Buddhaland Brooklyn

I was kindly contacted by Alma Books not too long ago to do a review on one of their books. Of course I jumped to the opportunity, and within a few days they had sent me one copy of Buddland Brooklyn, for myself, and two more for some lucky readers! So read on to find out how to enter the competition and win a copy 😉

Buddhaland Brooklyn, witten by Richard C. Morrais, tells the fictional story of Buddhist priest Seido Oda. As a young boy he lives in the family run inn with his parents, two brothers and baby sister. Deep in the mountains of Japan, he spends his youthful days fishing with his older brother, until suddenly at age 11 he is told by his father he is to become an acolyte at the nearby temple. Oda is not pleased by this news, but must go nonetheless. While at the temple, a tragedy ensues, which results in Oda becoming a bit of an outcast amongst the other acolytes. He grows up to be an introverted priest content in his company. At age 40, for the second time in his life and greatest  displeasure, he is made to do something he does not want to. He is told he must go to New York to set up a temple and give guidance to a group of American Believers in Brooklyn…For Seido Oda who has never left Japan, and for whom even Tokyo is too much to take, this promises to be quite a challenge.

What I most enjoyed about this book were the cultural differences so carefully illustrated by the author, Richard C. Morais: “I panicked, not sure if I should bow a Japanese greeting or shake hands Western-style. The Woman did neither. She threw her arms around me and hugged me tightly to her bosom. I stood stiff as a winter cherry tree holding out frozen limbs, as the woman grappled me like a sumo wrestler…” From the moment Seido Oda lands in New York, he instantly feels a sense of culture shock. This culture shock not only takes form in the people he meets, but also the landscape, the customs, music and much more: ” I tried to take off my shoes once inside the foyer, but Mr. Giusseppe would not let me, insisting the marble floor was too cold. This quite revolted me – so unsanitary – but I bit my tongue and did as instructed.” Even the food comes as a big shock to Oda: “The abundance – it was so excessive – so American”. So how will this simple monk from the mountains of Japan ever be able to instruct these Buddhist Americans who are so rushed and sloppy in their prayers to the point where it makes him sick to his stomach? Oda tries his best to stay faithful to the Buddha and ends up discovering himself while finally coming to terms with his past. While at times, as a reader I felt slightly annoyed at Oda’s judgemental side, you soon come to empathise with him, because of the book’s more serious themes that tie in with Buddhism, such as suffering and pain. Although, I would’ve preferred more character development, and found the conclusion a bit hasty, Buddhaland Brooklyn was still a good read. The author’s comical descriptions of cultural misunderstandings and laid back writing style, are in my belief, what made the book. It gave me something to relate to, because at one point or another, I think we have all been in a situation that was so alien to our own culture, it just seemed incomprehensible at the time.

I remember two instances on my first trip to Japan where I committed social blunders, which left me feeling embarrassed and slightly rude. The first one was in a clothes shop, where I had wanted to try on something and walked into the changing room with my shoes on. After noticing, my friend quickly asked me to take my shoes off and leave it in front of the changing room…oops (^^;; My second act of involuntary rudeness came when I had to pay at the till. Not knowing that Japanese try to have minimum contact with money and avoid payments hand to hand, I attempted to hand over my money to the cashier directly, who promptly picked up a small tray and gestured me to place the money there. He then took the money from the tray, and handed me back my change in the tray, from which I could then take my money. This all seemed rather long winded and confusing to me. And again, made me feel embarrassed, but in turn also embarrassed the cashier, who felt embarrassed for embarrassing me (@_@)!

I’m sure I’m not the only who’s committed such a breach of etiquettes, and would love to hear your stories as well. So to be in a chance to win Buddhaland Brooklyn, leave a comment below describing when you felt a culture shock, or made a faux pas that did not follow etiquette (unbeknownst to you). The competition will start from today and will end on May 18th at midnight, where I will choose two lucky winners 😀 So good luck to all and I hope you look forward to reading the book.

