I have to put that word in quotes because women of Mariko's mother's and grandmother's generation probably worked harder than Mariko...physical labor at least.This book details how both men and women in Japan are stressed. It is no wonder that the population of Japan is stagnating and is expected to decline drastically, becoming a crisis. (Who will look after the elderly?) This is just one reason though. Others include an unbalanced work-life culture. In Japan, men live to work, instead of work to live. Also, housing prices are terribly high.This book was written in the early 1990s, so an updated case study would be helpful. Japan has changed and will continue to do so. Will Japan make it easier for married couples to have children, or will they brings in foreign workers?...or will the population be cut in half by mid-century?

  • Elsie Klumpner
    2018-12-10 05:01

    Elizabeth Bumiller has written a fascinating book about one year in the life of a contemporary Japanese family. She had extraordinary access to the family and worked with an interpreter. I was a little surprised at how Bumiller inserted her own criticisms of the Japanese culture into the book, rather than just recording her observations. The central focus was on Mariko, the wife of the family, but Bumiller also explored the lives of the other family members, a husband, three children and Mariko's two aging parents. The fascinating part was learning about the customs and mores of a middle class Japanese life in the late 20th century. The picture Bumiller painted was quite dark and unappealing to my Western sensibilities. I was able to warm up to the family members, but found nothing in their lives to envy. I've always loved the Japanese artistic aesthetic - their fine and decorative arts - but found none of that in the daily life of these people. That was curious.

  • Mauri
    2018-11-25 11:04

    This book was a godsend for me. When I saw it on the shelf at the bookstore I couldn't believe that someone had actually written a yearlong account of a modern (well, modern enough) Japanese woman's life.The details about Japanese city and family living revealed in this book are astounding. This book is the sort that makes me wish that there was a version for every country, or for every state/province/prefecture. The author follows this woman through her daily lfe, caring for her husband and children, but also goes back and interviews various people that the family comes in contact with: a PTA president, a nearby shrine owner, the childrens' teachers and so forth.Informative and interesting.

  • katy
    2018-12-18 04:27

    Wonderfully detailed account of the lives of a Japanese woman and her family at the beginning of the 1990's written by a U.S. journalist. We learn about the importance of the family, being a mother, and the grueling pace of the Japanese educational system. The problems of a salariman, the husband, who has to drink to excess in order to tolerate his work are very sad. The parents in the family admit they've missed romance and fulfillment in their lives, but seem to accept the peace that meeting others' expectations provides.

  • Susan
    2018-12-11 09:08

    The book was very interesting and held my attention throughout. I was surprised by the conclusion that Japanese women have more freedom than their husbands. The author managed to include so many details of the family's life that you really felt that you knew them, and that you were there participating with them. Differences between Japanese and American culture were pointed out but, in the end, the feeling was that much more was the same. Now I am interested in reading the author's book on life in India.

  • Iva
    2018-11-24 07:04

    Mariko's life doesn't reveal any big "secrets" as promised in the title, but the book gives an excellent portrait of domestic life in Japan at the end of the 20th century. Bumiller is a skilled journalist and was able to carefully study Mariko's life in the year she lived in Japan. Accompanied by an interpreter, went to Mariko's employment, ate meals with the family, and went on day trips to festivals. Essentially, she presents a true picture of a life with disappointments and joy. The relationship with the interpreter also was revealing. A fascinating and beautifully written account.

  • M
    2018-12-15 08:02

    A wonderful book if you really want to get inside the minds of a "typical" Japanese housewife from the 90's and her family. Mariko's point of view on life is actually quite interesting and quite different from the American one. Then again, it is very East Asian philosophy versus the West. This book goes into quite a variety of topics like Japan's festivals, schools, PTA's, history, war history, etc.

  • Nancy
    2018-12-08 11:06

    I enjoyed this book. A year in the life of a Japanese woman. The author does explore tangents to give us more background. This really helps to explain some of Mariko's story. The main focus seems to be on marriage. Other topics are covered, but it all keeps coming back to the relationship between husband and wife. Very different from America. Interesting how stereotypes viewed from a little different angle bring a new understanding. I found it very interesting. There is a good bibliography.

  • Kathleen
    2018-11-28 10:20

    I was amazed at the number of issues revealed in this book, that were "insider" information. Elisabeth Bumiller had a way of listening to Tanaka family in Japan over the course of a year where she gained their trust, and reported on this family's life in the early 90's. Bumiller interviewed not only the mother, but the son, the daughter, and even the grandparents. She interwove festivals and other annual celebrations as well as illness, fears and frustration. A unique point of view.

