Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: Horizon Japan by Patrick Colgan

This is the first half of a doubleshot. Check back this afternoon for Sam Waite's thoughts on the same book. Sam brings the perspective of someone who has lived in Japan for many years.

Genre: Travel Memoir


From the crowds of Tokyo to the bears of the far North, from the jungle of the tropical islands to the blooming cherry trees in Kyoto, eventually arriving at the big emptiness left by the devastating 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster. Patrick Colgan, journalist and traveler, immerses himself in Japanese culture, nature and cuisine and writes about his discovery of a seemingly incomprehensible country. A place, Japan, where feeling a little lost can be fascinating, and trips never really end.”


Patrick Colgan was born in Bologna, Italy, in 1978, of an Italian mother and British father. He began traveling fifteen years ago with an InterRail pass and never stopped since. He has been in almost forty countries and all five continents but he loves going back to Japan, where he has been (so far) seven times. When he is not travelling around the world he is a Journalist at the daily newspaper Il Resto del Carlino. He has been writing his travel blog Orizzonti for years, in Italian. He has recently started a blog in English too.”

For more, visit Mr Colgan's blog.


Early on in Horizon Japan the author set the stage with this paragraph:

Panic. It’s what I feel while the half-empty Alitalia plane I’m on is descending over Tokyo, on a crisp, clear January morning. Exhausted by twelve hours squeezed into an economy class seat, I suddenly find myself surrounded by people speaking a language I don’t understand, while we are moving towards the unknown.

This resonated with me. From my limited foreign travels, I remembered this feeling. I'm not sure I'd call it panic, but a strange, contradictory combination of bone-weariness, adrenaline rush, apprehension, and excitement, all rolled into one. It's a feeling anyone might get when they're on the cusp of a new experience or adventure. As a traveler, I felt a more mild version of this on my first trip to New York (just before the first time a cab driver took me the long way to run up the meter). It was a stronger feeling on trips to Europe and South America. The more you expect the culture and language to differ from past experiences, the stronger the feeling.

However, the rest of the book didn't live up to the setup. The author made it clear, both explicitly and from various clues throughout the book, that the experiences chronicled were an amalgamation of several different trips. I found his experiences interesting and, having no firsthand knowledge to compare, they seemed credible. But too often they lacked the sense of discovery I was hoping to find based on the setup. I'd still recommend Horizon Japan as a worthwhile read. Just not as much as I'd hoped.

Buy now from:      Amazon US      Amazon UK


Uses UK spelling conventions.

The book includes some photos which are much better viewed on a tablet or other color capable device.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

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