Book Review: Things Japanese by Nicholas Bornoff (+ Win a Copy!)


Things Japanese by Nicholas Bornoff, with photographs by Michael Freeman

Things Japanese: Everyday Objects of Extraordinary Beauty and Significance by Nicholas Bornoff, with photographs by Michael Freeman (published by Tuttle, 2002) is a book which should be on the shelf of every Japanophile. In fact, I’m really not sure how I’ve survived so long without a copy! The 140-or-so-page full-colour book is filled with more than two hundred photos and illustrations showcasing over sixty traditional Japanese objects. There are many items in the book which I didn’t even know the name for, such as ‘yoshizu’ (葭簀) – marsh-reed screens which provide shade in the summer; ‘ishidoro’ (石灯籠) – stone lanterns commonly seen in Japanese gardens and at temples and shrines; and ‘yoji-ire’ (楊枝入れ) – toothpick holders. More common items are also included, such as kimono (着物) and obi (帯).

The book is beautiful, and not only provides information about these objects but also puts them in historical and cultural context. Although it is a reference book, it’s written with warmth and a genuine passion for Japanese culture. Given my desire to one day build my netsuke (根付) collection into more than one solitary object, when I received the book I turned straight to the netsuke section to see what it said. The book explains that back when kimonos were worn more commonly, people had a lot of items or ‘sagemono’ (literally ‘hanging things’) to carry around, and they would hang them from their obi (kimono sash or belt) using a toggle, or ‘netsuke’, to stop them falling off. The chapter goes on to explain how netsuke started as button-like objects and gradually became more and more elaborate as they became fashionable, taking on subject matter such as history and mythology, and even pornography. The netsuke pictures in the book are so fascinating and clearly photographed – I felt like I could almost pick them out of the book!

Things Japanese is an incredibly well designed and written book, and is an absolute pleasure to dip into. It will become something of a permanent fixture on my coffee table, as well as being an invaluable resource for my blog posts about Japanese culture.

Buy Things Japanese: Everyday Objects of Extraordinary Beauty and Significance from and and read more at


Would you like to win a copy of Things Japanese: Everyday Objects of Extraordinary Beauty and Significance by Nicholas Bornoff? All you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post telling me something about one of your favourite “things Japanese” and why you like it. Please make sure you leave a valid email address with your comment (this will not be published), as this will be used to contact the winner. The closing date for entries is Friday 8th August at midnight BST.

Would you like a second entry? If you’d like to double your chances of winning, please share this post on Twitter and make sure to mention me (@Ali_Haikugirl) in your Tweet!

Please note that only comments left on this blog post will be accepted as competition entries, and comments left via social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) will not be counted. To qualify for the ‘second entry’ via Twitter, you must also post a comment on this blog post.

This competition is open to EVERYONE, wherever you are in the world! After the closing date has passed, a winner will be selected at random and that person will be contacted directly using the email address provided. The winner will need to supply a postal address for the prize to be sent to, and the prize will be mailed out directly by the publisher. If the selected winner does not respond with a postal address within 14 days of being contacted another winner will be selected in their place.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Things Japanese by Nicholas Bornoff (+ Win a Copy!)

  1. That seems like an awfully interesting book (^_^)
    I think one of my favorite traditionally japanese “things” are furoshiki. I like textiles and the myriads of different patterns and textures and it appeals to me because it is such a simple thing with so many possibilities and uses.
    I’d love to win this book and add it to my collection 🙂


  2. I use tenegui all the time. I don’t like wearing hats, but in the summer I need something to try and keep sweat out of my eyes and tenegui’s are perfect. Plus its amazing how many times people will comment on them when running together.


  3. Oh very interesting! Can I count the vending machines as an object? I think it is really cool to have them everywhere selling everything! I remember going back to the hotel after clubbing and buying a hot chocolate inside the tube! Magical! Also they have a really cool look 🙂


  4. This looks like a really interesting book!

    One of my favourite Japanese ‘things’ (and there are many) is the shamisen. Whenever I hear that music I immediately think about Japan and want to go back there. It’s the embodiment of everything traditionally Japanese.


  5. I love the tiny glass windchimes that sound at the slightest breeze. They remind me of the shrines and temples I visited in Japan!


  6. I love the process of getting what I call “ticket noodle soup”! From checking out the plastic food displays “sampuru” outside of the restaurant then finding the corresponding item button on the ticket machine, to making your selection, handing the ticket to the cook… and then finally getting your delicious bowl of soup!


  7. Just catching up on your blog before I leave work and couldn’t resist a quick comment – the book looks great and Nicholas Bornoff is a qood author. I have his book ‘Pink Samurai’ in my collection back in the UK.


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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s