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12 thoughts on “Buddhaland Brooklyn

  1. I’m not entering the competition – just commenting to say well done, you beat me! 😉 Only half way through at the moment…

    And, just for fun, my biggest faux pas that springs to mind was walking into my Japanese school in Nagoya with my big gaijin feet in my big gaijin shoes and not realising that I was supposed to take my shoes off and wear a pair of slippers. Doh. (>_<)

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  2. Trying to think of a good faux pas (probably because there are too many)… But one culture shock that springs to relates to Chinese opinions towards tipping. I had to pay for a meal with a note and realising my change was going to be a very small amount; I put the note on the saucer and left the restaurant (not technically a tip, I know) Got a few metres down the road and next thing I know, the waiter was tapping me on the shoulder to hand me my change – a coin worth about 1/2p. Can’t imagine that happening in England (where they are more likely to happily keep your change no matter what amount)

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    1. Lol 😀 Tipping is one of those funny ones isn’t it. Whereas in China, the man probably felt he was short changing you, and in the UK where it is your choice to tip or not, in America it is pretty much an obligation, and considered rude if you don’t.

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  3. This is a culture shock rather than a faux pas and funnily enough it came on my arriving back to England. (I’m Japanese but have grown up almost entirely in England).
    Last year I spent 3 weeks travelling around Japan. It was a fantastic experience and one of the safest places I have experienced. Shop assistants are polite, respectful and helpful and the general public get on with their own things. After spending three weeks there, fitting in (or more not standing out) and feeling comfortable in the environment I began to lose my sense of vigilance and my ‘guard’ seemed to relax also.
    On arrival back in England and walking around London, my experience of the city felt different than before! It was a shock to me how the attitudes and conduct of people were, not necessarily worse but, different. I think a completely opposite makeup of individuals mentalities and society in general. It took me a while to get used to it again!

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  4. Sounds like an interesting book! I will definitely pick it up sometime… Makes me think.. I was trying to catch a train in Mumbai for the first time. The whole process completely confused me, but after asking about 10 different people I found myself on the right platform. It was rather late in the evening so I was a little anxious as I was travelling alone. So I just kept my head down and got into the closest carriage. I noticed that it was filled with men, and only men. I noticed some men repeatedly glancing in my direction, which made me a little uncomfortable. So I just kept my head down and tried to figure out why I was the only woman. At first I thought it was due to the timing, perhaps it wasn’t common for women to travel by train at this hour. Later I realised that they have separate carriages for men and women hahaha. Oopsie.

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    1. Haha! Aww and no one told you you were in the wrong carriage? Well if you ever go to Japan, they have women only carriages there too, but none for just men. So you’ll never find yourself in that situation again 😉

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  5. I have a few short stories of culture shock/faux pas/ law breaking what ever you’d like to call it!

    1. When I was living in Singapore me and my friends knew most of the rules so we obeyed them but this one we didn’t know. We were waiting to go to the movies so we took out a deck of cards and I think the game was ‘go fish’. Not long after we started playing an officer/ security guard came up to us and said it was illegal to gamble. We explained that we were simply playing a card game but in the eyes of the law any sort of card game was considered illegal. So we never played a game of ‘go fish’ in public ever again!

    2. I also learnt this rule the hard way when I was in Singapore, when kids are younger we all point at things with our index finger but at the time I didn’t know it was rude! It Singapore if you want to point at something you have to use your thumb!

    Last but not least…

    3. Being half french half English, I have both the open and reserved side of the cultures. In France when we meet people for the first time, or a friend of a friend, anyone really with whom you know you are going to have a conversation with for over 5 minutes you greet/say hello to them by giving a kiss on each cheek. Its a good ice breaker. SO when I went to Canada and met my parents kids friends who were American I naturally went up to them to kiss them on the cheek and the automatically stuck their hand out for a hand shake. I later found out that it was because it wasn’t a natural way for them to say hello or to introduce themselves. I hope they didn’t think I was too forward!

    Well that’s all I’ve got! Hope I win!

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    1. Hahahaha excellent examples! I totally understand what you mean with the French “kisses” (or bise). I know that sometimes even if you know about this custom, it can be awkward. Because, I believe, in Switzerland they give 4 kisses, but in France only 2. So you sometimes don’t know how many to give haha.

      Interesting example about Singapore. I’ll know never to point with my index finger!

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      1. And in Holland they give 3! and if you are in the Breton countryside its usually 4! But not everyone sticks to these ‘rules’ so it can get very confusing and sometimes awkward!

        Yep never point! and if you are using a toothpick you must cover your mouth with the other hand, otherwise it’s considered to be rude.

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  6. Thank you so much to everyone who joined my first give away! My two chosen winners are….*drumroll*…Sei and Lucie! I will be emailing your shortly for mailing details 😉 Hope you enjoy the book!

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