top of page
Kyoto Stories

Kyoto Stories

An American student in 1970s Kyoto rambles among the city’s beauties and traditions, learning as he goes.

Don Ascher is a young American living in Kyoto in the 1970s. He is a student of Japanese. He also teaches English, works at a shabu-shabu restaurant, and hangs out in the company of gangsters, hostesses, housewives, tea teachers, and fellow foreigners. Set amidst the timeless beauty of the ancient capital and its garish modern entertainments, this collection of fanciful episodes from Don’s life is a window into Japanese culture and a chronicle of romance and human connections.
















5.5 x 8"












"Alpert brings new life to the “foreigner in Japan” genre that is under constant threat of being milked dry by repetition. There is an almost sepia quality to the world he describes, his prose tinged with nostalgia."

Iain Maloney, The Japan Times

"For American student Don Ascher, Kyoto is the stage for odd and hilarious episodes, including flirtations with geisha and burning down a traditional teahouse. Playfully diverting and full of descriptions of a place for which its author clearly feels affection, Kyoto Stories may be fiction or memoir. Does it matter?"

Stephen McCarty, South China Morning Post

"Alpert’s incisive eye, something already apparent in his memoirs of his later life at Studio Ghibli, never fails to pick up the sort of detail that eludes the less focused observer..."

Jonathan Clements, All the Anime

"The author has taken the experiences of one Don Ascher, an American living in Kyoto during the 1970s, and fashioned seven stories about one man’s initiation into Japanese life as it was lived at that time in the small spaces and around the corners of the culture. The stories are full of interesting historical and cultural detail, and well describe the complexities of being a foreigner in the days before Kyoto was an international tourist destination."

—Rebecca Otowa, author of At Home in Japan

"These engaging stories bring to life what it was like to be a gaijin in 1970s Kyoto. From the tea ceremony to hostess bars, the narrative entertains as much as it informs. All in all, a delightful collection with many memorable moments."


John Dougill, founder of Writers in Kyoto and author of Kyoto: A Cultural and Literary History

"Kyoto Stories is a subtle but sharply observed take on the “Japan journal” genre. By giving his characters space to speak, Alpert finds the human connection in even the most fish-out-of-water situations."

—Matt Treyvaud, translator of Natsume Soseki's Ten Nights Dreaming

"Playful, funny, intelligent, often nostalgic for people and places lost, Alpert is a true storyteller who carries readers through his collection with ease. These are some of the most honest and entertaining gaijin stories I’ve ever read.”

David Joiner, author of Kanazawa

"These are not your regular Kyoto Stories: Alpert's conversational style draws you into a Japan that tourists never see, a Japan that lifers know, a Japan that is, for better or worse, long gone. A compulsive read, with all the pleasure of drinking late with a natural born raconteur."

Iain Maloney, author of The Only Gaijin in the Village

Praise for Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man

 “It’s a fabulous book. Informative and illuminating.”

Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, Sandman, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane 

“An insider’s view of how cultural products are translated and transformed, also how art and commerce collide in the world of cinema.”

Japan Forward 

“A comedic and detailed portal into what it was like to work with one of the world’s most influential animators.”

Metropolis Magazine 

“An utterly priceless insider account, loaded with shouting matches, dastardly deals, moments of searing creative wisdom and fist-gnawing awkwardness. Ghibli, and anime, will never look the same again.”

Jonathan Clements, author of Anime: A History


Book Photos

Retail Outlets

Books sold at

Barnes & Noble

E-Books sold at


Audiobooks sold at

About the Author(s)

Steve Alpert

Steve Alpert

Speaks Japanese and Chinese fluently, having lived in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Taipei for a combined total of over thirty-five years. For fifteen years beginning in 1996, he was a senior executive at Studio Ghibli. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

bottom of page