THE LADY AND THE MONK by Pico Iyer
Knopf; 338 pages; $22
In the fall of 1987, travel writer Pico Iyer flew from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., to Japan. Aware that too much had already been said about "the capital of the future tense," Iyer avoided the Tokyo scene. Instead he chose to spend four seasons in and around a Kyoto temple, seeking enlightenment in a place where "the social forms were as unfathomable to me, and as alien, as the woods around Walden Pond."
The reference is apt. Like Thoreau, Iyer combines an acute sense of place with...