Any foreigner who’s been in Japan for a while can tell you that there’s a lot of ups and downs to living life out here. As a country, Japan seems to prize itself on its homogeny, and as such, one sees everything from the Japanese government’s 1986 proud announcement of its "mono-ethnicity"’ (despite having a multitude of indigenous ethnic minorities, populations of people who migrated from the rest of Asia over the centuries, and a continuously growing population of people with mixed nationalities) to the fact that when asked for their personal opinion on a matter, locals will often respond, “Well, we Japanese think…”
As a foreigner here, this translates into living an existence where all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses stem from the fact that you are blisteringly different. Few books I’ve read have so eloquently and honestly portrayed that fact as Wayne Aponte’s "The Year of No Money in Tokyo."
In Aponte’s book, he chronicles his transition from life as an impoverished youth in New York to the high life as a successful businessman in Tokyo to the lows of being completely penniless during the middle of a recession, and the consequential journey he takes to find his way back to financial (and psychological) well-being. The book takes place over the course of a year in which it takes him to do so, and as he writes, one cannot just get a feeling for the myriad of status levels falling under the umbrella term of "foreigner," but also the varying mentalities that one shifts through as they go from one to the other.
Aponte’s journey reshapes him from everything to a giver and socialite to a parasite and womanizer, and in telling his story, he pulls no punches in terms of describing himself or the things that he does. His brutal honesty is both breathtaking, refreshing and shocking all at the same time, and even if some might not like him at the beginning of the book, it’s hard not to respect him by the end.
His uncompromising volition toward his goal of finding his way against his odds, (and personality faults) is admirable, as is the fact he does not play himself up to be more than he is. In a city that prides itself on its gloss, and shimmer and cares more about its outward image than its skyrocketing suicide rates, Aponte writes as a man who has pushed past the bull and displays Tokyo for all that it is -- lonely and neurotic, expensive and exceeding classy, and ostracizing and incredibly opportunistic all at the same time.
For those foreigners living here, "The Year of No Money" offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those other foreigners whose faces we see, but whose stories we never hear, as well as look at the darker -- and brighter -- side of ourselves.© Japan Today