Review - The Only Gaijin in the Village by Iain Maloney

Title: The Only Gaijin in the Village

Author: Iain Maloney

Publisher: Berlin Ltd - Polygon Imprint

Release Date: 5th March 2020

Source: Own Copy

In 2016 Scottish writer Iain Maloney and his Japanese wife Minori moved to a village in rural Japan. This is the story of his attempt to fit in, be accepted and fulfil his duties as a member of the community, despite being the only foreigner in the village.
Even after more than a decade living in Japan and learning the language, life in the countryside was a culture shock. Due to increasing numbers of young people moving to the cities in search of work, there are fewer rural residents under the retirement age – and they have two things in abundance: time and curiosity. Iain’s attempts at amateur farming, basic gardening and DIY are conducted under the watchful eye of his neighbours and wife. But curtain twitching is the least of his problems. The threat of potential missile strikes and earthquakes is nothing compared to the venomous snakes, terrifying centipedes and bees the size of small birds that stalk Iain’s garden.
Told with self-deprecating humour, this memoir gives a fascinating insight into a side of Japan rarely seen and affirms the positive benefits of immigration for the individual and the community. It’s not always easy being the only gaijin in the village.

This is a charming book, told from the perspective of Iain Maloney who moves with Minori his Japanese wife to rural Japan.

When I think of Japan I tend to think of the huge urban sprawls and disturbingly Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift, I never think of the small towns and villages in the countryside.  The rural dwellers who aren’t surrounded by Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers and neon but farmland and community spirit.

This is where Iain finds himself, not only does he have his house to deal with, he has a garden with plants that need love, he has terrifying insects that need to be dealt with and he has neighbours who are more than happy to lend their often unsolicited advice.  I loved his neighbours, they are eager to teach and share their wisdom.  They didn’t judge this gaijin coming in to their community even if his Japanese sounded funny to them.

The book is full of humour and as a fellow Scot I appreciate that greatly.  It really does embrace the community way of life, something that pandemic aside we don’t always have in this country.

I learned much more about Japan than I ever could have expected.  A lovely read.



  1. Sounds great! Another one for the pile. 😁

    Thanks for sharing your review. 👍✨


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