A Snake in the Shrine
Journeys with Nobby through Middle Japan
David Geraghty lived and worked in Tokyo for three years in the late 1990s. A Snake in the Shrine recounts his (mis)adventures in the big city, his friendship with his neighbour Nobuyuki (‘Nobby’), and his deepening affection for Japan’s rural backwaters, which Geraghty visits with increasing frequency as the book progresses. Among many places, his travels take in the beautiful and wild upper east coast of Honshu (since tragically annihilated in 2011 by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami), and repeat visits to Yasaiku; a tiny, Edenic village in the mountains of rural Yamanashi.
A Snake in the Shrine is a gritty and entertaining account of life in Japan as a foreigner. By turns curmudgeonly then captivated, the narrative portrays Geraghty’s unwilling, gradual, and absolute seduction by Japan.
‘[Geraghty] immediately wins the reader’s confidence with incisive, sensitive descriptions of his surroundings and the people he meets. His eye for detail is sharp, his language spot on — the result, one infers, of a detailed diary, a passion for both reading and note-taking and an ever-ready camera.
Whether reading about the disappointments, perplexities, amusements or joys of Geraghty’s life here, readers will no doubt find themselves nodding or smiling in recognition, or simply taking pleasure in a witty or insightful turn of phrase. Commuters on Japan’s trains — crowded or lonely — will find this book as welcome as a breath of crisp, clean country air.’
The Japan Times, 6 January 2002.
‘David Geraghty writes with an eye for physical and emotional detail, describing the complex layers that make up modern-day Japan, in a vital and absorbing way. Geraghty also proves adept at sketching vivid characterisations. He describes friends, colleagues and fellow travellers, peppering his book with their foibles, whims, faults and kindnesses. This ability to capture human nature makes A Snake in the Shrine a pleasure to read.’
New Zealand Books, Issue 54 Winter 2001.