Books: From Sukiyaki to Storippu

MEETING WITH JAPAN (467 pp.)—Fosco Maraini—Viking ($8.50).

LIVING JAPAN (224 pp.) — Donald Keene—Doubleday ($7.95).

About the turn of the century, a popular song among Japanese students had a refrain that ran "dekansho, dekansho." It was shorthand for "Descartes, Kant, Schopenhauer." In the early 1950s, the hit refrain was "chiiku dansu" i.e., dancing "cheek to cheek." In symbolic miniature, the two songs reflect two staggering cultural encounters between Japan and the West. Clam-shut to the outside world for centuries, Japan was pried open by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854 and avidly, if erratically, soaked...