SBP Blog

Education About Asia reviews 'The Fourth String'

Michael Palmer - Monday, December 16, 2019

"Sometimes Janet and Sensei argue, sometimes Sensei favors other students over Janet, but each encounter offers a little more insight into music, Japanese culture, and into Janet herself."

Thank you to Anne Prescott, Director of the Five College Center for East Asian Studies in Northampton, Massachusetts, and the National Director for the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia for her lovely review of Janet Pocorobba's memoir, The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me

"A young native English speaker goes to Japan to earn money to pay her debts. This is not an unusual beginning for the “foreigner discovers Japan” memoir. But shortly after Janet Pocorobba settles into her new life, it takes a surprising turn when a friend points out an ad in an English-language publication: “Free lesson in shamisen and singing! Take something home with you from your stay in Japan!” (60).
In September 1996, Pocorobba responds to that ad and meets Sensei, as she calls the woman who becomes her teacher. “She was in full Japanese gear, which I later learned she donned for first meetings. They expected kimono, didn’t they? ‘Very Japanese-y,’ she said and laughed” (14–15). Little by little in the course of this book, Sensei’s story, and her place in Japanese society, becomes clearer to Janet, much in the same way that Janet’s understanding of nagauta, shamisen, and Japan—and herself—do."

Read the full review here:

Grab a copy of The Fourth String here:


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