This is not only a marvellously entertaining read, it is also a text book example of how a broad-minded foreigner can happily find a place in a largely alien society. Of course, in this case it would have helped that the society in question is on the Japanese island of Osaka, where the culture of officials bonding over alcohol is still strong, and that the foreigner is an easy-going young Kiwi, always up for a few too many drinks.
But there's a lot more to Hamish Beaton's story of his three years as an English teacher in Kanan Town than making friends over endless beers and chunks of still-wriggling octopus tentacle.
It's a fascinating account of how a friendly and obliging young man, happy to respect local customs, try local delicacies and put himself out to help anyone interested in learning English, be they lively matrons or handicapped youngsters, can win acceptance in a tight-knit community.
And it's also an insightful portrait of a warm, friendly Japanese world that few foreigners will ever see. A useful contrast is provided by the community's other English teacher, Rachel Brown, the archetypal whining pom, detesting her time in Osaka, who would have left with little understanding of Japanese culture and few happy memories. What sort of traveller do you want to be? The Kiwi who left with fond farewells, charming gifts and a fund of marvellous stories, or the miserable whinging pom?
Read the book, laugh at the anecdotes, learn about life on Osaka ... but also listen to Beaton's advice on how to make the most of your travel to strange lands.
UNDER THE OSAKAN SUN
By Hamish Beaton (Awa Press $34.99)