Japan and Brazil through a Traveller’s Eye Summary

“Japan and Brazil through a Traveller’s Eye” is a travelogue by J. B. de Lacerda, offering a unique perspective on these two diverse countries. Through vivid descriptions and personal experiences, the author provides readers with an insightful journey into the contrasting cultures, landscapes, and people of Japan and Brazil. Read more 2nd PUC English Summaries.

Japan and Brazil through a Traveller’s Eye Summary

Japan and Brazil through a Traveller’s Eye Summary in English

Japanese Manners

Within fifteen minutes after you have landed in Japan, you will learn that the people of Japan are an exquisitely well-mannered people, who live on a hopelessly overcrowded island. Consequently, their living space is very limited and so they do not have any privacy, yet the people respect people’s privacy in a different way. Their ‘courtesy’ serves a double function. They exhibit such polite behaviour that their ‘courtesy’ itself serves as a substitute for privacy. The writer supports his opinion-with as an example.

For example, he says, one finds red telephones in the streets, shops, halls of hotels, etc., and the instrument is placed on a table or a counter. They do not have space to spare for telephone booths. But, any person can conduct his most confidential business transactions, even intimate love quarrels in public and in perfect privacy, without being apprehensive about any passerby overhearing you. The author emphatically says that the person’s telephone receiver is his castle.

The writer then gives his observations about the Japanese obsession with ‘Bowing’. He calls it a ‘mania’ because everybody keeps bowing to everybody else. He remarks that the people bow to each other with the solemnity of a courtier with a great deal of natural and inimitable grace. He comments that though ‘bowing’ is like shaking hands or kissing the cheek, it is quainter, more formal, and more oriental but also infectious. Then he states that bowing is so commonly seen everywhere that even the onlookers start bowing though not the right way as the Japanese do. We bow too deeply or not deeply enough or we bow to the wrong man at the wrong time. Secondly, we do not clasp our hands in front of us, which is considered a bad way, or we may clasp the hands in a bad way which is considered even worse.

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Next, the writer tells us that the Japanese have a complicated hierarchy in bowing: who bows to whom, how deeply, and for how long. Then the author cites an incident that happened in America. He tells us that in one of the American states, there was a traffic law which laid down that if two cars met at an intersection, neither was to move before the other had gone. The author uses this incident to tell us that, similarly in Japan, if two Japanese bows, neither are to straighten up before the other stands erect in front of him. Though it sounds a little complicated to us, the Japanese manage it without difficulty and even the smallest difference in rank, standing, age, social position will be subtly reflected in that split second; one man’s bow will be shorter than the others’. In many cases, there are clear-cut differences in position and no difficulties.

According to the Japanese culture, the wife bows to her husband, the child bows to his father, younger brother to elder brothers, the sister bows to all brothers of whatever age. The author then recollects a sight he had seen in Japan, that of Japanese mothers carrying their babies on their backs in little saddles and whenever their mother bowed, the babies bowed too. Then there are the bowing girls in Japanese stores standing at the top of escalators, bowing deeply and deferentially to everyone. Next, the writer narrates his experience on a fast train (Tokaido Line), between Tokyo and Osaka. He tells us that two conductors enter the carriage in a theatrical style, march to the middle of the coach, bow ceremoniously in both directions, and then start checking the tickets.

Later, he narrates how even an animal like the deer do ‘bowing’. He tells the reader that in one of the parts of ‘Nara’ (Nara Park is a vast wildlife park located in the city of Nara, Japan, at the foot of Mount Wakakusa, where wild deer roam about freely), he bought a pack of food for deer. The deer came up to him, looked into his eyes, and bowed deeply. The author states that it was not a chance gesture but it was a proper and courteous bow.

The author conjectures that the deer are more imitative, and having seen the people bowing all the time, probably they also get into the habit. Then he says it may be something genetic and is in the blood of Japanese deer. Finally, he ends the incident, saying that the deer, after bowing to him, jumped at him and snatched the little food-bag from his hand.

In a humorous tone, he tells the reader that the Japanese people who bow with such ceremonious serenity even at bus-stops, exhibit flippant behaviour almost immediately. He tells the reader that as soon as a bus arrives, the bowing gentlemen become savage-like, push each other aside, tread on each other’s toes and shove their elbows into each other’s stomachs to get into the bus.

He ends his travelogue on Japan with his humorous observations about ‘soup eating’ in Japan. According to the Japanese, when eating soup you must make a fearful noise; only then will one be appreciated. If the soup eater does not make a noise, his hostess will think that the guest is an ill-mannered lout. On the other hand, if the guest makes some noise while eating soup, she will think that he is not a reasonably well brought up European because no reasonably well brought up European makes such disgusting noises when eating up the soup. The author tells jokingly that the hostess will conclude that he must be an ill-mannered lout.

