How is Tokyo, a city of thirty million people, so safe that six-year-old children commute to school on their own? Why are there no trashcans in Japanese cities? Why are Ganesha idols in Japanese temples hidden from public view?

Globe-trotting journalist Pallavi Aiyar moves to Japan and takes an in-depth look at the island country including its culinary, sanitary and floral idiosyncrasies.

Steering through the many (mis)adventures that come from learning a new language, imbibing new cultural etiquette, and asking difficult questions about race, Aiyar explores why Japan and India find it hard to work together despite sharing a long civilizational history.

Part travelogue, part reportage, Orienting answers questions that have long confounded the rest of the world with Aiyar's trademark humour. Tackling both the significant and the trivial, the quirky and the quotidian, here is an Indian's account of Japan that is as thought-provoking as it is charming.


  • Pagalpanti in Japan by Sucheta Chakroborti, Mid Day

    Pallavi Aiyar writes with charm, humour and occasional bafflement about the many things that made life in Japan seem stranger than fiction.

  • Book review: Orienting by Jonathan Clements

    "Aiyar is a professional outsider, adept at dropping into an entirely alien culture, and ready to grab hold of it with both hands... she is an accomplished flaneur and enthusiastic student, flinging herself into cultural pursuits and research....While it’s sweet for her to acknowledge that many, many other people have written books about Japan, exactly none of them have picked the exact same things, people and places to write about, and few of them have approached it with her heart and insight."

  • Witty, sensitive, empathetic and insightful by Pavan Varma

    Pallavi Aiyar has written, especially for Indians, but not only, a revealing, witty, sensitive, empathetic, insightful and highly readable book on understanding the inscrutable Japanese and their opaque society, It is equal to a dozen learned books on this subject.

  • Intrepid globetrotter and delightful storyteller by Jairam Ramesh

    Japan has long fascinated Indian political leaders, cultural personalities, administrators and scholars.  Pallavi Aiyar’s perspective is, however, distinctive. She is an intrepid globe-trotter and a delightful story-teller. Having written earlier   about her stints in China, Europe and Indonesia,  she now turns her sharp eye for the unusual on Japan. Orienting will be of great value to the serious reader.  But it is written in a most engaging manner, making it accessible to anyone seeking to understand the  many complexities of Japanese society.

  • A delightful surprise in every chapter by Gurcharan Das

    I was enchanted. There is a delightful surprise in every chapter of this charming, highly readable book about the weft and warp of daily life in inscrutable Japan, especially its moral complexity.

  • A moving portrait of the country, by a globetrotting journalist by Suhit Kelkar, Moneycontrol

    "Orienting is a memorable memoir of absorption of culture and making a place home, of engaging with the unfamiliar with curiosity, respectfully and without exoticizing it, and letting it make a home in you. The book is accessible, simply written, moving and humorous, and always nuanced.
    Orienting is a valuable reminder to set aside hatred of differences, social and religious, domestic and international; that an open-hearted engagement with another culture enriches the self. That belonging and home are, for many people, elastic and portable concepts, to which they are not attached with iron chains."

  • Japan Beyond the Cliches by Chintan Girish Modi, The Business Standard

    The book will make you chortle with laughter if you appreciate a sense of humour that delights in literary allusions.

  • Tokyo Olympics 2020 | Views of Japan, and its impact on the world by Sanjay Sipahimalani, Money Control

    Orienting is a melange of personal anecdotes, reportage, and observations from the four years she spent in the country, interspersed with the occasional haiku. The freewheeling approach encompasses, among other subjects, cherry blossom festivals, how Japanese Buddhism has incorporated Indian gods, and attempts to learn the language.