Tokyo Junkie: 60 Years of Bright Light and Back Alleys… and Baseball

Robert Whiting. Stone Bridge, $19.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-611-72067-9…%20and%20Baseball%20by%20Robert%20Whiting.%20Stone%20Bridge%2C%20%2419.95%20(384p)%20ISBN%20978-1-611-72067-9&time=1613425884234&type=share&

Whiting (You Gotta Have Wa) recounts his decades in Tokyo, first as a soldier in 1962 and later as a sportswriter, with a patter that lands like readers have pulled up a barstool to hear a traveler’s yarns. He witnesses Japan rise from the ashes of WWII in preparation for the 1964 Olympics, and Tokyo’s transformation from a poor and polluted city into one in which he can barely afford to live. Whiting’s own identity similarly evolves, with section titles including “The Soldier,” “The Student,” “The Degenerate,” and “The Penitent.” These phases are filled in with short essays, some journalistic, as in pieces about the Olympics, baseball, and politics. Others reflect on a wild youth with sardonic distance. In the degenerate era, which not surprisingly offers some of the most riveting vignettes, Whiting recalls his tipsy exploits in Shinjuku, the commercial and business center of Tokyo, and his brushes with the yakuza. Throughout, he vividly paints Tokyo as a boomtown built on the national traits of fighting spirit and maximal effort. Closing on the postponement of the 2020 Olympics due to Covid-19, both the narrator and Tokyo seem to have grown at least intermittently wiser with experience. Whiting’s love for his adopted city remains constant and contagious in this collage-style survey. (Apr.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s