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Special Issue 1997

A Settler in the Coming Deracination State

Pico Iyer, one of today's most talented travel writers, is the author of Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, Cuba and the Night and, most recently, Tropical Classical, a set of essays.

Nara, Japan - I live in a town where I can't read any of the signs. A few syllables are written in my native tongue - denoting the "Hotboy Club," the "Deer's Kitchen" baker and a "Jollier" salon offering "Cut and Perm" - but they are even stranger than the ones that aren't. My nearest relatives live ten hours away, by plane, to east and west, and my employers are, quite literally, on the far side of the globe. My girlfriend and her family with whom I share our two rooms with in the Memphis Apartments - just half a block from the intersection of School-dori and Park-dori (as these science-fictive locations are called - speak in broken English, which I fluently translate into broken Japanese. None of the buildings in our neighborhood, in between the ancient, temple-filled capitals of Nara and Kyoto, is older than I am.

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