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Reviewed by Lois Henderson for Readers' Favorite
The Cat with Three Passports: What a Japanese Cat Taught Me About an Old Culture and New Beginnings, written by CJ Fentiman, tells of how the author travels with her partner, Ryan, to Japan to teach at a language school. They found their first experience of the country rather alienating, due to their lack of familiarity with the fast-paced and frenetic lifestyle of the urban environment of Osaka. They decided to plump for a smaller school in a more rural setting for their second attempt. They then find themselves at home in the remote town of Takayama, a quiet mountain town set in the Japanese Alps. Fentiman is made to feel so much at ease that she is finally able to come to terms with more negative aspects of her being that she had previously felt unable to avoid or overcome. Her self-discovery is encouraged by the presence of three cats in her life (Iko, Niko, and Gershwin), which she describes with such tenderness that any cat lover’s heart will melt.
CJ Fentiman’s The Cat with Three Passports is an insightful introduction to Japanese culture that provides valuable descriptions of the lived experiences of foreigners in Japan. The author’s warmth of personality comes across so strongly that I felt totally enraptured by her responses to the evolving scenes and events, including her sharing of her feelings regarding the local cultural festivals, customs, and cuisine. Her linguistic awareness bears out in her use of Japanese and Zen sayings and proverbs throughout the book, with her relating their meaning to everyday experiences in the country. The Cat with Three Passports should find a ready target market especially with young adults who are still trying to come to terms with themselves and their past, as well as with those who are thinking of working abroad, especially those who are attracted by the specialness of the Japanese culture and lifestyle.