Traffic in Brazil

This excerpt is taken from ‘How to Tango’, a humorous commentary on South America, by George Mikes. The author tells us in a humorous vein how the people of Brazil drive their motor vehicles. He also records his appreciation of the people’s talent for decorating their grey pavements.

The author narrates his experiences while walking as a tourist through the streets of Copacabana. The very first sentence is a comment about their time consciousness. He says very casually, “Nobody hurries in Brazil”; then he sarcastically adds, “it does not really matter whether you reach your destination an hour soon, a day late, or not at all”.

Then he turns his attention towards the grey pavements in Copacabana. He states that the grey pavements in the streets are often decorated with beautiful black mosaics which he calls ‘a unique type of decoration’. Then he gives the people of Brazil his compliments for their talent for doing such decorations. He remarks, “Only a people alive to beauty in their surroundings and who have plenty of time for contemplation during their meditative, ambulatory exercises would take the trouble to decorate the pavements they walk on”. He uses a pompous term ‘ambulatory exercises’ to refer to their walking style.

One should also note that though here he is appreciating the people for their aesthetic sense, he is also satirizing their sluggish walking style or the lethargic attitude of the people. In the very next sentence, he makes fun of their ‘driving style’. He tells the reader that the very same leisurely characters when they get behind a steering wheel, they drive very fast and are reckless. Having made a comment about their time consciousness, now he says, “gaining a tenth of a second is a matter of grave importance for all of them all the time”. The reader cannot but infer that the people of Copacabana are very lethargic only while walking and are reckless while driving vehicles.

The writer remarks that buying a motor car in Brazil is an extremely expensive event because import duty for importing cars from other countries is very high. In this context, he also compares Brazil with other countries in South America and says, “Only a few other, poorer South American states are in a worse position in this respect.” Then he remarks that “complaints are universal; hardly anyone can afford a car.” Having said this he proceeds to say that yet you find an unimaginably large number of motor cars here. Then he makes a satirical comment on the craze of the people for buying cars.

He says, “the number of motor vehicles is growing by leaps and bounds as if they were distributed free of charge to all and sundry.”The reader should be careful to note here that the author is also expressing his doubt or surprise at the capacity of the people to pay such huge import duties to buy a car.

Then he explains how reckless the people who drive motor vehicles are. He remarks that “itis, not that drivers do not care about pedestrians”; the trouble is “they are, in fact, on the lookout for them. As soon as a driver notices a pedestrian step off the pavement, the driver considers him as ‘fair game’, he takes aim and accelerates.” The pedestrian has to jump, leap, and run for dear life. In these lines, the author is trying to tell the reader how reckless the drivers are and how they chase people as hunters do while hunting an animal.

However, in the next line, he compliments the people for their sweet and sensible temperament. He tells the reader that the pedestrian does not resent being targeted by the driver. He says, “driver and pedestrian – hunter and prey smile amicably at each other, and they appear to be saying “I win today you will tomorrow”.

In the next paragraph, the author talks about the rivalry between two drivers. Though the war between two drivers appears to be murderous, yet they are good-tempered. He describes the style of their driving – they cut in, overtake on both sides, force you to brake violently and commit all the most heinous crimes on the road twenty times an hour”. Despite exhibiting such recklessness in their driving, they smile at you and do not show any anger, no hostility, and no mad hooting.

In the next paragraph, he recalls an incident he had probably witnessed in a place called Avenida Presidente Vargas. He says it is the worst place in Brazil known for its crowded and slow-moving’ traffic. His statement is paradoxical. He says, on the one hand, that driver’s drive recklessly; and here he calls the traffic ‘crawling traffic’. He says even the onlookers will be contemplating the truly fascinating problem “how can crawling traffic proceed at such terrifying speed”. One can imagine the number of vehicles moving at such terrific speed and probably it is the number of vehicles moving at a time together which makes the reader call it ‘crawling traffic’. He comments about the helplessness of the pedestrian who wishes to cross the road waiting for hours on end.

Then, he concludes narrating a jovial anecdote. He tells the reader that he might witness a situation in which a man standing beside you on your side of the road, suddenly discovers a friend of his on the other side and starts waving to him. He asks him, “How on earth did you ever get there?” The other fellow yells back, “How? I was born on this side”. The author narrates this anecdote probably to convince the reader how difficult it is to cross a busy road in Avenida Vargas.


In conclusion, “Japan and Brazil through a Traveller’s Eye” provides readers with a rich tapestry of cultural exploration, allowing them to appreciate the striking differences and commonalities between these two nations. J. B. de Lacerda’s travelogue serves as a bridge between worlds, offering a deeper understanding of the beauty and complexities of Japan and Brazil.