Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get ready for a wild ride through Japan to take a look at visit the lighthouses of Japan.

About the Book

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US Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/3K81i8V
Pub Link: https://tippermuirbooks.co.uk/product/the-japan-lights/
Author Site: https://iainmaloney.com/

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In 2017, holed up in a hotel room, feverish, despondent and aimless, Iain Maloney chances upon an article about Richard Henry Brunton, a Victorian civil engineer unknown in his Scottish homeland but considered “The Father of Japanese Lighthouses” in Japan. With more than twenty of his lighthouses still in use today, Maloney sets out with newfound purpose to visit them all.

Part travel memoir, part history, The Japan Lights visits isolated regions of rural Japan, discovering compelling stories from its past. Maloney witnesses the lingering trauma of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, and comes to a new understanding of the precariousness of life on a planet that is 71 percent water. On the way, he explores the paradox of Brunton, a flawed human being whose work saved hundreds of thousands of lives and made the seas around Japan safer for all.

My Thoughts

This reads a little like the random ramblings of a guy who decided to take a vacation and write a book, and that made it way more enjoyable than the average travel book. Alongside the highlights of Maloney’s trek through Japan, he’s tucked in interesting historical facts, amusing anecdotes, and beautiful sketches. This is a great read for those who love travel, whether specifically to Japan or otherwise.

I’ve never been to Japan, but it’s on my bucket list, so I looked forward to the opportunity to read more about it. I’ll admit, most of my exposure has been to anime and other similar Japanese cultural imports. So seeing such an intimate account, even from an expat, was an enjoyable experience.

I really enjoyed Maloney’s writing style. Rather than a dry, informational account, he is quite talented at offering us a humourous adventure, even in the historical parts where most authors would offer a dry account. While these parts are still dryer than others, they are still interesting. He’s great at providing funny little tidbits, like offices being turned into Taco Bells, that force a chuckle.

The cover and the other illustrations and maps in the book were lovely, offering a nice view of the various lighthouses. Imagining the author trekking across Japan to visit the various far-flung locations paints quite a picture. I can’t imagine doing the same in the United States.

I’m grateful to the author and Love Books Tours for including me on this tour.

Who’s It For

If you’re interested in history, lighthouses, or travel, you’ll probably enjoy this book. And if you’re interested in those, but don’t often read books about them because they tend to be a little dry – this is a great book for you.

Content Warning: Mentions of war, death, cancer, xenophobia, racism, and other troubling historical topics

About the Author

Iain Maloney is the author of the critically acclaimed The Only Gaijin in the Village (Birlinn, 2020), a memoir about his life in rural Japan. He has also published three novels and a collection of poetry.

In 2013, he was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and in 2014 he was shortlisted for The Guardian ‘Not The Booker Prize’. He is a freelance editor and journalist, mainly for The Japan Times.

Iain was born and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland and he currently lives in Japan. He studied English at the University of Aberdeen and graduated from the University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing Masters in 2004.


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