  • Joy
    2018-12-15 10:01

    It shed some light on Japanese cultural quirks I didn't understand. I appreciated the perspective on freedom in Japan-- how conflicting it is for men and women. Men appear to be free to do whatever they want, but ultimately find themselves trapped in jobs. Women appear to be trapped in the role of wife and caretaker, but have a flexibility in their lives that men can't get. Interesting, not riveting.

  • Dogsandbooks
    2018-11-17 08:16

    DPL 305.40952 B Life of a Japanese woman and her family. Very interesting contemporary view by an {?} journalist of the life of a Japanese housewife. Lots of interesting little vignettes--but ultimately sad--what is her purpose in life? And also opaque. Elisabeth learned a lot but she was not part of the family.

  • Andrea
    2018-11-26 11:22

    Beautiful look into the life of an average Japanese housewife. Bumiller, a journalist, spent a year getting to know Mariko--her life story, her family, her hopes, dreams, regrets. Across cultures and past language barriers, the women share similar, human feelings and experiences. This is a tender, charming read.

  • Zoe
    2018-12-18 03:11

    Micha recommended this and I can't wait to read it! Got it today from Powell's.4/18/10 - I lent this to Margaret because I think she'll get a lot out of it. For me, it brought back to my days as an Anthropology student (around the same time as this book was written) trying to read and write ethnographies. It kind of inspired me to go back and finish writing mine about Israeli kibbutz life.

  • Erin
    2018-11-25 03:05

    While a little outdated (by roughly 15 years), I found The Secrets of Mariko to be a nice, easy read with wonderful insight on the Japanese and their culture. The book's subject, Mariko, is no one fancy, she's just as the title suggests: an average Japanese woman taking care of her family. If you're interested in Asian studies, I recommend this book for you.

  • Pam
    2018-11-19 04:25

    An American journalist spends one year following the life of Mariko, a Japanese housewife, in the 1990's. An interesting account of what she finds out about Japanese culture. It is very personal to Mariko, but the author analyzes the larger culture as well as Japan's history.

  • Carolyn Bruce
    2018-11-19 08:10

    The life of a Japanese housewife through the eyes of an American journalist. Mariko's honesty allows readers to see the modern world of everyday Tokyo life by following mother of three and wife of a salaryman.

  • Megan Stolz
    2018-11-19 09:07

    Actually just re-read this; the first time was for a modern Japan class in college. Very readable and Bumiller tries to avoid or acknowledge her biases as much as possible. Altough the book is now almost 20 years ago so it would be interesting to see how things have changed.

  • Patricia
    2018-12-10 06:08

    The author did a sociological study of a Japanese family while having almost daily contact with them. That being said, this is not a dry, scholarly book but a fascinating and open account of their lives and relationships plus many glimpses of Japanese life and customs in general.

  • Charles M.
    2018-11-29 07:24

    Very revealing look of life of a Japanese woman and her society during the 1990s. Dis-spells many myths about the extravagant wealth and high standards lifestyle of the Japanese. Turns out that Japan has as many societal ills as does USA.

  • Marcie
    2018-11-24 11:03

    Balances the personal life of Mariko and the perspective on the Japanese culture of ~1990. Shows universals between Japanese and American cultures as we'll as contrasts.

  • Britt
    2018-12-02 08:25

    Very interesting concept. Writer is allowed where very few are. A glimpse into life and psyche of the Japanese woman.

  • Robin Tuthill
    2018-11-22 03:00

    Good insights into differences and similarities in women of different cultures.

  • Jane Pierce
    2018-12-18 11:05

    Didn't finish before I had to return it to the library. Not a real exciting book, but very interesting. Just what I was looking for at the time.

  • Marie
    2018-11-19 06:25

    Great book about the life of ordinary Japanese woman.

  • Cynthia Ewer
    2018-11-18 06:29

    Picked up this title at a yard sale for a dollar--and really enjoyed it! Although slightly dated, it's an intimate, woman-to-woman look at everyday life in Japanese families.

  • Betty
    2018-11-28 03:29

    Based on a year in the early 1990s when Bumiller interviewed (with an interpreter) a Japanese woman and her family. Interesting journalistic project, but at times it seemed terribly invasive.

  • Flora
    2018-12-13 04:25

    Pleasant, interesting, with some surprising revelations at the end. Also a good window into the Japan of the 1990s, which is an interesting compare/contrast with the country's situation now.